It feels as predictable as the formula for a summer blockbuster movie by now. Boise State is one again the favorite to win the Mountain West title. The Broncos return quarterback Brett Rypien, leading rusher Alexander Mattison and nearly every key playmaker on defense. Bryan Harsin's team will be tough to deal with and the schedule sets up favorably for a title run.
The non-conference schedule features a pair of challenging road tests. But the conference slate sees Boise State getting most of its tougher opponents on the fabled Smurf Turf. Trips to Wyoming and Air Force are the most challenging road games in league play. It should add up to a 10-win season, a Top 25 ranking and a realistic shot at reaching another New Year’s Six bowl game.
Boise State Broncos 2018 Schedule
Bye: Week 4
Week 1 – Sept. 1 at Troy (Troy, Ala.)
No one needs to remind the Broncos how sneaky good the defending Sun Belt champions can be. The Trojans stymied Boise State's offense for much of the game in a 24-13 loss last season, although Troy tallied just 215 yards and scored its only touchdown on Blace Brown's 53-yard pick-six.
Week 2 – Sept. 8 vs. UConn (Boise, Idaho)
UConn has not finished with a winning record since 2010 and should offer little resistance to the Broncos. The Huskies were one of the nation's worst defensive teams a year ago, giving up 37.9 points and 519.0 yards per game. They ranked among the bottom 10 FBS teams in both categories.
Week 3 – Sept. 15 at Oklahoma State (Stillwater, Okla.)
This is a prime opportunity for Boise State to make a statement against a Power 5 opponent. The Cowboys face a rebuilding season in the Big 12 after losing several key playmakers on both sides of the ball. Justice Hill should offer the Broncos' defense a big test after Hill rushed for 1,467 yards as a sophomore last season.
Week 5 – Sept. 29 at Wyoming (Laramie, Wyo.)
Replacing projected first-round NFL draft pick Josh Allen isn't going to be easy for an already toothless Cowboys offense. Wyoming has a tough defense, but it ranked last in the Mountain West in total offense a year ago, generating just 286.0 yards per game. The Broncos lead the all-time series 11-1, suffering their lone loss in their most recent trip to Laramie in 2016.
Week 6 – Oct. 6 vs. San Diego State (Boise, Idaho)
The Aztecs have notched three straight 10-win seasons and are expected to be Boise State's biggest challenger again this fall. San Diego State will have to replace a 2,000-yard rusher for a second straight year, but the defense is expected to be tough as usual. Five of the team's top seven tacklers return led by defensive tackle Noble Hall.
Week 7 – Oct. 13 at Nevada (Reno, Nev.)
The Wolf Pack showed some life on offense toward the end of last season and should take another step forward this year. Tyler Gangi completed 64 percent of his passes over his final seven games in 2017 and has most of his top receivers back. Gangi did struggle in a 41-14 loss to the Broncos, throwing three interceptions.
Week 8 – Oct. 19 vs. Colorado State (Boise, Idaho)
Coming off a third straight 7-6 season, the Rams are searching for a way to finally break through against Boise State. Colorado State has lost seven straight to the Broncos since they joined the Mountain West. The Rams hope to take a step forward with Washington transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels taking over at quarterback.
Week 9 – Oct. 27 at Air Force (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Boise State has struggled in recent trips to Colorado Springs. The Broncos have lost two straight on the road to the Falcons. They did snap a three-game skid in the series a year ago, beating Air Force 44-19 behind 300 yards and three touchdowns from Brett Rypien. The Falcons struggled on defense a year ago, giving up 36.4 points per game in league play.
Week 10 – Nov. 3 vs. BYU (Boise, Idaho)
Boise State has never lost to BYU at home and that's unlikely to change in 2018. The Cougars are coming off their worst season in decades, sputtering to a 4-9 finish behind one of the nation's worst offenses. The Broncos held BYU scoreless over the final three quarters and limited BYU to 238 total yards in a 24-7 win last season.
Week 11 – Nov. 10 vs. Fresno State (Boise, Idaho)
The Bulldogs were a surprise team in their first year under Jeff Tedford. The two teams split a pair of meetings a year ago, with Boise State prevailing 17-14 in the Mountain West Championship Game. Oregon State transfer Marcus McMaryion emerged as a consistent quarterback and dangerous passer last season. McMaryion and his favorite target, KeeSean Johnson, are both back to do damage.
Week 12 – Nov. 17 at New Mexico (Albuquerque, N.M.)
The Lobos disappeared on offense down the stretch last season, averaging 13.7 points over the final seven games. Off-the-field turmoil involving head coach Bob Davie means things aren't likely to improve much this fall. Davie is counting on an influx of junior college transfers to try and rebound from a 3-9 campaign.
Week 13 – Nov. 24 vs. Utah State (Boise, Idaho)
The Aggies could be a sleeping giant in 2018. Utah State returns tons of experience on both sides of the ball and has virtually its entire defense intact from last season. Quarterback Jordan Love returns to lead the offense after taking over as a starter midway through 2017. Still, the odds are long for the Aggies cranking out a win in Boise. The Broncos haven't lost to Utah State at home since 1996.
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.