The Boise State Broncos and Troy Trojans both have visions of occupying the designated New Year's Six bowl bid reserved for the top Group of 5 team in the land. For one of those teams, that dream will likely be over by the end of Saturday night.
Bryan Harsin leads his Broncos into an underrated season opener against a program that is quickly becoming the "Boise State of the South." Both Boise State and Troy have become mainstays at the top of their respective conferences in recent years, and that is expected to be the case again in 2018.
You can expect solid, Power 5-caliber football when these two teams square off this weekend.
Boise State at Troy
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. ET
Spread: Boise State -10
Three Things to Watch
1. Will the moment be too big for Troy quarterback Kaleb Barker?
The junior signal caller has attempted a grand total of 17 passes during his collegiate career. Now he'll be asked to go under center to start the season against one of the better defensive units in the country. Troy has the talent and experience to hang with and do damage to the Boise State defense at the skill positions. That said, the Trojans will need their new quarterback locked in and focused on everything Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos is going to throw at him. If he loses confidence early, it'll be a long night for the Trojans.
2. Can Boise State keep Brett Rypien clean?
Rypien is one of the most seasoned quarterbacks in the nation heading into the 2018 season. He is the field general in every sense of the word, and the Broncos can beat almost anyone when he is healthy and has time to throw. He'll be staring down a Troy front seven that boasts an excellent pass rush. Linebacker Hunter Reese logged six sacks a season ago and will likely be near the top of that statistical category nationally this year. Inside linebacker Tron Folsom is a future pro as well, and he's not afraid to blitz up the middle. If Troy can get to Rypien early and disrupt both his timing and his confidence, things could get interesting.
3. How much will the weather play a factor?
Sure, it's summer everywhere, but Troy, Alabama, is a long way from Boise. It's going to be 90 degrees, humid and raining throughout the day. Suffice it to say that the ball will be wet, and it will likely impact Boise State's passing game more than anything other facet of the contest. If the Broncos can't do everything they want to do on offense due to the elements, you have to like Troy's chances to pull off the upset at home.
This one has the potential to get physical and chippy early on. As the sun goes down and the air cools off, look for Boise State to lock in and gain composure. They'll lean heavily on all-purpose back Alexander Mattison to take pressure off of Rypien and keep the Troy defense guessing. After a back-and-forth first half, look for the Broncos to assert themselves as the dominant team and cruise to a sound win over a solid program on the road.
Prediction: Boise State 37, Troy 20
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.