An underrated slate of games stands in the way of the Broncos returning to the Mountain West title game
The 2016 season didn't end well for Boise State football. After losing the season finale to Air Force, the Broncos missed out on appearing in the Mountain West's championship Game. As if that wasn't bad enough, they were subsequently blown out by Baylor in the Cactus Bowl.
As head coach Bryan Harsin leads his team into 2017, he'll be preparing the Broncos for an ever-improving Mountain West. And now — like at many Power 5 blue blood programs — Harsin's ability as a coach to balance recruiting and development with a mass exodus of talent every year becomes key.
Boise State Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2017
J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott)
The Broncos open with a couple of tricky games against Troy and Washington State. With the young players on the 2017 roster, I'd be surprised if they did anything but split those games. Road trips to BYU, San Diego State and Colorado State are going to be tough. They do get Wyoming and Air Force at home — both of whom defeated the Broncos in 2016. For the first time in a while, those are all games that Boise State could realistically lose. Do I think they will? No, but the wins will come tougher for the Broncos this season than they have in quite some time. They'll go as far as their star quarterback, Brett Rypien, takes them.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Boise State is looking to snap a two-year drought from the Mountain West’s Mountain Division title. But the path to a division and conference title isn’t going to be easy for head coach Bryan Harsin’s team. In addition to replacing standout running back Jeremy McNichols, the Broncos lost four all-conference defenders. The cupboard isn’t bare for Harsin, as quarterback Brett Rypien is one of the best in the Group of 5 ranks, and defensive tackle David Moa should make a run at Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors. If Boise State is to return to the top of the division, Harsin’s team has to navigate a tough road slate, which features games against Washington State, BYU, San Diego State and Colorado State. The Nov. 11 game in Fort Collins against the Rams could decide the Mountain Division title.
Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna)
The sky is blue, the grass is green and Boise State football will win 10 or more games. OK, so that hasn’t always been true: There have, in fact, been three times in the past 15 seasons where the Broncos have failed to crack the double-digit win threshold. But head coach Bryan Harsin has done a solid job of picking up where Chris Petersen left off, going 31-9 the past three seasons while primarily using three different quarterbacks. One of those signal-callers, Brett Rypien, is back for his junior season after amassing 44 TD passes against just 16 picks the past two years.
Modest improvements could mean big things for this offense, which returns its coordinator (Zak Hill) for the first time with Rypien aboard. So why the two losses? Both Pullman and Provo are tough places to play and come early in the season — the perfect recipe for a letdown for a Broncos team that has some unproven pieces in the run game and in the middle of its defense. If Boise State overcomes those challenges early, though, who knows what could be in store in 2017?
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
Boise State continues to be one of the best Group of 5 programs in the country and there's no reason to see why the Broncos won't be in the running for a major bowl bid when December comes around once again this season. Having Brett Rypien at quarterback is a going to be a big part of that, as the signal-caller is one of the best in the West and should progress enough to the point where those surprising losses of the past two years are a thing of the past. There are enough question marks about the defense to make an undefeated run a bit of a reach but a division title and double-digit wins seem like a good bet for the Broncos.
John Coon (@johncoonsports)
Winning conference championships is the expectation at Boise State. For the past two seasons, the Broncos have fallen short of that goal. Boise State has enough talent to climb the ladder again and potentially win its first Mountain West title since 2014, when the Broncos also reached the Fiesta Bowl.
Boise State has a huge hole to fill in the backfield left by Jeremy McNichols. Alexander Mattison is the likely candidate to step up as the primary back. The offense should still do well with Brett Rypien and Cedrick Wilson back in the fold. Rypien led the MW in passing yards (3,646) last season and Wilson ranked fourth in receiving (1,129). The Broncos also return several key defensive playmakers. David Moa totaled 8.5 sacks last year and is an elite defensive tackle. Jabril Frazier is a fearsome pass rusher. Tyler Horton will provide valuable leadership to the secondary.
The Broncos only return eight total starters, so inexperience could lead to a more early-season losses than usual against a tough schedule. Still, Boise State has finished with fewer than 10 wins in a season only four times since reaching the school's first FBS bowl game in 1999. Don't be surprised if the Broncos end up playing for another MW title in December.