As usual, head coach Bryan Harsin and his Boise State Broncos enter the college football season as the favorites in the Mountain West Conference. After a 2017 campaign where they won 11 games, the conference title and a bowl game, the Broncos are looking to take that next step by securing the Group of 5's spot in the New Year's Six Bowl slate.
The core of that 11-win club from a season ago returns, led by quarterback Brett Rypien. The senior signal-caller enters his fourth season at the starter for Boise State in the same system. His mastery of his respective offense will be what carries the Broncos to where they want to go. The offense that Rypien operates will be centered around the skills of do-it-all running back Alexander Mattison. He accounted for more than1,300 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns a season ago. The combination of Rypien and Mattison will make Boise State a tough team to slow down offensively.
On defense, the Broncos return a loaded unit that dominated a season ago. They will, however, need to replace the team's best overall defender, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, the Mountain West's Defensive Player of the Year last season. If the unit can sufficiently fill his shoes and create turnovers like it did a season ago (26 total), there's no reason Boise State can't run the table into bowl season.
Athlon asked a few editors and college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for Boise State in 2018.
Boise State Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Led by a standout defense and senior quarterback Brett Rypien, Boise State is the nation’s top Group of 5 team for 2018. The Broncos are also aiming for their third Mountain West title in five seasons and their first trip to a New Year’s Six Bowl since 2014. The schedule doesn’t provide many obstacles to an unbeaten or one-loss season. Boise State takes on Oklahoma State in non-conference play and plays at Wyoming in Mountain West action. However, the Broncos catch San Diego State and Fresno State at home this fall. Bryan Harsin’s team is relatively set in terms of personnel, but a new go-to receiver must emerge after the departure of Cedrick Wilson. The offense needs more consistency up front and on the ground, but any concerns about those two units are minimized by a defense that allowed only 22.9 points a game last fall and brings back nine starters. All signs point to a big year from Boise State.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Boise State should end up being the best Group of 5 team in the country. Looking at the schedule, there's a realistic scenario in which this team makes it through the regular season unscathed. The toughest tests are at Oklahoma State and the home dates vs. San Diego State and Fresno State. I'll call for a loss in Stillwater and at home against San Diego State -- simply because it's so difficult to go undefeated in league play.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
The Broncos won't say it, but they have to be mad at hearing all the UCF/national title talk the past eight months. As a result, something says the original Group of 5 powerhouse uses the 2018 campaign to take out those frustrations and get even by running the table themselves. The offense should be more consistent and it wouldn't be shocking if this was one of the better defenses west of the Mississippi regardless of conference. The schedule is tricky but the two toughest road games come in the first three weeks against teams that are also facing a few questions and the Broncos get both SDSU and Fresno State at home. Another league title should be a minimum in Boise.
J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott)
This could very well be the most talented team Bryan Harsin has had during his tenure. Between the experience at quarterback and the talent across the board on defense, Boise State will likely be favored in every game -- including the trip to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State. You'll learn a lot about just how good this team is by watching the Broncos' first game on the road against Troy. Their three toughest road games are all in September. If they enter the month of October undefeated, chances are they'll finish the season unblemished as well.