The Boise State Broncos head into the 2017 college football season in a familiar place: favorites by most to play for the Mountain West title. The Broncos return a young, but talented team led by Brett Rypien, one of the better quarterbacks in the nation. This season, however, head coach Bryan Harsin's club faces a solid slate of opponents who will push the Broncos to their limits — forcing them to work harder than in recent years to pile up wins.
12. Nov. 25 at Fresno State
The Broncos will have faced a formidable gauntlet by the time they travel to Fresno to wrap up the year. This will be nothing more than a tune-up for the postseason.
11. Oct. 28 at Utah State
Utah State is improving as a program, but the Aggies don't have the horses on defense to get after Brett Rypien consistently enough to slow him down.
10. Nov. 4 vs. Nevada
Wolf Pack running back James Butler could cause some problems. That said, he'll need to play the game of his life for his team to win on the blue turf.
9. Sept. 22 vs. Virginia
Don't be fooled by Virginia's record in 2016. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall knows Boise State, and he's got a roster full of athletes that can run with the Broncos.
8. Nov. 18 vs Air Force
The Falcons stole one from the Broncos last year in Colorado Springs. Boise State will have revenge on its mind, and Air Force will be without some NFL-caliber talent it had in 2016.
7. Nov. 11 at Colorado State
Ram fans are sounding confident heading into the 2017 season. Fort Collins will be rocking for this one, and the Broncos will have their hands full with Michael Gallup — one of the best wide receivers in the country.
6. Sept. 2 vs. Troy
The Trojans fear no one — nor should they. Troy has established itself as a top-tier Group of 5 program. The fact that they'll have all summer to get ready for this game can't make the Bronco faithful comfortable heading into the season opener.
5. Sept 14. vs. New Mexico
Head coach Bob Davie is building something special in Albuquerque, and Harsin will need to have his team focused for the Lobos just five days after what should be a shootout with Washington State in Pullman.
4. Oct. 14 at San Diego State
The elusive Donnel Pumphrey may be gone, but bruiser Rashaad Penny returns in the Aztec backfield. The San Diego State will field another team capable of winning the Mountain West.
3. Oct. 6 at BYU
Provo is never an easy place to play for visitors. Couple that with BYU's experience against some guys on Boise State still trying to figure out who they are as players in early October, and this one gets interesting.
2. Oct. 21 vs. Wyoming
Head coach Craig Bohl has quickly built a program at Wyoming that should be respected by every team it faces. The Broncos found that out last season. The Cowboys' Josh Allen could be the first quarterback taken in next year's NFL draft. He'll present a significant challenge for the Broncos' secondary.
1. Sept. 9 vs. Washington State
Washington State loves to air it out, and this version of the Cougars could be the most talented group to take the field during head coach Mike Leach's tenure. If you like offense, you'll want to tune in to this shootout between two of the nation's best pure passers.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is also covers the Big Ten for Black Heart Gold Pants, Iowa's SB Nation blog. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.
(Photos courtesy of www.broncosports.com)