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Troy Trojans vs. Boise State Broncos Preview and Prediction

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Troy head coach Neal Brown turned the Trojan football program around in just his second year on the job, finishing the 2016 campaign with 10 wins and a victory in a bowl game. Boise State, though competitive in 2016, found itself on the outside looking in of playing for a conference title. It seems that the Mountain West Conference has improved to the point where the Broncos are no longer the shoo-in they once were.

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On Saturday, the two programs will meet on the blue turf to open a season full of great expectations. This game will set the tone for both teams moving forward. It also could have serious New Year's Six bowl implications.

Troy at Boise State

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 2 at 3:45 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Boise State -11

Three Things to Watch

1. Scoreboard

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While this seems like a no-brainer in any sport, there's more to it. Most college football fans are familiar with the Boise State program and its ability to hang gaudy numbers on teams weekly. Troy's offense in 2017 should be every bit as dangerous. The Trojans were held to fewer than 24 points just last once last season while topping the 30-point mark seven times. That unit returns all of its top skill position players, including all-Sun Belt performers in running back Jordan Chunn and receiver Emanuel Thompson.

Boise's high-powered offensive attack will once again be led by quarterback Brett Rypien – one of the best passers in all of college football. Though he may not return the same number of starters at the skill positions compared to Troy, he does have a host of experience around him to distribute the ball to. And the way this game could end up going, he'll be pressed to do just that all afternoon.

2. Turnover battle

The Broncos posted an all-time program low of just nine forced turnovers on defense in 2016. They are going to need to improve that number to stay competitive in both the race for their conference title and this football game. Though double-digit favorites, the offensive pace of the contest is going to require the eventual winner to steal a possession or two. That means an in experienced defense led by tackle David Moa is going to have to force the issue and make plays for the Broncos to be victorious. If Boise State loses the turnover battle, it's tough to see them winning this game.

3. Can Troy protect quarterback Brandon Silvers?

Silvers is obviously what makes Troy's offense go. For him to be effective in distributing the ball to his outstanding playmakers, he'll need time. That's going to be easier said than done. The Broncos may not have a track record of creating turnovers, but they know how to get after the quarterback. The strength of Boise State's defense is going to be the defensive line. This will be a huge test of a Troy offensive line that returns just two starters. If this group can keep Silvers upright, Troy can pull off the upset on the road.

Final Analysis

We're going to see just how good of a head coach Bryan Harsin is this season, and we'll get to see it early. This is a game where his Boise State team may have more talent to a man, but is seriously lacking in the experience department. The wild card for Harsin and the Broncos will be Alexander Mattison, arguably the most dynamic and complete running back the Broncos have had in quite some time. Harsin's ability to move him around the field and create mismatches will go a long way in ensuring his seasoned quarterback is a step ahead of Troy's defense. Look for a back-and-forth, high-scoring affair to develop between these two outstanding teams. In the end, Boise State's defensive line will likely be the difference. That group should be able to get enough stops and help the Bronco offense claim the edge in time of possession – as well as on the scoreboard.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Boise State

Prediction: Boise State 45, Troy 35

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, Bleacher Report and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.