There were many different factors that led Boise State to their third Fiesta Bowl appearance last year. A Marshall loss, an accession in the polls, and the gradual improvements on both sides of the ball.
All which led to a very successful season for coach Bryan Harsin and the Bronco coaching staff.
Boise State will be the cream of the crop once again in the Mountain West Conference, but the conference won’t be as strong as it was last season.
The conference had four teams that reached 10 wins. With a veteran squad returning, the Broncos still have question marks leading into the 2015 season, but mostly on the offensive side of the ball.
How do the Broncos return back to a New Years Six Bowl again? To state the obvious, Boise State needs a stable quarterback as well as a running game. Those are all given, but there are other factors the Broncos will need to keep in mind as they strive for another big bowl game in December.
Build off offensive momentum
The difference between the 2013 Broncos to the 2014 Bronco team was innovation. As 2013 was more emphasis on a spread attack, the 2014 team was mixing and matching at the line of scrimmage, as well as utilizing the tight end position.
It was refreshing for Bronco fans to see a similar offense Boise State ran in the Kellen Moore era. An exciting brand to watch.
Harsin brought in one of the hottest commodities in college football in offensive coordinator Mike Sanford last season. Sanford was known as a young coach that was going to make some noise in the college football landscape, and he didn’t disappoint.
His first season as OC for the Broncos had Bronco Nation a reason to smile when talking about the Boise State offense.
Sanford brought the Broncos to familiar heights among college football’s offensive production. Ranking ninth in points per game (39.7), 23rd in passing offense (280.4 ypg), and had a quarterback in Grant Hedrick that led the nation in completion percentage (70.8%).
With much success in his first season as OC, Sanford had many interest from the likes of Vanderbilt and Ohio State, but ultimately the 33 year old accepted a position with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish back in February.
Harsin acted fast and replaced Sanford’s position with Eliah Drinkwitz, who coached tight ends last season. Drinkwitz happened to work as offensive coordinator under Harsin at Arkansas State.
Drinkwitz has a different scenario than Sanford had. The Broncos had solid play at the quarterback position, as well as the running back position. Both of those positions are in question this season.
Other than those two positions, the Broncos are loaded with talent and veteran leadership at all positions. If Boise State can build off of the momentum they gained, the Broncos may be looking at yet another successful season under Drinkwitz’s leadership.
Stop the mobile QB’s
Everyone has the Washington game circled on their schedule. Looking past that game, the Broncos have some tough match-ups later in the schedule. Including right after the season opener, the Broncos travel to the state of Utah to play at BYU and in mid October at Utah State.
Last season, the Broncos played BYU in Albertsons Stadium without BYU’s star quarterback Taysom Hill who was out due to a fractured leg.
A matchup where the Broncos took it to the Cougars, 55-30. The year prior, Hill secured BYU’s first victory against Boise State in Provo, 37-20. The score didn’t indicate how lopsided the game actually was.
Hill had arguably his best all around game of his career that day, throwing for 339 yards, completing 27 of his 41 pass attempts, and running for 69 yards and was responsible for 4 touchdowns.
To do the math, Hill compiled 408 yards of BYU’s 568 total yards. That’s 72% of BYU’s total yards from one player alone.
Hill can flat out play, and is mobile as any quarterback across the country. I expect the boys in blue to put up a much better showing against the Cougars in Provo.
The other quarterback the Broncos will have to be aware of is Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton. Keeton received a medical hardship waiver as he missed 11 games from the 2014 season.
The Aggie quarterback injured his left knee last season, and there would be no better way to finish his career then beating Boise State. A feat that the Aggies have not been able to do since 1997.
A career that has been plagued by injury, this will be Keeton’s last chance to play against the Broncos. He has never played against the Broncos, he has been in Logan since 2011.
Just like Hill from BYU, Keeton cannot only beat you with his legs but he has a great arm as well.
On his career, he has thrown for 6,387 yards and 58 touchdowns to 17 interceptions.
Don’t listen to the HYPE
The season opener has a similar feel to the home opener against Oregon in 2009. This one just happens to have ties to former Bronco head coach Chris Petersen. An emotional matchup between Coach Pete’s former players and fans, every one of the Broncos in the locker room will have to tune out the hype that surrounds this game.
The fans have been talking about it for a while, and now the national media is picking up on the hype. And the hype is well deserved; there may not be a more emotional game this season like there will be on September 4th when the Broncos and Huskies collide.
If Boise State does indeed defeat Washington, the pressure will build up one week after the other.
But with a veteran squad, and a head coach that focuses one game at a time, it would be hard to see the Broncos lose that focus that they had towards the end of last season.
2015 Boise State Broncos Football Preview
Video via Campus Insiders