The last decade has been a rather successful one for the BoiseState
football program, and the last two seasons have been rather special. Under ChrisPetersenBoiseState
has won thirty-five of thirty nine games, and they’ve also finished the regular
season undefeated on two separate occasions. Because Utah
was ranked higher in the final BCS poll BoiseState
ended up taking on TCU in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
instead of going back to the BCS, but that shouldn’t take away from an
outstanding campaign. And last season’s 12-1 outfit was expected to be even
better in 2009, meaning that the Broncos could be poised to once again crash
the BCS party.
Quarterback Kellen Moore had an outstanding rookie season,
throwing for nearly 3,500 yards and twenty-five touchdowns. Only six starters
return on each side of the football, but with just three seniors on the
preseason two-deep the Broncos could be poised for a sustained run at the top
of the WAC. BoiseState finished 2008
ranked second in the WAC in total offense and first in total defense, numbers
that should replicate themselves in 2009. BoiseState’s credentials are known; a
season-opening grudge match with Oregon
will determine how realistic their BCS aspirations are.
The better question may be who finishes second behind the
Broncos: Fresno State, Louisiana
Tech or Nevada?
Louisiana Tech improved their win total by three games under Derek Dooley,
finishing in a three-way tie for second in 2008. Nine starters return on
offense with First Team All-WAC performers Daniel Porter and Phillip Livas (as
a punt returner) leading the way. Quarterback Ross Jenkins had a solid campaign
for the Bulldogs, who were expected to rely on Georgia Tech transfer Taylor
Bennett when the season began.
Jenkins didn’t put up the greatest numbers but he kept his
turnovers to a minimum while making sure the ball ended up in the hands of the
Bulldogs’ best playmakers. Look for more out of him in 2009. Defensively
Louisiana Tech returns seven starters, including leading tackler FS Antonio
Baker (115 tackles). Baker and defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith were both First
Team All-WAC selections last season and will be expected to make the same
impact in 2009. But while Louisiana Tech hosts BoiseState they have to visit both FresnoState
Speaking of the Wolf Pack, Chris Ault has the pleasure of
welcoming back one of the nation’s most underrated quarterbacks in junior Colin
Kaepernick. As well as Kellen Moore played at Boise State last season it was
Kaepernick who was named WAC Offensive Player of the Year, accounting for
nearly 4,000 yards of total offense and thirty-nine combined touchdowns.
Seven starters return on both sides of the football for Nevada, and the fact that they get both Bulldogs (FresnoState
and Louisiana Tech) in Reno.
If the Wolf Pack can improve a defense that ranked sixth in the WAC in total
defense, they may be able to go into the regular season finale at BoiseState
with a shot at the conference title.
There was the question of whether or not Pat Hill would
stick around after last season, but he’s back and the Bulldogs are hungry to
improve upon a disappointing 2008 season. Things started off pretty well for FresnoState,
winning at Rutgers in the season opener. But
the defense faltered, finishing seventh in the conference in total defense, and
the offense turned the ball over twenty-four times (the defense forced just
thirteen turnovers). But they were still able to get to a bowl game, losing to ColoradoState in the New Mexico Bowl.
FresnoState returns eighteen
starters with nine being on defense. Defensive end Chris Carter and linebacker
Ben Jacobs led the Bulldogs in tackles last season; in fact the top four
tacklers from 2008 return. Offensively FresnoState
will need a big year from their running backs, and with the top five rushers
from 2008 back they’ve got a chance to do just that. With a new quarterback
taking over for the graduated Tom Brandstater the running game becomes that
much more important. FresnoState gets BoiseState and Louisiana Tech
at home, a scheduling quirk that could give them an advantage over the other
The next tier could be just as hard-fought, with San Jose State, Hawaii
and maybe even UtahState jockeying for
didn’t end 2008 on the best note, getting blown out in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
by Notre Dame. Head coach Greg McMackin didn’t help matters with some comments
made in poor taste at WAC Media Day, and it remains to be seen if the
controversy has any impact on the Warriors. Seven starters return on offense,
led by a quarterback in Greg Alexander who progressed as the season went on.
The defense may have some problems with just two starters returning. Defensive
end John Fonoti and middle linebacker Brashton Satele will need to be leaders
in every sense of the word if the Warriors are to exceed expectations.
San JoseState’s issues aren’t on
the defensive side of the football; the Dick Tomey era has been defined by
tough defensive play. But can the Spartans put up enough points to win a game
or two they won’t be expected to. SJSU ranked second in the conference in
scoring defense, allowing just under twenty-two points per game. Not a bad number…unless
the offense is scoring just under twenty points per game (last in the WAC).
Seven starters return on each side of the football, and they’ll be tested early
with games against USC, Utah
and Stanford to start the season.
There’s intrigue in Logan due
to the arrival of Gary Andersen, who over the previous five seasons was the
defensive coordinator at Utah.
The Aggies return seventeen starters, including ten on offense, and the hope is
that the change in messenger can bring about a change in results. There’s an
awful lot of experience back, led by QB Diondre Borel, C Brennan McFadden and
OLB Paul Igboeli, but how quickly can you teach a team not used to winning how
to win? If the Aggies prove to be quick studies could surprise some people.
Fighting to stay out of the cellar are perennial doormat Idaho and rebuilding New MexicoState.
Rob Akey dropped into a tough situation in Moscow
taking over an Idaho program that had been
dropped by the wayside by Dennis Erickson when the ArizonaState
job opened a couple of years ago. When combining the lack of trust the players
may have in the coaching situation (and it’s understandable) with a lack of
success rebuilding can take a bit longer than anticipated.
The Vandals return seven starters on offense and nine on
defense, making up arguably the most experienced team of the Akey era. QB
Nathan Enderle will need to cut down on his seventeen interceptions while
staying right around the twenty touchdowns number he posted last season, and
the top three rushers from last season also return. Free safety Virdell
Larkins, who led the Vandals with eighty-two tackles in 2008, returns to lead a
defense that was last in the conference in total defense by sixty yards.
New head coach DeWayne Walker has quite the task ahead of
him in taking over for the departed Hal Mumme. The Aggies had offensive
capabilities due to the system combined with QB Chase Holbrook, but when you
can’t stop anyone you’re going to have a hard time winning football games.
Hence the decision to hire Walker, who consistently had UCLA in the top half of
the Pac-10 in most of the major defensive categories during his time in Los Angeles.
The task is to take a team that returns seven starters on
each side of the ball and teach them how to win consistently (NMSU hasn’t
finished above .500 since 2002). Junior Jeff Fleming will start the opener at
quarterback, which also happens to be their conference opener (Idaho). New MexicoState got in trouble last season due to
turnover margin and the fact that they could neither run the football nor stop
the run. Look for those aspects to improve under Coach Walker.
Storyline: Can BoiseState
get back to the BCS? For all the talk about the Mountain West clamoring for an
automatic spot, can the success of the Broncos over the last decade be ignored?
And don’t expect a cakewalk through the conference either; BSU will visit Fresno State, Hawaii
and Louisiana Tech this year. Not to mention non-conference games against Oregon and Tulsa.
Players of the Year:
QB Colin Kaepernick (Nevada) and CB Kyle
College sports has always been a source of excitement for Raphielle Johnson, be it through watching, writing, or taking a shot in the dark and walking onto a college football team just to live the life (Arizona Football, 2001). Raphielle is the assistant editor, providing his own work in addition to helping out with the site operations. When not writing for CHN, you can usually find him in front of a television set watching one of many pay-per-view sports packages that he owns. He can be followed at twitter.com/raphiellej.