(This is the twelfth in a series previewing the Sun Belt Conference, as well as the non-conference opponents for Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns.  Today:  Boise State.  The Cajuns travel to Boise on Sept. 20)

Let’s face it, last year Boise State was, well, un-Boise like.

After going 49-4 in the previous four seasons, the Broncos stumbled to an 8-5 record last year.  A late season loss to San Diego State kept them out of the Mountain West championship game.  They were blown out by Washington, lost to BYU by seventeen and dropped their bowl game to Oregon State by two touchdowns.

But if you examine the record, you’ll see that once again, the Broncos were unbeaten on the blue turf.  Talk all you want about some of the great home field advantages in college football.  Boise State has more success than anyone.  Since 2000, the Broncos are 85-4 when playing at home.

Chris Petersen, the most successful coach in BSU history has left for Washington.  Replacing him is Bryan Harsin, who led Arkansas State to a piece of the Sun Belt title a year ago.  Harsin inherits a team that’s replacing roughly half of their starters on each side of the football.

Last year Grant Hedrick took over at quarterback  after an injury to Joe Southwick.  Hedrick started the last five games and threw for 1825 yards in his five starts.  He returns for his senior season after throwing for 16 touchdowns with only five interceptions.  Jay Ajayi,a first team MW selection is back for his junior year at running back after amassing 1,425 yards and more than five yards per carry.  Matt Miller and Shane Williams-Rhodes both return after combining for 165 catches, 1,842 yards and 18 touchdowns.  The offensive line loses three starters including two all-conference players.  There’s some experience there, but not a ton.

There are some losses defensively as well, especially on the line.  But there was some depth a year ago and Boise will return some experience at every line position.  The rest of the defense returns pretty much intact.  The linebackers are the strength of this defense as virtually everyone returns, including leading tacklers Ben Weaver and Corey Bell.  Likewise, the entire two-deep returns in the secondary as well.  Overall, twelve of the top fourteen tacklers return, making the defense an experienced unit.

On special teams, Boise will have a new punter, but everyone else is back, including their return men.

Boise had the misfortune a year ago of playing their tougher league games on the road.  This year, the schedule really works in their favor.  All of their league games on the road are against teams that had losing records last year (Air Force, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming.  Their only road non-conference game is at UCONN and they meet Ole Miss at a neutral site.

OUTLOOK:  For Boise last year, it was really pretty simple.  Every time they held the opponents to 30 points or less last year, they were a winner.  Boise scored 34 or more points in each of their wins last year.  Again, the Broncos will give up some points, because that’s what they do.  But with this defense, they should give up fewer.  The O-line is the big question mark on this team.  But the rest of the squad looks pretty solid and Boise will put up lots of points again this year.  With the home/road split working in their favor this year, don’t be surprised if this team wins at least ten games.


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