What’s Stopping Boise State from Perfection?


LAS VEGAS – No surprise out of the Mountain West preseason media poll: defending conference champion Boise State is an overwhelming favorite to repeat in its division.

Voters tabbed the Broncos atop the Mountain Division in the poll, released Tuesday at the opening of Mountain West media days. They’re projected to face West Division favorite San Diego State, a program that’s been the picture of consistency the last five years and appears ready to take the next step into title contention.

The real question with Boise State isn’t if it’s a clear favorite to repeat as Mountain West champion, but rather if anyone on the schedule will stop the Broncos.

Boise State rebounded from a pedestrian start – pedestrian for BSU, anyway – to win its final nine, including the Fiesta Bowl over No. 10 Arizona.

The Broncos open 2015 the same way they closed 2014, facing a Pac-12 Conference opponent. Week 1 foe Washington with former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen stands out as one of the most likely candidates for a BSU loss.

But, really, the pickings for such an occasion are slim.

Boise State visits BYU in Week 2, a fellow contender for the Group of Five automatic berth into the New Year’s Six. MW Mountain rivals Colorado State and Utah State are marquee road games in back-to-back weeks in October, and the Rams and Aggies boast the preseason picks for Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year.

Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins is the choice on the offensive end, coming off a 2014 season in which he led all receivers in virtually every major statistical category, including Alabama Heisman finalist Amari Cooper.

The consensus All-American is as obvious a choice for Offensive Player of the Year as Boise State is for preseason favorite. The choice for Defensive Player of the Year is somewhat surprising.

Utah State linebacker Kyler Fackrell has been outstanding both on pass rush and stopping the run in his time with the Aggies, but he missed virtually all of 2014 with a knee injury. One could make a case that Fackrell isn’t the best option from his own linebacker corps – Nick Vigil is one of the nation’s top, returning tacklers and threat in all phases of the defense.

Boise State has its own worthy candidates in defensive end Kamalei Correa, cornerback Donte Deayon and safety Darian Thompson. All were named preseason 1st Team All Mountain West, along with linebacker Tanner Vallejo.

On offense, the Broncos landed offensive lineman Marcus Henry and Rees Odhiambo on the 1st Team. In a move indicative of Boise State’s most glaring weakness, however, they’re the only offensive nominees.

The dearth of skill position players from BSU is glaring, though not surprising with running back Jay Ajayi and quarterback Grant Hedrick being replaced. Both positions are in flux just a month before Washington’s visit to the Smurf Turf.

Starting quarterback candidate Ryan Finley had his trial for misdemeanor minor-in-possession and resisting arrest delayed until Sept. 28, Sven Berg of the Idaho Statesman reports. Running back Jeremy McNichols and Stanford transfer Kelsey Young were the only names listed on the initial depth chart, released Monday.

Head coach Bryan Harsin, the architect of Boise State’s offense during its first Fiesta Bowl run in 2006, must dig into his repertoire early against talented Washington and BYU defenses. Escaping from those two contests, however, could have the Broncos headed for their first perfect regular season since 2009.