Preview: Boise State (1-0)

Not unlike Gonzaga in college hoopdom, the Boise State Broncos can no longer be considered "the little school that could". They have earned respect from anyone that has been paying attention and not being a complete homer.

For after compiling an NCAA FBS-best 86-16 record since 1999 while reeling off six consecutive conference championships (currently only USC can equal that mark), then besting perennial BCS power Oklahoma 43-42 in one of the greatest January bowl games ever played, BSU now deserves consideration of a more respectful moniker.

A football power.

The Broncos may have lost 15 starters from the 13-0 juggernaut that finished 5th in the final BCS poll, but by the looks of their 56-7 dispatch of Weber State, all signs point to a reload for another potential run. Winners of 39 of their past 40 conference games, a road win over Washington – in light of the Huskies' surprising easy 42-12 dismantling of lowly Syracuse in the Carrier Dome – would be just the thing that could spiral Boise State upwards from their current poll ranking of 20.

Second-year head coach Chris Petersen couldn't have been more pleased with how the 2007 Bronco edition opened their season. "With as many new guys as there were getting into the mix," Petersen gleamed, "I was surprised just how well they came out."

After blowing out to a 49-0 halftime lead – scoring on its' first seven possessions – Boise State shut the doors down in the second half, not wanting to show Washington their entire repertoire.

Of course, Washington did quite the same thing after getting up 28-6 in the third quarter. So come Saturday we should see two confident (now that's a weird and wonderful word in the Washington vernacular) teams ready to strap it up with the entire playbook.

It should make for quite a show.

BOISE STATE QUICK FACTS

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Multiple sets
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 5
DEFENSIVE FORMATION: 4-3 (Multiple)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 7
STARTING KICKERS RETURNING: 0
LETTERMEN RETURNING: 38

BOISE STATE OFFENSE: It can only be described with two words: Kitchen sink. They will throw deep from a two-back set, they will run it with no backs. They will shift, slant, motion, no-huddle, quick snap, anything to keep the defense on its heels. All-WAC performer Jared Zabransky may be gone, but Boise State piled up 569 yards in senior QB Taylor Tharp's first start. He was quite efficient, completing 14-of-19 for 184 yards and one score in less than three quarters of action. With an offensive line that returns four starters – including All-American candidate Ryan Clady – Tharp can expect to be well-protected as he grows into the role. Of course, it helps to have one of the nation's leading running backs returning in junior Ian Johnson. The man who made the wedding proposal of the year after last year's magical Fiesta Bowl win opened his 2007 account with 128 yards and three scores against Weber State. Freshman reserve RB Jeremy Avery excited the home fans in his brief appearance, scoring twice and breaking off a 50-yarder on the way to the century mark. And you can bet that the Broncos will have more than one trick up their sleeve to entertain the national television audience.

BOISE STATE DEFENSE: Well, they certainly bottled up Weber State, but they will be facing a lot speedier team in Washington. Coach Petersen has cited his D-line as a potential weak point in the Bronco defense. And though they limited the FCS (formerly 1-AA) Wildcats to 145 total yards, they only registered one sack. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox (yes, he played at Oregon) will rotate up to eight people up front, with the experience coming from ends Nick Schlekeway and Mike T. Williams. Safety Marty Tadman has 11 career interceptions, leading an experienced secondary. But the linebackers lost a lot of juice in WAC Player of the Year Korey Hall and Colt Brooks. Juniors Kyle Gingg and David Shields will be called upon to try and fill some huge shoes.

BOISE STATE SPECIAL TEAMS: New place-kicker Kyle Brotzman has yet to attempt his first collegiate field goal, though he was perfect in eight extra-point tries last Thursday. New punter Brad Elkin only averaged 29 yards on three kicks in his Bronco debut.

GAME OUTLOOK: Backed by a 14-game winning streak, there is little doubt that Boise State represents a three-fold upgrade over Syracuse in terms of opponent strength. While the personnel may be a tad different, the system is still the same. The Broncos have been first or second in NCAA scoring four out of the last five years, averaging nearly 42 points per contest. And though the Washington defense showed good speed and rallying skills to the ball last week against the Orange, this is a whole different animal (sic) – and there's only one week to prepare for it. The best defense here may be to just keep their offense off the field, making the Husky offense the key to this game. Locker, Rankin and co. need to exercise ball control. They executed five 70+ yard drives at Syracuse, and a dose of the same medicine is needed here. Boise State will be facing a much better offense this week than last – and the Huskies should be playing this one with a wider playbook. Though we seem destined for a score-fest – weather shouldn't be a factor, plus that's just how Boise likes it – the longer the Huskies can control the ball, the more impatient the Broncos may become.

It looks to be a barn-burner ... something long-suffering Husky fans have been thirsting for.

Skoal!!!!

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