As the Summer draws to an end and we see the month of August already half gone, we revert our gaze back toward the return of the College Football season. For months, we have filled our time with excuses to bring it up in our conversations and internet searches even though the season was a long ways out. Now we find ourselves only a mere couple weeks before the season kicks off. Now is the time where our wonder and curiosity about what the season ahead may hold becomes more real and tangible.
In the case of the Boise State Broncos, we will take a more in depth look at one school from outside of the Mountain West that will make their way to Boise this fall: the University of Washington.
Conference: Pac 12
Location: Seattle, Washington
Stadium: Husky Stadium (70,138)
Coach: Chris Petersen
2014 Season: 8-6 (4-5)
Returning Starters: 9 of 22
On the Surface: For the Broncos and their fans, this game will arguably be the most important from both a technical and emotional standpoint. Former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen makes his first trip back to Boise after he left for the same job at Washington in December of 2013. Petersen has already publicly stated that he is not exactly looking forward to the game. This game will garner plenty of hype from both the fans and the media. It will be a great way to start off a new season for any college football fan.
5 Key Players/Positions:
Whoever wins quarterback competition: Coach Petersen already has an abundance of personnel issues he will need to resolve in the coming weeks. The quarterback position will be of utmost importance. Husky football already took a major hit this off-season when last year's primary starter Cyler Miles announced that he is retiring from football due to an ailing hip injury that has plagued him throughout his career.
The starting job is up for grabs between junior Jeff Lindquist, redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels, and true freshman Jake Browning. The Seattle Times reports that "none of the quarterbacks [have] done enough to separate [themselves]." If you enjoy the art of gambling, Lindquist would probably be the safest choice knowing he has the most experience with the program. He's a big-bodied quarterback, coming in at 6'3" and 245 pounds. Just for perspective, NFL quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is listed as 6'5" and 241 pounds.
All three quarterbacks have been sharing the first-team snaps equally in Fall camps. At this rate, it sounds like Petersen may not name his starting quarterback until right before the season begins.
RB Dwayne Washington: The Huskies are a little more established in the backfield heading into 2015. RB Dwayne Washington managed 697 yards in only half of a season last year. Although he is a big man at 6'2" and 221 pounds, he has plus speed. If the Huskies are able to make space for him, he could wind up being the difference in the game.
The Defensive Line: Besides the quarterback position, the defensive line also has some major holes to fill as all four starters from 2014 are gone. If this area is not resolved even up to par, you can expect that opposing game plans will revolve heavily on a run-first attack. If successful, this could prove to be devastating to the Huskies as a good run game almost always opens up a good passing game by default. Coach Petersen has some options in Jaylen Johnson, Taniela Tupou and Elijah Qualls but none of his options have any starting experience.
LB Travis Feeney: Feeney will be expected to step up as the Huskies lost more premier talent at the linebacker position as John Timu and All-American Shaq Thompson are gone. Feeney enters his third year as one of the regulars on the defensive side of the football. Many of the youngsters that see the field for the first time as regular starters will look to him for leadership.
FS Budda Baker: Baker collected 80 tackles in 2014 to go along with one interception. Baker is a very athletic back who could make a case at being one of the best overall players on the team.
Offensive Overview: The offensive line returns only one starter from last season (LG Dexter Charles). However, looking at the depth chart, there may be enough experience for Huskies fans to be optimistic. The return of RB Dwayne Washington gives the Huskies another reason to be hopeful. This should ease the tension of breaking in a new quarterback. Wide Receivers Jayden Mickens and Dante Pettis should give the new quarterback good options to throw to. If they can get behind the secondary, they are a good deep threat. Assuming the new quarterback can step in and produce immediately, this offense should do fairly well.
Defensive Overview: If anything is going to plague the Huskies in 2015, it will be the defense. A lot of personnel were lost after 2014 ended, leaving the Huskies with a lot of uncertainty. Even in 2014, the Husky secondary got torched quite frequently and ranked toward the bottom of the Pac 12. The Huskies just recently lost sophomore cornerback Naijel Hale. Hale was expected to see an increase in playing time this season after appearing in 14 games last year. Add a couple of big losses in the linebacker corps and an entire defensive line that needs to be replaced and you've got quite a bit of uncertainty looming over a new season. Expect that a lot of schools, including Boise State, will attack the Husky defense with a lot of runs.
Predictions: all signs point toward Boise State being the overwhelming favorite. The Broncos return 17 of 22 starters from last year's Fiesta Bowl Champion team, the contest will be at Albertson's Stadium in Boise, and both the fans and the team will be highly motivated to beat their former leader in Chris Petersen. Many of the players that will take the field for the Broncos are players that Petersen recruited to Boise. Despite having to break in a new quarterback and running back, expect Broncos Head Coach Bryan Harsin to have this team prepared and ready. Assuming everything coalesces for the Broncos, don't be surprised to see them win by at least two touchdowns.