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.
For the Boise State Broncos, we have been previewing their out-of-conference contests awaiting them in 2015. After taking a look at Virginia and Washington, we turn the microscope to Boise State's last OOC foe: Idaho State.
Conference: Big Sky
Location: Pocatello, Idaho
Stadium: Holt Arena (12,000)
Coach: Mike Kramer
2014 Record: 8-4 (6-2)
Returning Starters: 15 of 22
On the Surface: Many who don't do their research would probably overlook the Bengals right from the beginning. Despite being a part of the FCS, the Bengals were one of the top teams last season. Offensively in 2014, the Bengals had the most efficient passing game in the country. The Bengals will have to replace last year's quarterback Justin Arias, as well as adjust to a new offensive coordinator as Don Bailey left for the same position at the University of Hawaii earlier this year. With an inner state rivalry sure to make itself present, the Broncos will want to display a healthy reverence to the Bengals when they come to town.
5 Key Players/Positions:
QB Michael Sanders: Head Coach Mike Kramer has named JUCO transfer Michael Sanders as 2015's starter. Sanders has a large hole to fill in replacing Justin Arias. Arias was paramount to the Bengals' success last season as he threw for 4,076 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2014. Sanders is lucky enough to step in at quarterback with nine wide receivers and tight ends that combined to catch 297 passes for 4,031 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2014.
Offensive Line: Kramer claims that the offensive line he carries heading into 2015 is the best unit he has ever been in charge of. The line consists of Christian Diehm, Terrence Carey, Skyler Phillips, Thomas Vazorka, and Wesley Wingrove. Along with the talented corps of wide receivers, this offensive line should also make Sanders look pretty good when he steps in at quarterback.
RB Xavier Finney: Finney returns for his senior season after collecting 1,495 yards in 2014. Finney's talent along with his experience will make him vital to the Bengals. Assuming he can replicate his production from a year ago, he should do wonders at opening up the passing game, which is already a strength for the Bengals.
RB Daniel McSurdy: The Bengals are lucky enough to have another threat share the running back duties with Finney. McSurdy collected his own 781 yards on the ground last season, 266 of which came in one game. McSurdy will take some of the workload off of Finney, which will amount to two very capable running backs who will often be rested.
LB Hayden Stout: Kramer has already come out and said that Stout will be the center of his defense. He expects him to rarely be off the field. Stout had 50 tackles last season, 3.5 for a loss. He also blocked a kick. The defense will rely heavily on his abilities.
Offensive Overview: Although last year's quarterback and offensive coordinator are gone, the Bengals likely won't notice the difference. A talented group of guys who can go out and catch the ball, strong dual-threat in the backfield, and powerful offensive line give new offensive coordinator Sheldon Cross every reason not to stress. They have the ability to not only maintain, but exceed last year's production of 40.3 points per game. Game plans for the opposition start immediately with figuring out how to slow them down.
Defensive Overview: Kramer said that the defense will be paramount to keeping the rhythm of last year's offensive production carrying over to 2015. The defense only returns six starters, which will amount to a lot of rotations until one solid unit can be determined. The good news for the Bengals is despite only returning six from last year's squad, five of those six are part of last year's top tacklers. The first few games may display some growing pains, but they shouldn't be anything that devastates the Bengals.
Predictions: It's always easy to overlook a school from the FCS, even if they are one of the better teams there. However, the Bengals do need to be taken seriously. I honestly don't believe the Bengals have a real shot to defeat the Broncos. The Broncos have an array of both talent and experience to go along with the game being played in Boise. The reason why the Broncos will need to show reverence to their inner state foe is the Broncos will be expected to win convincingly. The Broncos enter a year where they will be one of the heavy favorites of a team from a G5 school to make a New Year's Six bowl. If they want to keep those aspirations in the realm of reality, they will need beat Idaho State comfortably.
Boise State plays Idaho State on September 18th.