The only other team besides UCF on UConn’s schedule receiving consistent top-25 buzz, and rightfully so, is Boise State. The Broncos are poised to reclaim their post as alpha dog of the Mountain West and grab big wins in opportunities against Oklahoma State and BYU.
After opening the season with a rocky 2-2 start, Boise State won nine out of its last 10, closing the season with a win over Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship game and a Las Vegas Bowl victory over Oregon. Both opponents were ranked No. 25 in the country at the time.
After the 11-3 season, the Broncos ended the season 23rd in the 2017 final S&P+ efficiency rankings. They were a relatively balanced 40th on offense and 30th on defense.
While both sides of the ball rated out well, they did it in different ways. Defensively, it was a consistently solid performance across the season, which was impressive considering that the unit was replacing a lot of starters from the previous year.
Offensively, the Broncos struggled to get things going but quarterback Brett Rypien overcame a slow start and injuries to get the offense humming as Boise flew through the Mountain West slate.
Heading into the fifth year under head coach Bryan Harsin, this program is looking like the perennial ‘Group of 5’ power it took a short break from being over the past few years. Rypien returns for his senior season, his fourth as a starter, with many of the same weapons and a defense that is expected to improve as well.
Last year’s top receiver Cedric Wilson and his 1,511 receiving yards are gone, but an experienced and deep crew of pass-catchers return. Last year’s second-most productive receiver A.J. Richardson leads a trio of seniors with Sean Modster and Akilian Butler who, along with a wealth of young talent, give Rypien plenty to work with.
The offensive line loses a couple of starters including an all-conference center, but injuries and inconsistency last year gave a lot of players an opportunity, and some capitalized. Sophomore back Alexander Mattison averaged 5.1 yards per carry on his way to 1,086 rushing yards, so the line was doing pretty well. They return five players who started games last year.
Defensively, I’ll just let SB Nation’s college football expert Bill Connelly take this one:
BSU forced 15 fumbles (12th in FBS), defensed 66 passes (27th), parlaying those opportunities into 26 takeaways (16th). Just imagine what [defensive coordinator Andy] Avalos might do now that his defense has experience.
BSU pulled off improvement despite eight freshmen and seven sophomores in the rotation. The Broncos had a breakout star in weakside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who made 15.6 percent of BSU’s tackles and combined 8.5 tackles for loss with seven passes defensed and four forced fumbles. He declared for the NFL draft, but he’s almost all the Broncos have to replace. The top eight linemen, five of the top six linebackers, and seven of the top nine DBs all return. They are projected to enter the Def. S&P+ top 20.
In summary, Boise State appears to be quite solid at both offense and defense. Their special teams were also rated in the top-30 last year.
This probably very good team will host the University of Connecticut on Saturday, September 8th in what is probably the toughest game on the Huskies’ schedule.
Prediction: Boise State 52, UConn 17