Preview 2017: Can Boise State Be The Group of Five Standard?
The dominant Group of Five program for years and years, can Boise State be the star and the standard again?
Boise State, are you still the star of the Mountain West? Are you still the prototype for what a Group of Five program could and should be?
Boise State didn’t win the Mountain Division last year. It didn’t win the Mountain West championship, it didn’t win a bowl game, and for a team that had the right schedule and the right experience to make a run at the New Year’s Six bowl slot from the Group of Five – at least – it didn’t achieve its goals.
If it’s possible to have a disappointing ten-win season, Boise State did it.
The consistent superstar of the Big West then the WAC, then the Mountain West is still obviously terrific, but for a program that popped conference championships like M&M’s, going two straight years – and three of the last four – without getting to the title game isn’t okay.
It’s hard to ever argue with 19 victories in two seasons, and four of the seven losses were by a touchdown or less and could’ve gone either way, but last year’s team played with fire way too often.
It struggled to get put away Washington State, had a hard time getting past Colorado State and BYU, and it seemed to have to fight too hard in several other wins. Eventually, the Broncos got burned, losing at Wyoming and at Air Force – by a total of nine points – and that became the difference between a throw-it-on-the-pile ten-win season and a championship.
Getting blown out by Baylor in the bowl loss was a twist of the knife.
The infrastructure of the program is still there to be the Mountain West’s star, the coaching staff is still terrific, and there’s the consistency to expect double-digit wins no matter what. But the rest of the league is catching up a bit.
It’s a better Mountain West than it was a few years ago, and the non-conference schedule is still challenging enough to not be a walk in the park. But remember, this is the program that no big boy wanted to deal with. This is the team school that won the 2015 Fiesta Bowl.
Now it’s up to this year’s team to overcome the relative disappointments of the last two years and be back to its dominant self. But that might be a bit tough.
These Broncos have a slew of big question marks. The top four tacklers are gone, the pass rush has to be more dangerous, and there are depth issues at several defensive spots.
Brett Rypien should be one of the nation’s most effective quarterbacks, but three of the top four targets are gone, the offensive line has to put the pieces of the puzzle together after losing three starters, and do-it-all back Jeremy McNichols has to be replaced.
The kicking game has to find new options, there has to be more pop to the return game, and the coverage teams could stand to be a bit better, too.
But you don’t win so big for so long like Boise State has without knowing how to fill in the gaps and win no matter what.
It’s Boise State. It’s supposed to set the standard for the rest of the Mountain West again.