No one envies Boise State right now.
Not only do the Broncos return just five starters on offense and defense, the least in the country, they have to test out that new personnel in Lansing against No. 13 Michigan State on Friday night.
You know, just a nice, easy way to start the campaign. Let's take a look at some keys for Boise State pulling off the seven-point upset.
For the first time in seemingly forever, the Broncos don't have a high-profile quarterback. With the departure of Heisman finalist Kellen Moore, the weight of Boise State's heavy expectations falls on the shoulders of Joe Southwick.
The junior backed up Moore the last two seasons, completing 40 of his 54 throws for 400 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The talent is certainly there for the former top-25 quarterback recruit, but the experience is still lacking.
That might be OK if Boise State was opening against, oh, San Jose State (sorry, San Jose State), but this is Michigan State. The Spartans were incredibly stout on defense last year and return eight starters on that side of the ball.
If Boise State is going to move the chains, Southwick is going to have to shake off the likely jitters and fast. Otherwise, BSU will find itself in an early hole.
Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins
According to college football guru Phil Steele, Boise State returns two starters on defense. Two.
Those lucky seniors are Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins, both of whom happen to make a living as cornerbacks. Michigan State, however, is also led by an inexperienced quarterback and will undoubtedly lean on the run game, likely limiting the effect of the Broncos' two most reliable defenders.
Still, Taylor and Gavins are the leaders of this defense, and when Andrew Maxwell does drop back to throw, the duo needs to find a way to make an impact on the game and swing the momentum.
When it comes down to it, this is going to be a low-scoring battle.
Both teams are led by new quarterbacks. Michigan State always finds its success via the defensive side of the ball. Boise State, despite mostly new starting personnel, has plenty of talent and always plays together on D.
In games like that, an untimely turnover or special teams mistake become costly. Like, lose-you-the-game costly.
Fortunately for the Broncos, they are usually well-disciplined in that area. In 2011, they suffered just 1.4 giveaways per game, which was 20th best in the country. Of course, part of that was due to experience, which won't be there in excess anymore, but part of it was also due to the coaching staff.
Chris Peterson and company are still there, and it will be necessary for their players to hold on to the ball in this one.
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