It is the time of year when we have gotten accustomed to discussing if an undefeated Boise State team deserves a shot at the national championship. This year, it is time to start talking about next year.
This, in and of itself, is a testament to the Broncos' program because this team is 9-2 and headed towards a solid bowl game, but the bar has been raised at Boise State.
The Broncos have flown to national prominence largely based on a dynamic, efficient offense that could score points with the best of them.
This year's team was wildly different. Boise State's success is largely thanks to a great defense. The Broncos are sixth in the nation by allowing just 14.4 points per game.
If Boise State had been able to maintain an offensive acumen even close to last year's, they would be undefeated now and in the national championship conversation.
So, let's take a look at three offensive players who must make big strides this offseason to return Boise State an elite status.
Kirby Moore, WR
Matt Miller needs someone to help take some of the defensive pressure off him at the receiver position. Miller easily led the Broncos in any receiving category you care to look at, and as a sophomore he is set to better those numbers next year, but he needs some help.
The 6'3" Moore can do just that. He has had a decent junior campaign with 36 catches for 368 yards, which means his numbers actually improved despite the fact his brother, Kellen, was no longer throwing him passes.
Moore must continue to improve on those numbers. He needs to be a force on third downs and increase his value in the red zone—he has just one touchdown this season.
Jay Ajayi, RB
Leading Broncos' back D.J. Harper is a senior, but his replacement is roaring and ready to go.
Jay Ajayi has proven to be extremely effective as a freshman this year. He is a 220-pound back that can run with force and explosiveness.
On the season he has rushed for four touchdowns and 490 yards at 7.1 yards per carry, and he's done this after receiving just one carry through the first three games.
There is nothing to suggest this young man cannot handle the workload of a full-time starter. He now just has to go to work and get his body in the best shape possible to handle the load.
Joe Southwick, QB
Plain and simple, Joe Southwick has to bring more consistency to the quarterback position for the Broncos to return to being an elite team.
The junior has had a decent year while taking over for college-legend Kellen Moore, but he's made far too many mistakes.
Southwick has thrown a pick in seven of 11 games this season, and he has just 15 touchdown passes to go with seven interceptions.
To his credit, Southwick is playing his best football to close out the season.
Over his last two games, Southwick is 34-of-49 with 425 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
It has been a great sign to see him make these strides in his first season as a starter and if he can build on this over the offseason, Boise State will be in good hands next year.