Boise State enters the 2013 season with a fair dose of optimism, and for good reason.
The Broncos have some key returning starters coming back along with a fair number of quality backups and a slew of talented underclassmen ready to hit The Blue. Even if Chris Petersen's team isn't allowed to wear blue-on-blue uniforms at home, they will certainly make fans of several teams blue in 2013.
The campaign starts in Washington, and if everything goes according to plan, the season should end on a BCS stage. However, nothing is guaranteed, and there is a lot of work to be done before Boise State can close out the year in a game like the Fiesta Bowl.
The 2013 schedule was recently released for the Broncos, and it has several interesting matchups.
In total, Boise State will have 12 regular-season games with a possible 13th game if they make it to the Mountain West Conference championship. The schedule isn't extremely difficult, but there are definitely some hills to climb and traps to avoid.
Let's take a look at the top eight games that stand between the Broncos and BCS glory in 2013.
It all starts in Seattle.
On August 31, 2013, the Boise State Broncos will travel to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies. It will be a rematch of the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas, and the Huskies will be hungry for revenge.
The game will be in a newly renovated Husky Stadium, and the crowd should be electric.
Washington has several players returning, including a very good running back named Bishop Sankey. He rushed for over 200 yards against the Broncos in Las Vegas, and the Boise State defense will be looking to do much better this time around.
The Broncos have some key holes to fill on defense. They were able to shut down the Washington passing game last time, but this time Jerrell Gavins and Jamar Taylor will not be around for Chris Petersen and his crew.
Younger players and junior college transfers will have to step up if Boise State wants a repeat performance against the Huskies.
This game will be one of the toughest for the Broncos, but Chris Petersen will certainly have his team ready to go.
Speaking of another team wanting revenge...
BYU has to be looking forward to having the Broncos come to their house on October 26, 2013. In 2012, Boise State won an ugly 7-6 game in Bronco Stadium. It was a game that Boise State won despite not scoring a single offensive touchdown.
The key play of the game came when head coach Bronco Mendenhall decided to have the Cougars go for two-points and the win on a touchdown conversion. However, senior linebacker J.C. Percy had other things in mind. He swatted down the BYU pass and secured the Broncos victory.
Look for the game in Provo to be a brutal battle, and you know Chris Petersen won't let his team overlook the BYU Cougars.
This Air Force is quite a ground force.
Chris Petersen probably doesn't like to play against the triple option. It is a very difficult offense to defend, and it can tire out even the best and fastest defense.
Boise State learned that the hard way against the Falcons in 2011, and although the Broncos won the game, it was probably a relief to many Bronco fans that Air Force wasn't on the Boise State schedule in 2012.
In 2013, the Falcons will once again fly into Bronco Stadium, and once again it will be their ground game that brings the biggest threat. Some might automatically chalk this game up to a victory for the blue and orange, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Boise State struggled greatly against New Mexico in 2012, mostly in the second half, but it was enough to serve as a wake-up call. The Lobos run the same kind of option offense, and it proved as big of a headache as Air Force did the previous season.
Look for coach Petersen to come up with a new kind of triple-option preparation for his team this time around.
It won't be Chris Ault's fault.
Head coach Chris Ault retired---again. It just won't be the same without him. However, it should still be a great game when the Wolf Pack comes back to Bronco Stadium in 2013.
These two teams seem to always step up their game when they face each other. The Broncos beat the Wolf Pack in Reno in 2012, but you know that Nevada will be looking to spoil Boise State's season in 2013.
You would expect a drastic drop-off for any team that just lost a legendary head coach. However, with new head coach Brian Polian it doesn't seem likely.
Polian is a special teams guy with a special teams attitude. He was with Texas A&M in 2012, Stanford in 2010 and 2011 and Notre Dame from 2005 to 2009 all as a special teams coach. He had success and you can expect that to continue in Reno.
Polian is also known for being a heck of a recruiter, which should bode well for future contests. However, no one should overlook the 2013 Wolf Pack.
You know Chris Petersen won't let that happen on his watch.
These are not your father's Bulldogs.
Fresno State is going to be dangerous in 2013. Quarterback Derek Carr will be back, and along with him will be all of his receivers from 2012. Carr completed 344 of 511 passes in 2012, and he racked up an incredible 4,104 yards passing. He completed 67.3 percent of his passes and threw 37 touchdown passes compared to just seven interceptions.
In total, nine offensive starters and eight defensive starters return for head coach Tim DeRuyter and his team.
The Bulldogs will not have their tremendous running back Robbie Rouse back, and finding his replacement won't be easy. Still, this time around, Boise State must travel to Fresno and you know the Bulldogs will be ready to play.
The Bulldogs' new head coach had the 2012 team carrying a decent amount of swagger and attitude. It didn't help them in the Hawaii Bowl against SMU, but even that loss will probably serves as motivation in 2013.
Fresno State wants to beat the Broncos badly, and the 2013 game in Fresno should be a good one to watch.
The Broncos will be the ones looking for revenge this time.
San Diego State came into Bronco Stadium in 2012 and smacked the Broncos in the mouth on the opening kickoff. It was a 100-yard run by Colin Lockett that put the Aztecs up 7-0 early in the game.
Boise State would rebound, but after the injury of defensive lineman Michael Atkinson the wind seemed to be out of the sails of Chris Petersen's team.
The Broncos went on to lose the game 21-19, and with it went the chances at another BCS run.
This time around expect the Broncos to be ready to play and looking to return the favor. Chris Petersen and his team will certainly do all they can to make sure they take victory from the Aztecs in 2013.
Yes, Utah State. The Aggies are a tough team with a serious chip on their shoulder. Overlooked by many, they couldn't be ignored in 2012.
The team from Logan, Utah State finished the season 11-2 last season and ranked No. 16 in the AP Poll and No. 17 in the USA Today Poll. Their only losses came to BYU by a score of 6-3 and an early season loss to Wisconsin 16-14.
The biggest loss in the offseason for the Aggies was of course their head coach. Gary Andersen bolted for the previously mentioned Wisconsin Badgers.
However, don't expect Utah State to just fade away.
Offensive coordinator and former Utah State quarterback Matt Wells stepped up to fill the void. Don't expect a drop-off for the Aggies in 2013. Boise State fans should realize that promoting an offensive coordinator to head coach can be very effective.
Utah State also has to be excited to have this game in their stadium. It should be sold out and rocking when the Broncos come knocking in 2013.
Will the Broncos make the MWC Championship game?
Only time will tell if Chris Petersen's 2013 squad will make the MWC championship. If they do, the game could actually be in Bronco Stadium. The host city will be the team ranked highest in the BCS rankings. So, the Broncos do have a legitimate shot.
If the Broncos make it to the title game undefeated they will certainly host the game, but who might they face?
San Jose State is a possibility outside of the Broncos' scheduled opponents. They are coming off an incredible season where they went 11-2 in 2012 and finished ranked in the top 25.
If it is a rematch game the biggest possibilities seem to be Fresno State, Nevada, San Diego State and Utah State.
No matter who they might face, if the Broncos want to make a BCS game in 2013, they will have to make it to the MWC championship game and win it. It is an extra obstacle, but it could be a very exciting event for the city of Boise and the Broncos and their fans.