While Boise State's defense is known for giving opponents trouble, there are several squads who in 2013 could give the Broncos' offense issues.
With so many pieces returning on the offensive end for Boise State, it isn’t difficult to argue that Joe Southwick and Co. will be Chris Petersen’s strongest asset in 2013.
But while the Broncos could have a potent offense much earlier in the season than when the offense came alive in 2012, the addition of several teams from the now-defunct WAC bring added defensive challenges.
In other words, the Broncos might be better on offense this season, but the competition will also be better on defense.
To help drive that point home, a list compiling the top five defenses that could give Boise State trouble this coming season has been created. The list not only takes into account the projected strength of a defense for 2013 but also last season’s results as well as coaching factors.
The Mountain West isn’t typically known for its lockdown defensive play, but in the case of the Broncos, these five teams pose a real threat on that side of the ball.
Here are those five teams, starting with an old WAC rival.
The Bulldogs held the Broncos to just 20 points last October.
Despite being in different divisions, it has been confirmed that the Bulldogs will be on Boise State’s schedule in 2013. The Bulldogs also played the Broncos last season, keeping it close and ultimately losing 20-10 on the blue turf.
Although Tim DeRuyter’s team would love to simply outscore most of the teams it faces, the truth is that the possibility of that happening just isn’t in DeRuyter’s favor. Last season’s Hawaii Bowl is a prime example, when not only was the offense shut down, but the defense was torched as well.
Thus, DeRuyter will be working hard to continue improving a defense that was actually pretty good for most of the 2012 season. The Bulldogs were fourth in the Mountain West in points given up (21.4 per game) and were tied for best in the conference with Boise State in pass defense with 163.4 yards given up per contest.
The Broncos must travel to the San Joaquin Valley to take on Fresno State in 2013, which will give the Bulldogs defense a home-crowd advantage.
If last season’s score is any indication, the Bulldogs could be extremely pesky defensively on the road.
The Aggies shut out Wisconsin at home in two quarters of the game played in Madison last September.
The WAC’s best overall defense will join the Mountain West in 2013, and quarterback Chuckie Keeton isn’t the only thing that is causing future opponents to fear the Aggies.
While Keeton didn’t really come into his own until midway through last season, Utah State’s defense was playing at a high level all year. In fact, the Aggies allowed more than 20 points only twice all of last season.
It will be interesting to see how the Aggies respond without former head coach Gary Andersen, who left the team in December to become the head coach at Wisconsin. Andersen is credited with a large amount of Utah State’s rise—and rightly so.
In addition to being a solid recruiter, Andersen’s background is on the defensive end, so it remains to be seen how strong that unit will be without his influence.
At the same time, Utah State isn’t totally depleted on the defensive end. A few pieces are gone, but cornerback Nevin Lawso is a potential NFL defensive back and leading tacklers Jake Doughty and Zach Vigil return at linebacker.
Like Fresno State, the Broncos must travel to play the Aggies in 2013. Although it has only been a few years since Boise State has been to Logan, Utah, the culture has changed quite a bit in that time. The Aggies are now serious about their football.
Assuming Andersen didn’t take all the defensive principles with him to Madison, the Aggies will be one of the tougher defensive squads that Boise State faces in 2013.
The Aztecs did a nice job of containing Boise State's offense at home in 2012.
The only Mountain West foe to beat the Broncos in 2012 will be difficult to play again in 2013 for two reasons: Playing the Aztecs on the road is one, and a stingy defense is the other.
Rocky Long used to be the defensive coordinator for San Diego State before taking over as head coach in 2011, so it isn’t surprising that he prefers to set the tone in the defensive end.
The Aztecs will have to find some significant replacements in the defensive secondary, especially for cornerback Leon McFadden, one of the best at his position last season.
Beyond that, however, the bulk of the defense returns for San Diego State.
Although the Aztecs were only mediocre statistically on defense (No. 3 in the MWC with 24.5 PPG allowed and No. 7 in the conference with 234.8 yards per game given up through the air), the team got it done on that side of the ball when it mattered most. Experience will benefit them as well in 2013.
Boise State really fell flat against San Diego State in the special teams department in its 2012 defeat. But the Aztecs’ defense could cause them trouble in 2013, especially if Long finds a decent replacement for McFadden.
Washington's punishing style is a direct result of head coach Steve Sarkisian's effort to improve that side of the ball.
Washington isn’t on this list simply because it is the first team the Broncos will face in 2013.
The Huskies, despite allowing the Broncos to get out to an early 18-3 lead in the 2012 Las Vegas Bowl, tightened up their defensive play and nearly knocked off the No. 19 Broncos this past December.
Steve Sarkisian’s coaching staff did a nice job improving the defense last season. In 2011, Washington was one of the worst defensive squads in the Pac-12. Last year, the Huskies had become one of the best.
Like San Diego State, Washington shouldn’t have much trouble getting the defense to play well together. The Huskies lose only three starters to graduation, and two of those starters were in the secondary, where Washington was very strong.
If Boise State’s offensive line allows Joe Southwick time to throw, he could find himself with some very open targets if Washington cannot find adequate replacements in the secondary.
This is very possible. One area where the Huskies struggled last season was getting pressure on the quarterback, recording only 27 sacks as a team.
Washington will be looking for revenge to begin the 2013 regular season, and it will start on the defensive end. Don’t expect the Huskies to allow the Broncos an early lead, which could make it tough sledding for Boise State in Seattle.
Kyle Van Noy returning to the team is a big reason why the Cougars should be OK on defense, despite losing several starters.
Last year’s Boise State-BYU game was one of the worst outings of college football for fans of offense. But at the same time, it was a testament to how strong BYU’s defense really was.
Although the Cougars lost the turnover battle in that game an astounding 5-0, Bronco Mendenhall’s team still had a chance to win the game in the final minutes.
In 2013, it is the hope of the Boise State faithful that the Broncos offense is a bit more capable of moving the ball down the field against BYU. At the same time, one must be wary of the ability of the coaching staff in Provo to come up with a strong defensive presence.
The Cougars were a senior-laden squad on defense and will have to replace a lot of parts in 2013. But since 2006, BYU hasn’t allowed an average of more than 21.7 points per game on defense and would have routinely been one of the best squads statistically in the Mountain West.
Perhaps, most importantly is that BYU will have their vocal leader, senior linebacker Kyle Van Noy, back for the 2013 campaign.
Assuming that the Cougars will be easy to decode on defense is similar to assuming that Urban Meyer isn’t working overtime because he signed an agreement with his daughter. It’s just wishful thinking.
Regardless of whether or not BYU is strong enough on offense to compete with the Broncos, it is very likely that the Cougars will present problems for Boise State on defense.