Boise State's football program will be tested right out of the gates this season.
The Broncos will travel to Washington to take on a dangerous Huskies team capable of putting up points in bunches, and this is far from the only difficult opponent on the team's schedule this year.
But given Chris Petersen's track record of producing a top-tier team regardless of preconceived notions of the program's ability to do so—for example, this year it's the team's offense that experts don't trust—nobody should expect the Broncos to fall off a cliff in 2013.
Taking a look at the team's schedule, there are three games that stand out as the most difficult for Petersen's Broncos. How the team performs in these contests will determine what kind of bowl game the program earns at the end of the season.
Boise State @ Washington
The Broncos barely squeaked out a 28-26 win at home against the Huskies in the final game of the 2012 season, thanks to a last-minute field goal by Michael Frisina.
Washington features a strong offense led by returning starter Keith Price, along with nine other starting players from last year's team.
Even if Austin Seferian-Jenkins is unable to play (he's recovering from surgery on his pinkie, as noted by Adam Jude of the Seattle Times), the Huskies have a potent offensive attack.
The keys to winning this game for Boise State will be putting pressure on Price early and putting points on the board in the first half against the rabid Huskies defense.
Boise State @ Fresno State
Fresno State features one of the most underrated defenses in the nation.
A unit that ranked No. 37 in the nation in points allowed, the Bulldogs return eight of 11 starters on the defensive side of the ball. Of particular note is the team's front seven, which is loaded with experienced players—including a few who will likely find work at the next level with NFL teams.
On the other side of the ball, quarterback Derek Carr is carving out his own legacy at the same school his brother and NFL quarterback, David Carr, attended—not an easy or enviable task. He leads a potent passing attack and passed for 4,104 yards with 37 touchdowns last season.
Needless to say, Boise State must put together a perfect game plan and execute it to perfection in order to ensure victory against the Bulldogs—especially being that Fresno State is hosting the contest.
Boise State @ BYU
Putting up points away from home will be the key to beating the Cougars.
Boise State won 7-6 in last year's contest in the friendly confines of Bronco Stadium, and nobody should be surprised if the Broncos struggle to score on the road this year.
Kyle Van Noy is one of the most exciting players in the nation. The linebacker is an absolute terror off the edge as a pass-rusher, and he'll challenge—if not break—his 13-sack mark from a year ago.
On offense, BYU brings back nine starters, players who should be more comfortable playing at home than they were last season.
Winning on the road in Utah won't be easy, and the Broncos' offense must come up in a big way to avoid suffering a big defeat.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!