While Boise State has not started this college football season ideally, its young talent will flourish on Friday night against Air Force.
After enduring a 38-6 thumping against Washington to start the seasons, the Broncos now have little room for error if they want to win the Mountain West. They kicked off their redemption tour with a 63-14 shellacking of Tennessee Martin and next face their first conference competition of the season when the Falcons come to town.
Boise State also opened last season with a loss, but finished 10-2. To repeat such a turnaround, some important pieces to the puzzle must step up for Boise State on Friday night.
Expect these guys to guide the Broncos to a key win.
When: Friday, Sept. 13 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho
The Broncos' world revolves around their precious quarterback. It's one of the inescapable facts of football that, despite often getting overblown, rings true Boise State.
In the Broncos' loss to Washington, Joe Southwick only averaged 3.8 yards per pass and had one interception with no touchdowns. Against Tennessee-Martin, he completed 68 percent of his passes and averaged 9.36 yards with five scores.
Saying Boise State's success rests on Southwick's arm is an oversimplification, but a laudable outing from the senior would certainly help the Broncos' chances. After completing 68.4 percent of his passes last year, he should continue his sturdy play throughout his final year.
Air Force just surrendered 360 passing yards and five touchdowns to Utah State's Chuckie Keeton, so Southwick should be champing at the bit to get a shot at shredding its secondary.
In getting his chance to shine, sophomore running back Jay Ajayi is beginning a breakout campaign for the Broncos.
While Ajayi has averaged 6.7 yards per carry in limited action this season, he already has 38 rushing attempts through the season's first two games.
Against Tennessee-Martin, the 6'0", 215-pound rusher compiled 80 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. As his responsibilities grow, the talented rusher will rise to the occasion, as Boise State's premier back.
Expect Boise State to control the tempo in Friday night with a balanced attack that relies on Southwick and Ajayi to keep the ball in its possession. This could be the game where Ajayi officially arrives as one of the game's most alluring running backs.
Guess who leads the Broncos in unassisted tackles so far?
Yes, Ben Weaver, but that's just because you saw his name above. Who would have thought a redshirt freshman would make such an immediate impact?
Which Boise State player will have the biggest impact on Friday night's game?
Weaver has 14 tackles, including 11 solo efforts, during his first two games at the collegiate level, and he's not even a starter.
With senior Jonathan Brown and junior Travis Saxton out of commission, Boise State's needs its younger linebackers to progress quickly. Air Force ranks 18th in rushing in the FBS at 285.5 yards per game, so a tough challenge lies ahead for the inexperienced unit.
The unheralded freshman will be out to prove that his surprising performance was more than just a flash in the pan. Stopping running backs Jon Lee and Broam Hart is the key to a Boise State victory, and Weaver should help contain them just enough for the Broncos to pile up the points.