At 3-2 with no votes in either the most recent AP or Coaches polls, it’s safe to say that the Boise State Broncos football team will not be entering the Top 10 in 2013. However, based on the personnel in the program, there is reason to believe that the Broncos have a shot at making it back to the elite ranks in the future.
That will be especially important if Boise State hopes to be a perennial contender in the playoff system that will take over following the conclusion of the current season.
But before Chris Petersen’s squad can once again make a statement as one of the best teams in the nation, steps need to be taken to become a complete team. In this article, we’ll take a look at what some of those steps are.
As a forewarning, not all of these steps can be taken this year. In fact, most of these steps will require at least the next offseason to fully accomplish. But without these steps, Boise State will have a tough time securing the one bid that the “Group of Five” conferences receives in college football’s future playoff format.
Continue to Develop Ajayi and Baltazar
It can be said time and time again that Chris Petersen likes to get things going on the ground before anything else. This season is no different, as the Broncos are third in the Mountain West in rushing yards per game and lead the conference in rushing touchdowns.
Much of the success can be attributed to sophomore running back Jay Ajayi and freshman sensation Aaron Baltazar. Ajayi, the starter, has proven himself to be the bruiser of the two backs, while Baltazar is lighting in a bottle who also appeared to put on some muscle since being recruited.
In the coming seasons, the quarterback situation at Boise State could be in flux. The 2014 season could see Grant Hedrick behind center as a senior without a ton of experience. On the other hand, Hedrick’s running ability could give the Broncos an added bonus on the ground.
After 2014, the quarterback situation becomes even cloudier. Youngsters Nick Patti, Ryan Finley and Jalen Greene will all be in the mix for the starting job at that point.
It’s too early to comment at length on those quarterbacks. But it isn’t too early to comment on the running backs that are already contributing to the current team. Ajayi and Baltazar are both the present and future of the running game and will continue to be a focal point of the offense as long as they’re healthy.
If Boise State wants to run the table in the Mountain West Conference in the coming years, it will need to continue to groom its ball carriers to become elite.
Find Another Pair of Shutdown Corners
From 2010-2012, the Boise State Broncos defense was at worst fourth best in its conference in pass defense. A big reason for that was the shutdown tandem of Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins.
Taylor, an eventual second-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 2013 NFL draft, and Gavins, a consistent performer throughout his career in Boise, made it difficult for even the best quarterbacks to find open receivers.
The 2013 season has made Bronco Nation dearly miss Taylor and Gavins. Through five games, the Broncos are seventh in the conference in pass defense, and the 251.2 yards per game given up through the air accounts for more than 60 percent of the total yards the Broncos allow.
Here’s the kicker: The Broncos are second in the conference in total yards given up. Translation: Shore up the pass defense.
The Broncos are young on defense, and it isn’t all that surprising that veteran quarterbacks such as Keith Price and Derek Carr are picking apart the secondary. Looking back, it was probably foolish to assume that Taylor and Gavins would be replaced so seamlessly.
At any rate, if Boise State wants to become an elite team once again, it must first become an elite defense. From what we’ve seen this year, that starts by finding capable cornerbacks. Whether it be from somewhere on the depth chart or through future recruiting classes is negligible.
Pummel the Weak
Boise State is not in a Power Five conference. At least not yet. And until (and if) the Broncos make that move, they will have to prove to the pollsters that they are worthy of a Top 10 ranking in ways different than their power-conference counterparts.
As it did against 0-4 Southern Mississippi the previous week, Boise State will have to put on a show against the weaker competition it regularly faces in order to attract the attention of voters who can’t possibly watch every game every weekend.
Call it unfair if you want, but it’s the nature of college football. As far as perception is concerned, not much will change for the Broncos once the sport enters into the playoff era. Coaches and fans often preach about only worrying about what their own team does rather than relying on the competition (or voters) for help.
Well, the Broncos are capable of putting a beating on several Mountain West Conference foes every season. If they want to climb as high as the Top 10 in the rankings, they’ll need to do it to make a statement.
All for Naught?
When one really thinks about it, what does a Top 10 ranking mean anyway? The Broncos should have the goal of becoming an elite team. If a Top 10 ranking follows, great.
If it doesn’t?
The “Group of Five” conferences are guaranteed a spot in college football’s playoff format. Some years, a team from that collective may be a Top 10 team. But it’s not a requirement. And in the end, being an annual selection to college football’s playoff is what the ultimate goal for Boise State should be.
So if it doesn’t—oh well.