Boise State Football: Ranking the Hardest Games on the Broncos' 2014 Schedule
The Boise State football program hasn't been in this position since the spring of 2006. In that year, the Broncos were coming off of a disappointing 9-4 2005 season, which included a heartbreaking loss to Boston College in the MPC Computers Bowl.
The Broncos also lost their head coach when Dan Hawkins decided to take the University of Colorado job. It was at that time when Chris Petersen was promoted to become the next head coach.
Boise State fans were nervous at what would happen to their highly successful program without Hawkins, but many knew that promoting an offensive coordinator like Petersen was a good move.
Of course, no one knew just how good it would be.
In 2006, as a first-year head coach, Petersen took his team to new heights. The team went undefeated, and then beat mighty Oklahoma in a Fiesta Bowl that people still talk about.
Of course, Petersen didn't do it alone, he had some very talented coaches and players by his side. One of those coaches was a young offensive coordinator named Bryan Harsin.
While no one is predicting a repeat of 2006, new head coach Harsin is poised to have a very good first season. The talent is thick on the roster, and he has surrounded himself with incredible assistant coaches.
The 2014 schedule is also favorable for Boise State, but there are some big challenges facing Harsin and his team.
Let's look closer at that schedule in an effort to determine the five most challenging games the Broncos will face in the coming season.
Every season the first goal for the Broncos is to win a conference title. If you look at the Mountain West Conference games for 2014, the Broncos have the top-tier teams at home, and that should be a huge advantage.
Games at Air Force on Sept. 27, Nevada on Oct. 4 and Wyoming on Nov. 22, will all be challenging, but they are games the Broncos should be able to handle.
The other MWC away game is New Mexico on Nov. 8. The last time Boise State traveled down there, it struggled in the second half, and almost suffered defeat.
This season, the New Mexico game has all the ingredients of a trap game once again. It is wedged between games against BYU on Oct. 25 and San Diego State on Nov. 15. It will be a true test for Harsin and is staff, but not a big enough test to make the top five.
The five most difficult games on the 2014 schedule were simply determined by opponent, as every one of the Broncos most challenging games will be played at home or on a neutral field.
Three of the first four games don't fit that criteria however. A home game against Colorado State on Sept. 6, at Connecticut on Sept. 13 and at home against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 20 are all games Boise State should win.
That leaves five games on the schedule that should be the most challenging for the Broncos in 2014.
Let's look at those five games in descending order.
No. 5, Fresno State, Oct. 18
In 2013 Fresno State took down the Broncos in a 41-40 thriller in Bulldog Stadium. However, the 2014 game will look much different.
Gone is senior quarterback Derek Carr and his 5,000 plus yards of slinging fury. He picked apart the Boise State defense last season with 460 yards passing.
The Bulldogs are probably going to suffer from a Derek Carr hangover in 2014, and you have to feel bad for the player who tries to fill his cleats.
Just ask former Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick how easy it is to replace a school legend.
Another difference this season is that Marcel Yates is back in town for the Broncos as their defensive coordinator, and you know his secondary is not going to get scorched for the kind yardage last year's team gave up.
Still, the Bulldogs are going to bring a fight when these two teams collide in Bronco Stadium. It will no doubt be a loud, boisterous sellout crowd.
Boise State is poised to have a very good ground game this fall, and Grant Hedrick's playing time last season is going to pay dividends in 2014. While this game should be a close one, give the edge to the Broncos.
No. 4, San Diego State, Nov. 15
Rocky Long is a good head coach. He would be considered an elite head coach if he could inspire his San Diego State football team to play every game like it does against Boise State.
Two seasons in a row, the Aztecs have handed the Broncos a painful loss. They will be looking for the hat trick in 2014.
However, call it a gut feeling, or maybe even a "Harsin hunch," but the 2014 Broncos are not the same animal that Long and his team has tangled with in the past. Head coach Bryan Harsin is going to have his team hungry to prove they can win post-Petersen and that the program is bigger than just one man.
Harsin brings the right kind of fire, and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford and defensive coordinator Marcel Yates both bring the know-how and a type of craftiness that Rocky Long hasn't seen from a Boise State team.
It is going to be very interesting when San Diego State comes to Bronco Stadium on Nov. 15.
No. 3, Utah State, Nov. 29
Utah State had a great 2013, despite the fact that its best player missed more than half of the year.
When quarterback Chuckie Keeton went down against BYU many people wrote off the Aggies. However, even after a loss to Boise State the following week, Utah State rallied to five straight wins and a Mountain West Conference title game appearance.
The Aggies almost upset Fresno State in the title game, falling 24-17.
The team then faced Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl and handed the Huskies only their second loss of the season.
The Aggies have several key players coming back, including dynamic dual-threat Keeton.
Boise State fans, and football fans in general, should circle Nov. 29 on the calendar. That's the day that the Aggies of Utah State will travel to Bronco Stadium.
No. 2, BYU, Oct. 25
BYU finished the 2013 football season with the same 8-5 record as the Broncos. The Cougars also ended their season with a 31-16 loss to Washington in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, while Boise State started the season off with a similar 38-6 drubbing by those same Huskies.
In hindsight, BYU had the better season when you consider its losses.
The Cougars lost to Virginia, Utah, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Washington. The Broncos meanwhile had losses to Washington, Fresno State, BYU, San Diego State and Oregon State.
BYU is going to be good again in 2014, and Boise State fans should be happy the game will be on The Blue.
The last time these teams met in Boise it was an ugly 7-6 game won by the Broncos. Expect another close game this year and the score to be higher.
No. 1, Ole Miss, Aug. 28
The last time the Broncos played in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff was 2011. It was a great night for them as they defeated Georgia 35-21 in the Georgia Dome.
In 2014 Boise State returns to Atlanta, but this time the opponent will be Ole Miss.
The Rebels had a decent season in 2013 finishing 8-5 overall, which included a win over Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl, 25-17.
With a large amount of talent returning, and very high expectations, the Ole Miss football team is going to be hard to beat. Add to the mix the fact that this opening-night game will be the first of the Bryan Harsin era for Boise State, and you have some pretty challenging odds facing the Broncos.
Still, we are talking about Boise State, so anything is possible. It should be a very intriguing game, a chance for a new head coach and a new era of Bronco football to make a statement.