The Boise State Broncos entered the 2012 season with lowered expectations after losing Kellen Moore and 14 other starters from the previous year, yet considering how they finished the season, this team looks like a BCS sleeper for 2013.
Of course, calling Boise State a sleeper sounds like you are undermining the job that head coach Chris Petersen and his staff have done building this program into one of the most consistent in all of college football. .
Even in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Broncos, they managed to win 11 games for the fifth straight season and exert their dominance over the rest of the Mountain West.
It did take them a few weeks to hit their stride, as they looked lackluster in a loss against Michigan State, and even in victory over BYU and Fresno State. Eventually, they figured things out, winning their last four games of this season, including the Las Vegas Bowl against Washington.
The future of this program, at least as far as its conference is concerned, is very much up in the air right now. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reported on December 22 that Boise State was trying to keep its home television rights.
Boise State is trying to get the Big East and Mountain West to allow the Broncos to retain their home television rights, to guarantee which conference the school ends up in, sources told ESPN.
On Friday (December 21), ESPN reported those talks (regarding Boise State staying in the Mountain West) heated up in recent days after the Big East's seven Catholic basketball schools announced last week they were leaving the league.
Regardless of where the Broncos are playing next season and despite the fact they have to replace 14 more starters in 2013, how can anyone realistically expect them to be anything but BCS contenders right now?
Looking at the schedule for next season, the Broncos' non-conference schedule doesn't look very daunting. They have road games against Washington and BYU and host Tennessee-Martin and Southern Mississippi.
Washington had a decent season in a mediocre Pac-12 this season, but the Huskies aren't expected to take a huge leap forward in 2013.
The conference schedule, assuming the Broncos stay in the Big East, only presents one significant challenge in Louisville, but they get that game at home.
Petersen does such a great job of reloading the talent on this team every year. He prepares players who are going to take over for starters leaving by giving them ample playing time in key spots.
It also helps that Petersen is able to put together solid, if unspectacular, recruiting classes every year. Right now, 247Sports.com lists Boise State as having the No. 50 recruiting class in the country.
While that is hardly something to brag about, it is an improvement over where the Broncos were at in 2012.
The point being, everyone knows that Boise State can't compete on a sheer talent level with the big boys of college football. What it lacks in star power, it more than makes up for in scheme, depth and coaching.
The Broncos have all the ingredients in place to take a season that could start out with low expectations and make another serious run at the BCS for the third time in school history.
A lot of things can and will change between now and the start of 2013, but right now, this program looks way ahead of the schedule we all thought they would be on after losing Moore and all those starters after 2011.