AP) -- After years of trying to prove it belongs among the elite programs in the nation, Boise State's new goal is to justify its lofty status.
The third-ranked Broncos aren't wasting much time doing that, either.
(Boise State begins its quest for a national championship as it faces No. 10 Virginia Tech for the first time at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., on Monday night.
Over the last decade, the Broncos have gone from feel-good underdogs to one of the premier teams in the country. They received a first-place vote while getting their highest preseason ranking after going 14-0 and beating then-No. 3 TCU 17-10 in the Fiesta Bowl last season.
Boise State finished the season at No. 4 in the AP poll, and coach Chris Petersen isn't concerned with proving critics wrong any more.
"Let's prove everyone right," the Broncos' fifth-year coach said.
Boise State is again considered a Bowl Championship Series contender, and it plans to maintain that status with its move to the Mountain West Conference next year. This will be the last season for the Broncos in the Western Athletic Conference, which they've dominated with a 49-4 record while winning three conference titles in four years under Petersen.
The Broncos have won two BCS bowls in that stretch, and are now looking to take the final step and claim a spot in the national championship game.
"It could happen," said quarterback Kellen Moore, considered a Heisman Trophy candidate. "Every year there are different variables. Two years ago we were undefeated but there were a handful of undefeated teams. Sometimes you lose out on those things.
"You play well, in the end you're going to be doing something good."
Returning all but one starter is a major reason expectations are so high. The offense is intact after tying Houston with 42.2 points per game to lead the nation last year.
In two seasons, Moore is 26-1 and has thrown for 7,022 yards with 64 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His 39 touchdowns to three interceptions last year was the best ratio in NCAA history.
Wide receives Austin Pettis and Titus Young combined for 142 catches and 24 touchdowns, while running back Jeremy Avery rushed for 1,151 yards and six scores.
Boise State is also sound defensively, leading the WAC by holding opponents to an average of 17.1 points.
Just how good the Broncos are in 2010 will be tested immediately by Virginia Tech, which routinely boasts one of the best defenses in the country.
The Hokies ranked ninth in average points allowed (15.6) and 11th in pass defense, giving up 167.1 yards per game with nine TDs.
The unit, however, is a major question mark after losing seven starters from a 10-3 season capped by a 37-14 win over Tennessee in the Chik-fil-A Bowl.
"We're playing against an offense that, I believe, is running on all cylinders and I'm excited about that because it's been awhile since we had an offense like that," defensive coordinator Bud Foster said.
As opposed to relying heavily on its defense, Virginia Tech is expected to boast a dynamic offense centered around quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who had 2,311 passing yards and 370 rushing in his first full season as starter.
The senior was key to the offense averaging 31.8 points to rank second in the ACC last year.
"I feel the same way with him out there as I did when Michael Vick was out there," coach Frank Beamer said, speaking of the dual-threat quarterback who led the Hokies to the 1999 national championship game against Florida State. "Any play has a chance of going a long ways."
Virginia Tech's offensive success will also hinge on running backs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Williams ran for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns, breaking the Atlantic Coast Conference freshman yardage record Evans set in 2008 (1,265) before missing last season with an ACL tear.
"Having these two backs behind me, that's going to take a lot of pressure off my legs and open up lanes for the passing area," Taylor said. "They're going to stack the box knowing that we have a great rushing game and that's going to open things for me and my receivers."
Taylor has his top three targets back in wide receivers Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale and Dyrell Roberts, who combined for 92 catches and 10 touchdowns.
"They're the show right now," cornerback Rashad Carmichael said of the offense, "but we have a lot of pride and a lot of tradition, so we're going to do what we do on that side of the ball."
According to Stats
•This will be the first meeting in football between the Hokies and the Broncos. Boise State will be the first school from the state of Idaho that Tech has faced in football.
•The Hokies are 16-7 in season openers during Frank Beamer's tenure as head coach. Tech has won 16 of its past 21 opening-day games, including 11 of the past 14, but has lost the last two. Last year, Tech lost 34-24 to eventual national champion Alabama.
•This is the third time since 2003 that two AP top-10 teams have played each other in the first full week of the college season. Virginia Tech has now been involved in two of those three such games (#6 Auburn vs. # 8 USC in 2003, #5 Alabama vs. #7 Virginia Tech in 2009).
•Virginia Tech and Texas are the only two schools in the FBS to have won 10 or more games each of the past six seasons.
•The Broncos are tied with Alabama for the longest active winning streak in the nation at 14 games. They also have not lost a single regular season game since the beginning of the 2008 season (a span of 25 games).
•Tyrod Taylor needs four wins to become Tech's all-time leader in QB wins, passing Bryan Randall, who won 26 games.
•In two seasons, Kellen Moore is 26-1 and has thrown for 7,022 yards with 64 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His 39 touchdowns to three interceptions last year was the best ratio in NCAA history.
•Ryan Williams ran for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, breaking the Atlantic Coast Conference freshman yardage record teammate Darren Evans set in 2008 (1,265) before missing last season with an ACL tear.