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BOISE- For the next eight months, when you hear people talking about the Boise State football team, don't expect to hear the words "Fiesta Bowl."
The 2006 Broncos put together the greatest single season in school history, undefeated, and complete with a storybook ending on New Year's Day.
The 2007 Broncos gave the 2008 Broncos a mission to end a two-game losing streak.
For the second straight season, Boise State will have to break in another starting quarterback. But BSU will also be without most of its offensive line, including senior-to-be Ryan Clady who opted to go to the NFL. Vinny Perretta returns at wide receiver, but Jeremy Childs may not. (We'll know more about his future in a few weeks, according to Coach Chris Petersen). Marty Tadman graduates. Orlando Scandrick has signed with an agent and won't be back.
So many questions, so little time to address them with only a few months until spring ball.
And rivals.com lists Boise State's incoming recruiting class as the 77th-best in the nation. That doesn't exactly scream "domination."
For the first time in six seasons, Boise State won't be the WAC champion headed into its season opener. And there is no guarantee the Broncos will be WAC champs after their last game, either.
Defending champion Hawai'i will be down, with the departure of star quarterback Colt Brennan. Coach June Jones is also gone, on hs way to SMU. But Fresno State, the only WAC team to win a bowl game this year, will contend for the conference title in 2008. And you can't count out Nevada either. Bronco fans saw the potential of the Wolf Pack's young quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, in this season's 69-67 4OT win.
In short, no one expected Boise State to go undefeated forever. And we saw early on during the 2007 season (in a 24-10 loss at Washington, who finished the year 4-9) that this year's Broncos were a much different team than the one leaving Glendale, AZ with a win over Oklahoma:
- Ian Johnson was barely a blip on the national radar for the Heisman Trophy, despite pre-season hype.
- Freshmen Titus Young and Austin Pettis emerged as legitimate threats at wide receiver, but Young has a tendency to fumble the football and Pettis has a weird knack of after he catches the ball, he tries to run backwards for a few steps before turning upfield. He cost the Broncos extra yardage and a few first downs by doing that this season.
- The absence of WAC Defensive Player of the Year Korey Hall, a four-year starter at linebacker, made opposing teams challenge the Broncos in both the run and the pass. BSU won ten games, but was really only dominant defensively in half of those wins (I-A Weber State, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Utah State, and Idaho).
Coach Petersen held a season-ending press conference Friday, in which he mentioned that he has a lot of post-it notes around his office. For the Broncos' sake, I hope written somewhere on one of those is a reminder to return to the "blue-collar" work ethic that has defined this program for so long.
That's how Boise State built its fan base; not by building a brand-new press box/luxury suite, not by choosing to go to Hawai'i for its bowl game, not by (fill in the blank)...