This game has been circled on my personal calendar since the home and home was announced. That 2007 loss was brutal and difficult to watch. So was 2013. Boise State won the Vegas bowl against the Huskies in 2012, but the history doesn’t matter. Not now. These aren’t Sark’s Huskies, these aren’t Pete’s Broncos, and 2015 is a brave new world with the same old glass ceiling just waiting to be broken.
We can haz playoff, ESPN? For realsies?
There are so many angles on this game. Some are data driven – like Boise State trying to replace Jay Ajayi’s 130 yards per game on the ground. Or Grant Hedrick’s stellar 70% completion average. Some are driven by emotion. Like Pete having to come back and play here at the expense of the “awkwardness” surrounding coming to the home that is not his any longer. The fan bases are being their usual selves – UW fans touchy and sneering, BSU fans chippy and confident. Both of these are correct reactions to what little we know of these teams – UW is thin at the line, new at quarterback, good at running back and tight end. The Husky’s defense lost a lot of playmakers, and while talented, doesn’t have much experience. This team is 65% underclassmen, walking into the insanity that will be Albertsons Stadium at full emotional and physical capacity.
NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE
UW has not named their quarterback. A little bit of subterfuge by Pete? Yep. It’s adorable. But as Heath, our resident gentleman and scholar put it on Twitter, “You either have one quarterback, or none.” It sure seems like they’d announce if it was the veteran, so it’s more than possible Pete will start a true frosh QB in Jake Browning. With the strength that the Huskies have at running back, expect to see a lot of Dwayne Washington trying to smash through to the second level. Once the track meet starts, he can win it. Also look for a lot of little passes over the middle to the tight ends and the occasional attempt to exploit the size difference on the outside between the Bronco DB’s and Washington’s big 6’5 WR Brayden Lenius.
Boise State, on the other hand, could be deeper than we are used to. Ryan Finley has been appointed QB, with his only real game experience coming during the meltdown at Air Force last season. The only thing I remember about his play is that he made a mistake, didn’t get rattled, and finished a drive well. That is enough. If the coaches think Ryan is the guy, then he’s obviously the most prepared and ready. However, there are 3 gentlemen behind him on the depth chart. It’s Utah State levels of embarrassment of riches at that position. Jeremy McNichols, with his mastery of the edge, will get the start at running back. Even though he was only responsible for 314 yards last season, they were always entertaining ones. The WR corps is probably the most interesting unit on offense. Thomas Sperbeck, the guy that totally embodies the Boise State “Next Man Up” mentality, is back. Chaz Anderson has an entire season under him on that side of the ball, and will be dangerous. Shane Williams-Rhodes brings not only his amazingly entertaining brand of football, but senior leadership to a group that is deep and more athletic than Boise has had out there for a while. It was so good to see the return of the tight end last year, and will be even better to see if Jake Roh and the rest of that group get the breakout season that they have been working towards.
Coach K and the new look 3-4 UW defense are a question mark. Yes, Budda Baker will still be roaming the defensive backfield (and probably some offense and a lot of special teams), but when the defensive line is 6 of 7 dudes who have never started a college football game, there’s going to be growing pains. So this is where I think the difference is going to be in this game – the trenches. UW’s defense just won’t get to rattle Finley, leaving the entire playbook open for Coach Drink’s offense to make come to life.
Despite what Coach Yates has tried to convince us, Boise State’s defense is going to be outright dangerous this season. The DL rolls three deep in upperclassmen. The linebacker corps is just as real. UW is going to have to establish the run and a short passing game against an experienced, much better conditioned than in the past Boise State defense that theoretically should be creating unparalleled havoc. Hell, the only spot where they’re sort of young is at cornerback, and thats only because underclassmen are backing up Donte Deayon and Jonathan Moxey, who could both be playing on Sundays in the near-ish future.
Everyone on both sides has acknowledged that this game is meaningful. Pete calls it awkward, and Hars radiates excitement. To the players, none of this should matter as soon as the ball is kicked, but it totally will because they are human just like the rest of us. Logical me knows that its college football and that anything can happen. UW could win this game. That’s a thing that is possible out of all the possibilities. But fan me is screaming that they can’t. Pete can’t just walk back into this stadium with a team that’s over half underclassmen and expect to win against the kids he recruited and then left, right? We all know that Harsin is the best thing that happened to this program since the floppy haired kid who said “neat” a lot took off for Lionyer pastures. That’s not in question. Pete left at the right time. But it didn’t make it hurt less. I remember how it felt to wake up to my phone blowing up with the news and the way my heart sank. I remember traveling back across the country – sitting drunk and heartbroken in a restaurant in the Denver airport, trying to stay interested in coaching rumors and failing because all I could think about was how stunned I was that he picked that program, out of every one that had come calling. Who turns down Stanford and USC but takes the dumpster fire in Seattle? I could’ve understood leaving for Cali, to a high profile, pretty job. It’s like getting spurned for a super model. Ouchy, but understandable. But this? <expletive> him. <expletive> walking back in this stadium in purple and gold. Gotta pay for that one. In a very public way.
The eyes of the college football world are going to be upon Boise on Friday night. The storylines are compelling, the teams are fairly well matched, and for one evening, the greatest show on earth might just be going on our very own Blue Turf. Who is going to play the hero? Which young QB is going to take the first step onto the path of the greats before them? Will the protégé claim victory over the master? Will the Huskies ever be able to convert third down with the throngs of screaming Bronco fans making our presence exceedingly known? Will the Broncos be able to match #DatPacSpeed? Only one way to find out. After years of anticipation, months of analysis and talk, hype and controversy, its finally time for Boise State to start what just might be the most special of all the seasons in the most special place of all…