A breakdown of returning starters and how it might impact Boise State's 2010 opponents

As Bronco fans are well aware, Boise State returns 23 starters off of last year's Fiesta Bowl team. If only other college football teams were so lucky.

The opponents on the Broncos' schedule do not have the hoards of returners that BSU does, but several teams are in just fine shape. The worst of the bunch? Virginia Tech and Toledo. The best of the bunch? Idaho and Nevada. After the jump, view the breakdown of Bronco opponents' returning starters and discuss just how much experience matters in big-time college football.

Team-by-team breakdown of returning starters

The following chart lists Boise State's 2010 opponents by number of returning starters. The chart lists offensive and defensive returning starters. Special teams returners are listed in the total, but I didn't think anyone cared enough to see a breakdown of how many WAC punters are coming back.

 Returners Offense Defense QB
Idaho 18 6 10 Yes
Nevada 18 9 7 Yes
Fresno State 17 7 9 Yes
New Mexico State 17 8 7 Yes
Oregon State 17 8 8 No
San Jose State 17 9 7 Yes
Wyoming 17 8 7 Yes
Utah State 16 7 8 Yes
Hawaii 15 6 7 Yes
Louisiana Tech 15 7 6 Yes
Toledo 13 6 6 No
Virginia Tech 13 8 5 Yes

 

Many thanks to Phil Steele for compiling this list of returners. His full post on this topic is worth the read if you have 15 minutes to blow and enjoy tables.

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"I don't know the names of half the guys standing behind me." (via nbcsportsmedia3.msnbc.com)

 

Virginia Tech fans to get very familiar with their gameday program

It is no secret that the Hokies do not return loads of players off of last year's team. For this reason and perhaps for this reason alone, the opening weekend clash with the Broncos makes scheduling sense for BSU.

But the least experienced team on the Broncos' schedule? I never saw that coming. I mean, who knew there were 17 players who wanted to come back to New Mexico State?

The Hokies will be hurt the most on defense where only five starters from last year's team return. So the question becomes: Just how much does experience matter at this level of college football? Teams from BCS conferences have the luxury of reloading with deep talent (something that Boise State can also do now), so it would reason that attrition matters less and less. What kind of impact do you think experience will have on the Labor Day game in D.C.?

Idaho returns 10 starters on defense. Too bad for Idaho.

Experience typically means success, unless your team is experienced in letting offenses run all over you.

Returning 10 players off a defense that gave up a WAC-worst 35 points per game is not necessarily a good thing for the Vandals. Though they sit at the top of the returning starters chart for Boise State's opponents, their defensive largess is unfortunate. The Idaho Vandals: Finding new ways to lose since the late 90's.

2010 will be the year of the QB in the WAC

Here's something that will most definitely appear in a WAC press release this offseason: Every single WAC starting QB from last season returns in 2010.

The WAC is the only conference in college football that can claim this. But if you are taking this news as a sign of trouble for the Broncos in their WAC schedule, rest easy. This is the WAC we are talking about, and even in a year when all the starting QBs return, more than half of the starting QBs might not be starters come opening week.

No doubt you will see Colin Kaepernick, Diondre Borel, and Nathan Enderle under center for their teams. But take a look at the rest:

  • Hawaii's Bryant Moniz: Could be replaced by up-and-comer Shane Austin
  • LaTech's Ross Jenkins: Charged with drunk driving this offseason, Jenkins may not fit into new coach Sonny Dykes' passing scheme
  • Fresno State's Ryan Colburn: Barely beat out fan favorite Derek Carr last year
  • San Jose State's Jordan La Secla: The Rich Kotite of WAC quarterbacks
  • New Mexico State's Jeff Fleming: Made Chase Holbrook look like Tecmo Bowl Joe Montana last season

If the WAC QB shuffle happens, it would be the reverse Tom Brandstater effect - replacing a veteran QB because the veteran QB is awful. Thank goodness Boise State's quarterback controversies don't go down like this.

Expectations will be high in Nevada

The Wolf Pack return 18 starters from last year's team. The Wolf Pack are still coached by Chris Ault. Push.

Other interesting notes:

  • Broncos will only face two teams that do not return their starting QB from last year.
  • Oregon State and Arizona State are the only two schools in the Pac-10 to not have a returning starter at QB.
  • If returning starters are any indication, the Toledo matchup could be more lopsided than anyone expected.
  • Sporting News' Brian Cook did a breakdown of Phil Steele's roster analysis, and among a list of interesting conclusions was this one:

Looking for teams that are probably going to enter next season overrated? Find teams that return quarterbacks and a lot of offense but lose a bunch of defense. Alabama is a clear winner here with a fairly meh quarterback back along with eight offensive starters but just two guys on defense coming back and neither specialist. The Tide has the fewest returning starters of anyone the SEC.

If Boise State starts preseason at No. 2 or No. 3 and Alabama is indeed overrated, the Broncos would be in national championship contention awfully quick.

How much does experience matter?

In the case of Boise State's matchup with Virginia Tech on Labor Day, I would like to say that experience makes all the difference in the world and just hand the national championship trophy to the Broncos already! But I know that is not true.

Coaching matters. Schemes matter. Talent matters. There are a lot of ways to overcome a lack of experience, so basing a prediction of any sort on experience alone is irresponsible. For example, take a look at the 2008 Boise State team. The Broncos had to replace 18 seniors who graduated in 2007, including Marty Tadman and Taylor Tharp and the majority of the starting offensive line. And all the 2008 team did was put together one of the best seasons in Boise State history.

On the other hand, think back to Boise State's Fiesta Bowl win over TCU. A lot of experts have said that the Horned Frogs suffered because their team did not have the previous Fiesta Bowl experience that the Broncos had. (I only sort of buy that argument since a good number of Bronco players on the roster last year were not a part of the 2006 Fiesta Bowl team.) Experience is magnified on the big stage, and the stage won't get much bigger than Labor Day night in Washington, D.C.

Your turn

Yesterday's post about Boise State's toughest non-BCS opponents sparked some interesting discussion, and the poll results had Wyoming as a close second to Nevada for toughest non-BCS game. After seeing this list of returning starters, does your scheduling vote change? Are Nevada and Wyoming still Boise State's toughest non-BCS opponents? How much of an impact will experience have in BSU's Labor Day matchup with VT? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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