Who will be the tougher opponent: BYU or Southern Miss?

With two weeks to go until real, live football, I thought I should maybe get around to previewing Boise State's 2012 opponents. Here are some now. They are not as good as Michigan State.

Boise State's non-conference schedule is deep, which may come as a surprise if you hang out on SEC message boards. In addition to Michigan State, the Broncos host BYU and travel to Southern Miss - two games that Mark May has already penciled in as losses for Boise State. Which game do you think will be tougher? Vote in the poll and share your thoughts in the comments. Here is some info to help you decide.

Three reasons why BYU will be a tough opponent

1. A Top 25 defense

Now that Bronco Mendenhall is calling the shots on D, BYU is among the nation's best. Throw in seven returning starters, a terrifying front seven, and an experienced secondary, and the Boise State - BYU Thursday night throwdown could end up being the defensive battle that deeply confuses fairweather fans.

Byugraphic_medium

(click to embiggen)

2. Riley Nelson has Ty Detmer written all over him

Not literally, that would be weird. But figuratively, Nelson is the QB of legend that BYU fans are always on the hunt for. The previous QB of legend, Jake Heaps, was not so legendary, which makes Nelson's ascension into the starting job last year - and his subsequent string of victories - so epic. Nelson will be one of the best quarterbacks the Broncos face this year, hands down. To wit, Boise State will probably be one of the best secondaries Nelson sees.

3. The warm glow of a Utah blowout

Five days before the Cougars come to Boise, they play the Holy War against Utah. If BYU wins big, Mr. Momentum and Lady Good Vibes will be on the Cougars' side when they step onto the blue turf. Of course, a big loss to the Utes or a big expenditure of energy could also make for a letdown. Stay tuned.

***

Three reasons why Southern Miss will be a tough opponent

1. DE Jamie Collins is a havoc wreaker

Collins finished with 19.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season on Southern Miss's disruptive D-line (re-watch the Houston game to see just how disruptive they could be). Disruption remains a big part of the Eagle D; Southern Miss runs a similar 4-2-5 to Boise State, and we all know what a talented D-line can do for that defense.

Somissgraphic_medium

2. Conference USA's best offensive line

The Eagles have the best big uglies in mid-major, middle America, which should help keep SoMiss competitive all season long. Against Boise State, in particular, a good offensive line goes a long way toward keeping the chains moving on offense and controlling the ball. As veterans of the WAC and Mountain West, Boise State does not see good O-line play all that often.

3. Hattiesburg humidity

One of the most beaten dead horses prior to this game will be the climate change from Boise to Southern Mississippi and how it might affect the Bronco players. Humidity is a real thing, as I know full well from visiting Orlando once (and never again). Expect the Broncos to swamp out the indoor practice facility in the days prior to the game, but don't be surprised if the long flight and sticky weather makes somewhat of an impact.

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