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.
When I think of the Mountain West (which isn't often), I think of teams like Wyoming and Colorado State, Western mid-majors who have seen better days, who may have better days ahead, but really they are Wyoming and Colorado State so it's kind of hard to tell. Both teams are on Boise State's schedule this fall. Which one will be tougher? Vote in the poll and share your thoughts in the comments.
Three reasons why Wyoming will be a tough opponent
1. The Cowboys have one of the best quarterbacks in the conference
Brett Smith was named MW Freshman of the Year last season for game-managing Wyoming to bowl eligibility. He does everything well and nothing spectacularly, but all that could change this season as he matures from true freshman starter to grizzled sophomore vet.
For what it's worth, he played like hot garbage against Boise State and was subbed in the second half for running QB Sam Stratton who literally ran every play.
2. Wyoming returns one of college football's most experienced defenses
Instead of naming returners, I shall name lost starters: two defensive ends, a weakside linebacker, and a safety. The rest of the defense returns in tact and even adds three more vets who missed a chance to play on D last season.
In the offseason, Wyoming hired new defensive coordinator Chris Tormey - he of the 33-23 career coaching record at Idaho and the last Idaho coach to beat Boise State. Tormey has some crazy aggressive plans for the defense, and he might still have that deal going with the devil from the time he beat the Broncos.
3. Wyoming is good at winning close games
The Cowboys have made bowl games two out of the past three years by winning one-possession games with marginal talent. The talent is better than marginal this season, so ...
Three reasons why Colorado State will be a tough opponent
1. Jim McElwain has national championship experience
Colorado State's new head coach held a job as Alabama's offensive coordinator for the past four seasons where he won a pair of national championships on teams that were known for their ... OK, so those teams were known for their defense and not their offense, but still. CSU could have hired a lot worse than McElwain (I hear Dennis Erickson is looking for work).
2. Colorado State may have the No. 1 rushing attack in the conference
How's this for a perfect storm of rush offense: The Rams have 1,000-yard-rusher and preseason all-MWC running back Chris Nwoke, a three-star freshman backup, and a capable running QB with a new offensive coordinator who is not afraid to run the ball 40 times a game. Plus, the pass offense barely exists, so it's going to be "run for first downs or no first downs at all."
3. The Rams scored more points without quarterback Pete Thomas
Last offseason, QB Pete Thomas was the face of the Colorado State football team. This offseason, he plays for N.C. State.
His replacement, sophomore Garrett Grayson, subbed for an injured Thomas in CSU's final three games last fall. As fate would have it, he avoided the meat grinder that is the Boise State defense (the Broncos beat up on Thomas to the tune of 63-13), and his play against the likes of Air Force and Wyoming actually led to an improvement in the Colorado State offense. Grayson is the better runner and the riskier passer, which is a recipe for high highs and low lows. The Rams scored more points with Grayson at QB, and were it not for shady defense, they might have actually won some games.
Bonus thing 1: C.J. James had six sacks in a spring scrimmage
(Note: Here is where I tip-toe around the fact that Colorado State's previously terrifying pass rush will be without three of its top players who were suspended this offseason for their alleged role in the beating of a fellow student. It is an ugly story, and I don't want to talk about it.)