Is nine months too early for a Boise State opponents preview? Quite possibly yes, but I'm a little obsessed-slash-giddy with excitement.
Besides, what better way to get some insight into Boise State's future opponents than to watch them play actual games? Eight of the 12 teams on the Broncos' schedule will be in bowl games over the next month, and after the jump I'll break down the who, what, where, and when for each of them. Vote in the poll to let me know which one you're most interested in seeing.
Fresno State (8-4) vs. Northern Illinois, Humanitarian Bowl, December 18
The Bulldogs will probably be the same old Bulldogs from now until forever, so long as Pat Hill is their coach. You know what to expect from then in the Human Bowl - run up the middle, random pass play, inevitable failure, repeat. That said, I'm totally going to watch still.
Player to watch: DT Logan Harrell. The big-bodied junior was in the running for DPOY, too, since he wreaked havoc all year (but mostly just against Cincinnati) from his defensive tackle position.
- Player not to watch: DE Chris Carter. The WAC's DPOY (allegedly) will graduate.
San Diego State (8-4) vs. Navy, Poinsettia Bowl, December 23
The highlight of San Diego State's season was probably their five-point loss at TCU, which just so happens to be the highest margin of losing out of any of their four defeats. The Aztecs thrived under head coach Brady Hoke who signed an extension to stay in San Diego. Their Carl's Jrs. sell burritos so I can buy that.
Player to watch: RB Ronnie Hillman. He's like Robbie Rouse except better.
Players not to watch: WRs Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson. Like the Broncos, the Aztecs will lose their two top receivers this season who just so happened to compose the entirety of the All-MWC first team receiving corps. Good luck with that. Bronco Nation feels your pain.
Tulsa (9-3) vs. Hawaii, Hawaii Bowl, December 24
Tulsa is on a six-game winning streak, including victories over Notre Dame, Houston, and Southern Miss, and the Hurricane would have had a chance to make it a seven-game streak were it not for a loss to SMU that cost them a CUSA West tiebreaker and a spot in the conference championship game. In fact, Tulsa was only five points away from a one-loss season, losing by three to the Mustangs and by two on a last-second Hail Mary in the season opener against East Carolina.
Player to watch: QB G.J. Kinne. He was the QB back in '09 when the Broncos visited Tulsa. I assume he has improved since then. I hope he has improved since then.
- Player not to watch: LB Tanner Antle. The senior averaged nearly eight tackles a game. And yes, that's his real name.
Toledo (8-4) vs. Florida International, Little Caesar's Bowl, December 26
Toledo only lost once after the beatdown in Boise, falling to one of the MAC's best teams in Northern Illinois. Freshman Terrance Owens finished out the year at quarterback and played admirably, helping the Rockets challenge for a MAC title.
Also, I do not expect you to actually watch the Little Caesar's Bowl because, woof, what a matchup.
Player to watch: WR Eric Page. Remember him? He ran circles around the Boise State defense to the tune of 11 catches and 120 yards. He's only a sophomore, so he'll be back.
- Player not to watch: LB Archie Donald. He's one of the team's best defenders. Or, as of December 27, was.
Air Force (8-4) vs. Georgia Tech, Independence Bowl, December 27
The Falcons nearly pulled an upset over No. 7 Oklahoma as part of their 5-1 start to the year. Those were good times. Then the Mountain West's top teams hit the schedule in succession, and Air Force fell to the middle of the pack. Losses to SDSU, Utah, and TCU took some wind out of their sails, but they did close on a three-game winning streak including a coveted (to them) Command-in-chief Trophy.
Player to watch: QB Tim Jefferson. Jefferson will be a senior next season, which means he should have the Falcons' triple option offense running like a well-oiled machine.
- Player not to watch: DB Reggie Rembert. Part of the Falcons' stout secondary, Rembert is done after this year.
Georgia (6-6) vs. Central Florida, Liberty Bowl, December 31
The Broncos open the season against Georgia in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Classic. It will be the first time the Broncos have ever faced Georgia, to my recollection.
The Bulldogs had an up-and-down year. Or, to be more accurate, it was a down-and-up year. Georgia began the year 1-4, including a loss to Colorado (yes, that Colorado), and needed a last-week win over Georgia Tech to become bowl eligible. I guess that kind of comes with the territory when you are starting a freshman quarterback, unless that quarterback's name is Kellen Moore. It isn't. Its name is Aaron Murray.
Player to watch: DE Justin Houston. A hybrid end/linebacker, Houston finished with 11 sacks and nearly 20 TFLs.
Player not to watch: WR A.J. Green. A junior, Green figures to take his pass catching and entrepreneurial T-shirt skills to the pros.
TCU (12-0) vs. Wisconsin, Rose Bowl, January 1
If you can bring yourself to watch a Rose Bowl without Boise State in it, be my guest. You'll get to see one of Boise State's marquee opponents in 2011 and potentially their biggest hurdle for winning a Mountain West championship. The game figures to be in Texas (should Boise State assume Utah's vacant conference spot), and it figures to be on CBS College Sports, and that figures to make me murdery.
Player to watch: RB Ed Wesley. Only a sophomore, Wesley earned first-team All-MWC honors for his 1,000-yard, 11-TD season.
- Player not to watch: QB Andy Dalton. He's graduating. With a degree in Ginger Studies!
Nevada (11-1) vs. Boston College, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, January 9
I have nothing good to say about Nevada, so I'm not going to say anything at all.
Player to watch: WR Rishard Matthews. He'll be back next year, so Jamar Taylor can have that to look forward to.
Player not to watch: QB Colin Kaepernick. Good riddance!
Others: Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV, Wyoming
You won't get to watch any of these teams because they were terrible and missed out on a bowl. Speaking of which, what happened to Wyoming? Did they really win a bowl game last year and lose to New Mexico less than 12 months later? (Yes.)
There's a poll. You should vote. Thanks.