The key in any top 25 poll is understanding the premise on which the poll is based because not all top 25 polls are built the same way. Some people choose to rank teams 1-25 based on where they think teams will be ranked at year’s end. If they think a team will lose 5 games they won’t rank them. While that may seem logical I’ve never been a proponent of that style of poll and it has never been, nor will ever be, how I choose to do my top 25 polls. My polls reflect the 25 teams entering 2013 who I think are the top 25 teams on a neutral field if the country played a round-robin. If a team is likely to max out at 7 wins that doesn’t give me the urge to rank a nine-win team over them if the nine-win team is from a much weaker league. With that covered, let us continue the top 25 for 2013 as the official kickoff of the CFB off season coverage here at The Football Standard.
*Returning Starters Figures from Phil Steele’s Blog
Coming in at #20…
Boise State Broncos
2012 Record: 11-2
Conference Finish: Tied for 1st (SDST & Fresno)
Bowl: Won MAACO Las Vegas Bowl 28-26 over Washington
Returning Starters: 6 offense, 7 defense
If you were one of those people who felt what Kellen Moore did for four years at Boise State could be accomplished by any average quarterback, ladies and gentlemen I present to you…Joe Southwick!!! In reality Southwick wasn’t terrible last year, he just couldn’t make nearly as many throws as Boise State had been accustomed to under Moore. In fact on a team that was pretty strong defensively and had a running back in D.J Harper who could go for 100 any night, a game manager like Southwick wasn’t a problem to have. Southwick’s biggest issue in 2012 was making plays in the air when it was clear the team needed to pass. In losses to San Diego State and Michigan State Southwick couldn’t maintain drives in times of desperation, a clear difference from recent years. However, Southwick was playing some of his best football in the final quarter of the season and delivered a game-winning drive in the bowl game over Washington. Assuming he comes out of spring confident and continues to gain confidence in his receiving core, I’d expect Southwick to be a bigger asset in the offense in 2013.
The loss of D.J Harper out of the back field is a hit to the Broncos who have to break in a new starter, with Jack Fields and Jay Ajayi likely the two leaders in that camp. Boise State has been cranking out productive running backs for years however and whether it’s done in a committee role or one of the two (or an off the wall back) takes the lead, there’s little reason to doubt the Broncos will be able to run the football again next season. However early in the year the Broncos may lean on a veteran passing attack as it breaks in its new back. The Broncos on the outside will be an experienced group with the return of Matt Miller, Kirby Moore, Geraldo Boldewijn and Aaron Burks, the team’s top four receivers from a year ago. The biggest concern on offense as a whole may be an offensive line that only brings back two starters. Given the question marks at running back and the “feeling pretty good but not convinced” situation at quarterback, I’m hesitant to say this offense will be better than last year.
Quick: Name all the dominant NFL defensive players that passed through Boise State. Struggling? Of course you are because Boise State has been a great defense for years because of preparation and smart personnel. Chris Petersen does as good a job as probably any coach not named Nick Saban at getting his team ready to play. Boise State generally doesn’t make the boneheaded mistakes other defenses make in terms of being out of position or taking penalties to extend drives or allow long scoring plays. This is a defense that was gutted a year ago with essentially nothing coming back and yet finished 12th in the nation in defense including fifth in pass defense. Yes, the level of competition plays a slight factor but the defense was consistent the majority of the season and fared pretty well against both Nevada and Fresno State, two of the better offenses in the Mountain West in 2012.
The Broncos took its toughest lumps in the back seven with only a couple starters back. The linebackers must be replaced, most notably J.C Percy who was dominant last season with 118 tackles, 48 more than anyone on the team. Stepping into those shoes will be a challenge for anyone who gets the call. On top of that cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins both leave, a tandem that played a big role in the Broncos pass defense success and combined for six interceptions and 18 defended passes. Still there’s plenty of talent coming back from last year’s defense including safety Jeremy Ioane who was second on the team in tackles as well as all-conference defensive lineman Demarcus Lawrence who recorded nine and half sacks along with 13.5 tackles for a loss last year alone. There’s some holes to plug, but this isn’t an entire rebuilding process.
The Broncos likely will have the easier of the two Mountain West divisions at least for 2013 as Air Force, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado State and Utah State make up its division. With that said the Broncos weren’t given many favors in the cross-division portion of the schedule which features matchups with Fresno State (possible CCG preview), Nevada and San Diego State. Fresno State, San Diego State and Utah State all come on the road making for three difficult road challenges to navigate. The one unknown element of the schedule is the order of the games which the Mountain West will announce in the coming weeks. In the non-conference Boise State doesn’t have another monster early season game as it has had in recent years but will play both Washington and BYU in 2013, each on the road. Still this sets up for a 10-win season again and in the last year of the BCS, an outside shot at playing BCS buster one last time.
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