- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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Pigskin, potatoes and blue-turf football fields are three things Idaho does very, very well. And again this season, it could be more of the same.
BOISE STATE BRONCOS
Coach Chris Petersen (84-8 overall, 84-8 at Boise State)
2012 record: (11-2 overall, 7-1 in Mountain West)
Key losses: RB DJ Harper, LB J.C. Percy
Newcomer to watch: With a defense that’s attempting to replace almost two-thirds of its starters, someone like freshman linebacker Joe Martarano could be one to watch. The 6-foot-2, 234-pound linebacker chose football over an MLB career and with the Broncos needing some help in their front seven, he could contribute immediately.
Biggest games in 2013: at Washington (Aug. 31), vs. Air Force (Sept. 13), at Fresno State (Sept. 20) and at BYU (Oct. 25)
Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Can the Broncos get it done on the road? Their three toughest games of the season will come on opponents’ turf so they need to finish the job there. And it’s not as though they’ll have much of a warm up considering their season opener is a trip to Washington -- a team that they snuck past last December, in a 28-26 win in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. Boise State beat both Fresno State and BYU last season, but both were home games. If the Broncos can win on the road, they could be hosting the Mountain West championship game at home in early December.
Forecast: Boise State has a good shot to win the Mountain West, and if it does, the Broncos could find themselves in a BCS bowl game this season. The defense only returns four starters from its 11-2 season a year ago, but if the Broncos can make stops and keep the offense on the field, they have a chance to have a really successful season.
It wouldn’t be unprecedented for a Petersen-led group to overachieve, and since their schedule isn’t the kindest on the road, they’ll have the chance to do that. They’ll need consistency from their players, especially early in the season. Boise State will face Washington, Air Force (whose offense is so hard to prepare for) and Fresno State in its first four games. That stretch alone could define the season in a very bad or very good way. But if they can kick it in to high gear early, they could go undefeated, and an argument for a national title game bid could be made. However, the Broncos could just as easily have a few missteps here, and the tight games they closed out last season could go the other way, leaving them with two or three losses heading into bowl season.
Southwick finished last season with 2,730 yards and 19 touchdowns. He had his moments when he didn’t look like a polished passer. Five times last season he completed less than 67 percent of his passes. However, with Harper, the Broncos were able to turn three of those games into wins. This season, with a new running back, Southwick will need to be more consistent in the passing game. If he can excel and sophomore running back Jay Ajayi can be productive from Day 1 (and especially on the road), this team could be one we’re talking about in December.