I’m not usually one to make bold predictions, but this is one I just can’t resist. This season will be the one in which a non-BCS school will play in the national championship game, and that team will be the Boise State Broncos. But in order to do so, they will have to do more than just go undefeated. This is because of the new Rose Bowl rule that goes into effect this season that guarantees that a BCS eligible non-BCS school (Boise State) will take the place of a national championship member from the Big Ten. What this means in layman’s terms is that if a team from the Big Ten (possible) or Pac-10 (not possible) qualifies for the national championship game, then a non-BCS team like Boise State will automatically play in the Rose Bowl instead of the national championship game. So basically Boise State needs to go undefeated and hope that Ohio State, or even Iowa, doesn’t qualify to be in the national championship game. The pieces of the puzzle will need to fall perfectly into place for this to actually happen, but I did say it was a BOLD prediction.

It just seems like everything is set up perfectly for Boise State to finally get the chance to represent their school in the title game this season. Their No. 3 preseason ranking is the highest in school history. Their semi-tough non-conference schedule, which includes Virginia Tech, Oregon State, Wyoming and Toledo, bodes well for impressing the BCS voters. Their conference schedule should once again be a cakewalk, with maybe a game or two going right down to the wire. Needless to say, the stage is set for Boise State to finally get their chance at a national title. But once again, it’s all about the puzzle pieces falling into place.

The Returning Squad

Boise State will return 20 of 22 Fiesta Bowl starters including 10 offensive starters off a unit that averaged 42.2 points per game last season. This includes Heisman hopeful quarterback Kellen Moore, who as a sophomore threw a ridiculous 39 touchdowns to just three interceptions. And you can bet he’s going to be just as good, and maybe even better, this season. Moore doesn’t look or act the part of a guy who would be able to bolster the hopes of a team and a school on his shoulders, but don’t let him fool you. With a 26-1 career record as the Boise State starting quarterback, he is easily the most successful quarterback the school has ever had. Moore isn’t the kind of player that will shine in basic practice drills, but put him in a game-type setting and you see why he has only lost one game in his two-year career. He thrives under pressure, makes excellent split-second decisions, and most importantly, he wins.

Moore will once again have two of his top targets back in Titus Young and Austin Pettis, who both average over 13 yards per catch and double digit touchdowns. One of the things that make Moore so good is that he is very good at anticipating what his receivers are going to do, which makes it very easy for guys like Young and Pettis. The ground game will once again be led by senior Jeremy Avery, who rushed for over 1,100 yards and six touchdowns last season. The running back trio of Avery, Doug Martin and D.J. Harper will be tough for defenses to stop and should easily combine for over 2,000 yards and close to 20 touchdowns. Their offensive line is anchored by left tackle Nate Potter, who is an excellent athlete and pass protector. The line isn’t overly big or flashy, but they mesh very well together and are extremely deep. They only struggle when they are matched up against big defensive lines, but Moore’s elusiveness is enough to counteract it and not make it such a glaring weakness.

Boise State’s defense sometimes gets lost in the shadow of their offense, but they quietly finished 14th in the nation in both yards (300.2) and points per game (17.1). Their secondary took a hit when cornerback Kyle Wilson was drafted by the New York Jets, but their secondary should still be relatively strong. Their front seven are phenomenal at stuffing the run and I doubt if opponents will have any consistency running on them. The only issue, if I had to pick one, is their lack of pass rushers besides defensive end Ryan Winterswyk and tackle Billy Winn. But that alone shouldn’t keep them from dropping off as a unit.

The Agenda

The national title run starts with the first game against No. 10 Virginia Tech, who finished 10-3 and 6-2 in the ACC in 2009. The game will be played at FedEx Field on Labor Day and is hands-down the best early matchup of the college football season. It will match the Broncos’ prolific offense with the Hokies’ smothering defense. Boise State averaged an NCAA-best 42.2 points per game and at times looked unstoppable. They were no slouch on defense either, allowing just 17.1 points per game and holding the shifty TCU offense to just 10 points in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. The Hokies bring in a defense that only gave up 15.6 points per game along with an offense that had one of the best running backs in the country in Ryan Williams and a much-improved quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. And we all know about their specials teams, a.k.a. Beamer Ball, which is one hell of an X-factor. But Boise State is all about preparation and should be able to neutralize that aspect of the game.

Boise State really only has one other “tough” game on the schedule, which is Oregon State. But they have the luxury of playing them at home on the blue turf. Toledo could also be a tricky game simply because they can score points in bunches, but their defense isn’t good enough to keep Boise State out of the end zone. Judging from past years, they will also have one or two conference games go down to the wire, and they will most likely be road games. It’s tough to stay focused when you’re playing inferior opponents, but if any team can do it, it’s Boise State. And if they can pass all those tests throughout the season, then they deserve to play in the national title game.

The most disappointing aspect of my prediction is that it could be shattered as quickly as Labor Day. But I have tremendous amount of confidence in Boise State (obviously) simply because of their focus and experience. This team has won every big game they have played in over the past few years and I don’t see the Virginia Tech game being any different, especially considering the stakes. Coach Petersen will have his men focused and ready to play, and you better believe they will have some tricks up their sleeves. Furthermore, I think the team knows how much this game means to not only their season, but their university as well. Once again, this is only one of 12 regular season games, but if they don’t win this one, they have no shot at a national championship. But if everything works out in their favor and they do end up playing in the national title game, it will be one hell of a storybook season.

Submitted by Steve Giles