Coming off of a 14-0 record the previous year, 2010 set-up as Boise State's best chance yet to make a run at the National Championship. Boise State started off with an impressive victory in the opening week against Virginia Tech. In week three Boise State beat it's other BCS non-conference opponent as it took out talented but jekyl & hyde Oregon State. Boise State then went on a run of terror against non-BCS Conference foes where their closest margin of victory was 29 points against Louisiana Tech. After destroying Fresno State by the tune of 51-0, the Broncos fell to a ranked Nevada team 34-31 in OT by a missed FG. Did Boise's run of easy targets set them up for the loss? It's tough to be in a position like Boise is in. You play in a conference where their isn't anybody else on your level so you basically play 8 easy "gimme" games a year. You try to schedule up but a lot of the bigger name teams don't have anything to gain by playing Boise (and have much more to lose) so Boise ends up only getting big match-ups here and there and it's almost always at their opponents stadium or near their opponents lair. While it's much easier for Boise to run the table than say LSU or Alabama there is also the argument that maybe they aren't as battle tested as they could be if they played in a better conference. Led by 2011 Heisman Candidate Kellen Moore and talented WRs Austin Pettis and Titus Young, Boise State had another great season in 2010 and I think that Boise can play with any team in the country on any given day. The question that we will never know (at least not right now) is how Boise would do if they played big-time talent week in and week out and had to face the grind of a conference schedule that teams in the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten face instead of having borderline scrimmages every week instead of conference games. Would the attrition of playing against tougher teams and better coaches wear on the team mentally and physically or would it keep them sharper because they know they have to be on their A game every week? That's one of the questions that keeps Boise on the outside looking in when a lot of pollsters make their ballots and I can't say that I blame them. I would love to see Boise get a chance to step up into a bigger pond and play a tougher schedule and see how they could do. Next year Boise again looks like it has a two-team schedule as they open up against a talented Georgia team that severely under-achieved in 2010 and they end it against a tough TCU team that will be starting a new QB this year. In 2010, even if Boise had gone undefeated they would not have played for the National Championship because of a combination of their schedule and the fact that two teams from BCS Conferences went undefeated. In 2011, Boise State's National Championship hopes again rest on them winning out and having other teams fall by the way-side. We caught up with Kevan Lee of the SB Nation Boise State Blog One Bronco Nation Under God (OBNUG) to get his take on the 2010 Broncos and get a quick peak into 2011.
1. Expectations ran high for the Broncos this year. Do you feel that this team met expectations this year?
Boise State fans had some pretty high expectations - like winning a national championship. So no, Boise State did not meet expectations. Now, whether or not those expectations were reasonable or fair is an entirely different question and one that I'm glad you didn't ask. I don't have the answer to that one.
Thing is, this was perhaps the greatest football team in Boise State history. Obviously, there's room for debate about that since the "greatest team" couldn't do what so many previous ones had - go undefeated. Football's a weird game like that, where anything can happen and on-paper greatness can be undone by a series of bounces or a pair of short uprights. What? Was that out loud? My apologies. I do not mean to hijack this Q&A into a discussion about WAC officiating, which is terrible. Just saying.
2. Which player were the biggest surprise of the season?
DE Shea McClellin had the outstanding season that many expected DE Ryan Winterswyk to have. It helped that Winterswyk was double teamed all the time in order to avoid said outstanding season. But still, McClellin made at least one play per game where you thought, "Wow, this kid is really good at football," or "Wow, toeheads can excel in organized sports." (As a toehead myself, I can understand the poignancy of the latter.)
A lot of other players could fall into the "surprise" category, too, but I'd like to point out one really obvious one: Titus Young. He surprised me with the way he became Boise State's clear-cut No. 1 receiving threat despite the presence of Austin Pettis. That, my friend, is not easy to do.
3. Which player are you most excited about for next season?
The combination of Kellen Moore / Doug Martin is going to keep Bronco hearts warmed all offseason long. BSU has college football's best quarterback (blah blah Andrew Luck, yeah I get it) and one of its most dynamic running backs. The returning starters aren't nearly as many as last year, but that fact seems a little easier to swallow with Moore and Martin returning to the backfield.
4. Boise State had a great duo of senior receivers (Austin Pettis and TItus Young). Who steps up to replace them next year?
The players who are most likely to fill in for Pettis and Young will probably come from this group: Tyler Shoemaker, Mitch Burroughs, Chris Potter, Geraldo Hiwat, Aaron Burks, and Kirby Moore.
My money is on Shoemaker to play the Pettis role next year. His style of play is similar to Pettis in that he is a big body with strong hands who can make plays on key downs and distances. Whether he has the route-running and separation skills needed to survive as Boise State's WR1 remains to be seen.
Opposite Shoemaker, I think Hiwat gets the call. If the Broncos are serious about filling in for Pettis and Young as closely as possible, they'll need a burner and a deep threat outside. Hiwat would be the obvious choice in that role based on his cameos in-season.
Moore is my pick for the starting slot receiver, although I wouldn't be surprised if he pushes either Shoemaker or Hiwat for playing time at the X or Y spots.
5. How big is the Georgia game to start off the year? Boise will be coming in as the higher ranked team and the favorite but Georgia will have a chip on it's shoulder after having two consecutive disappointing seasons.
This game is just as big as the VT one was last year. If Boise State wins, it has a good road to a BCS berth. If it loses, season over. #collegefootballsigh
The difference will be that not as many people will talk about this one since Georgia may not be a preseason Top 25 team. Psychologically, the remnants of the 2005 disaster still remain for Bronco fans, but as far as the players are concerned, none of them played back then and it won't matter. The more important factors will be how quickly Boise State's new starters gel in the starting lineup. This Bronco team could be very good by November but still a little shaky in September.