Coach:Chris Petersen (35-4 in three seasons). | Staff In 2008: 12-1 overall, 8-0 in WAC (won league). Lost to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Returning starters: Offense: 6. Defense: 6. Special teams: 1. | Depth Chart Final 2008 Rivals.com ranking: 12th. | Complete Final 2008 Rankings Past four Rivals.com national recruiting rankings: 72nd in 2009, 89th in '08, 68th in '07, 70th in '06.
THE SCHEME: Boise State strives for a balanced offense out of multiple formations. The Broncos can line up with a fullback and tight end, but they're not afraid to spread the field.
STAR POWER: The knock on last season's team was supposed to be inexperience at quarterback. As a redshirt freshman, Kellen Moore put an end to any concerns in a hurry. The Broncos passed more than they had in coach Chris Petersen's first two seasons, with Moore throwing for 3,486 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was accurate and did a good job of spreading the ball around: 10 receivers had at least 10 receptions and eight players caught at least two touchdown passes.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Redshirt freshmen will find playing time on the offensive line. What position and how much time, though, isn't clear. T Nate Potter and G Kevin Sapien are shaking off injuries from the spring, meaning redshirt freshmen Michael Ames and Joe Kellogg could work their way into the rotation.
WATCH FOR HIM TO EMERGE: RB Jeremy Avery waited his turn behind Ian Johnson, and now he's ready to shine. Avery has rushed for a total of 1,286 yards and 12 touchdowns the past two seasons. Backup D.J. Harper will get some carries, but Avery will remain a dangerous weapon thanks to his breakaway speed and pass-catching ability.
STRONGEST AREA: Despite losing leading WR Jeremy Childs, who declared for the NFL draft but didn't get selected, the passing game will cause fits for opponents. Moore completed 69.4 percent of his passes last season, and Austin Pettis caught 49 passes for 567 yards and nine touchdowns. Speedy junior Titus Young returns to the mix after he was suspended most of last season. Boise State also has three capable tight ends in Richie Brockel (who also will play fullback), Tommy Gallarda and Kyle Efaw.
BIGGEST PROBLEM: The line couldn't find the right mix last season, and though three full-time starters return, there are some issues. There are no seniors and the top players are underclassmen. Plus, injuries to Potter and Sapien mean it could take a while for things to jell.
THE SCHEME: Boise State often plays a 4-2-5 set, with junior college transfer Winston Venable and converted running back Doug Martin vying to play a safety/outside linebacker hybrid.
STAR POWER: After considering the NFL draft, senior CB Kyle Wilson decided to stay in school to improve his coverage skills. He might already be the best in the WAC in that category after anchoring a secondary that ranked second nationally in pass efficiency defense. Wilson, who is from Piscataway, N.J., has a total of seven interceptions and 18 pass breakups the past two seasons. He also is one of the best punt returners in the nation.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: DT Michael Atkinson could follow the same career path as Billy Winn, who had a part-time role as a redshirt freshman last season before cementing a starting job during spring practice. Atkinson (6 feet/324 pounds) is a load in the middle and will be in the rotation with Winn and sophomore Chase Baker after he serves a three-game suspension following a DUI charge in July.
WATCH FOR HIM TO EMERGE: Sophomore Hunter White grabbed a starting spot at inside linebacker during the spring; he beat out junior Derrell Acrey, who was Boise State's fifth-leading tackler last season. White is undersized (5-11/215) but fast enough in high school to play wide receiver. He has been a special teams standout at Boise State.
STRONGEST AREA: Four starters return in the secondary, headed by Wilson, the only senior in the group. Wilson, CB Brandyn Thompson, SS George Iloka and FS Jeron Johnson combined for 16 interceptions last season. Depth looks OK, too.
BIGGEST PROBLEM: E Ryan Winterswyk is the only returning starter on the line. Winn and LBs Acrey and Aaron Tevis have experience as backups and part-time starters. Ts Baker and Atkinson have potential. Still, this group was gashed in the run game by its two best opponents last season, Oregon and TCU. The Broncos need the line and linebackers to come together before this season's opener against Oregon.
Boise State returns all of its key specialists. Kyle Brotzman has doubled as the kicker and the punter the past two seasons. As a kicker, Brotzman is 33-of-44 on field goals and perfect on extra points. The Broncos were fourth in the nation in net punting (39.6 yards per game) last season. Wilson is an explosive punt returner, taking three back for touchdowns last season. Avery and Martin are back as kickoff returners, but the Broncos were pedestrian in that area last season. The kickoff-coverage unit was solid last season.
Petersen did more than just pick up where his predecessors left off: He has exceeded expectations. He has the highest winning percentage of any coach over the past three seasons, which has included one undefeated season and a 13-0 regular season. Boise State is head and shoulders above any program in the WAC and competes with major-conference teams on a regular basis. Coordinators Bryan Harsin (offense) and Justin Wilcox (defense) do a nice job with talent that is overlooked by most major schools.
Boise State's BCS hopes begin and end on the first day of the season. The Broncos open Sept. 3 at home against Oregon in their only game of the season against a major-conference team. A win puts Boise in great position to finish 13-0. The rest of the non-conference schedule - Miami University and UC Davis at home and Bowling Green and Tulsa on the road - is manageable. In the WAC, Boise State's toughest road trips are to Fresno State, Louisiana Tech and Hawaii. The game that could determine the WAC title will be when Nevada visits Nov. 27. The last time those teams met in Boise, the Broncos won 69-67 in quadruple overtime.
The tone for Boise State's season will be set before most other teams even play a game. After the Oregon game, Boise State will know if it's competing for a BCS bid or simply another WAC title. The Broncos went 12-0 last season, including a win over the Ducks in Eugene, before losing to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. They didn't have a player taken in the NFL draft, meaning most of the talent returns to Boise. Anything less than 11 wins would be disappointing, and a 13-0 record and a BCS berth is within reach.