Boise State went unbeaten in the regular season in 2008 and has a good chance to do so again in 2009.
The key game is an early September meeting with Oregon, which the Broncos beat last season. Boise again will be a prohibitive favorite in the WAC, and if some dependable wide receivers emerge in the spring, averaging 40 points per game is a legit goal for the fall.
Here is a look at the Broncos as they prepare to open spring drills.
Boise State AT-A-GLANCE
Kelen Moore and the Broncos aim to return to a BCS game.
Coach: Chris Petersen Last season: 12-1, 8-0 WAC. Lost to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Spring dates: March 9-April 17
Kellen Moore should be one of the better quarterbacks on the West Coast, and he'll only be a sophomore. The secondary should be special, with Brandyn Thompson and Kyle Wilson forming one of the best cornerback duos in the nation. The defensive line has just one returning full-time starter, but there are a lot of pieces the coaches can mix and match. Three tight ends who started return, and they could combine for 45 or so catches.
Help is needed
Four of the top five receivers are gone, and juniors Austin Pettis and Titus Young will vie to be the go-to receiver. Neither has held the role before, and Young is returning from a suspension. The left side of the offensive line has to be rebuilt. Running back Ian Johnson is gone, meaning junior Jeremy Avery has to show he can handle a heavier workload.
Keep an eye on
DT Michael Atkinson: Atkinson, a redshirt freshman from Canada, would give the Broncos a big body (he's 320 pounds) on their defensive front. Boise State had two key defensive tackles graduate, so playing time – as a starter and as a reserve – is available.
DB Doug Martin: Martin, a sophomore who played tailback last season, is moving to defense for a trial run. The coaches are looking for a replacement for Ellis Powers, who played a hybrid outside linebacker/safety position. If Martin – who, at 5 feet 10 and 200 pounds, is the same size as Powers – adapts well, he will stay on defense. If Martin doesn't adjust to the switch, he will move back to tailback. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has told reporters that Martin might be the most explosive athlete on the team.
OT Matt Slater: Slater, from powerhouse St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall, was a part-time starter last season as a sophomore. However, he is in line to earn a full-time starting job this spring with the graduation of starting left tackle Andrew Woodruff - who may have been Boise's best offensive lineman last season.
His time is now
Wide receiver Young played in just three games in 2008 before being suspended for the rest of the season. He has excellent speed and is a big-play threat. With Boise losing three of its top four receivers, coaches need Young, a junior, to have a productive – and non-controversial – spring.
The Broncos look to have the talent and the schedule to go unbeaten, and the groundwork for what would be the third perfect regular season in four years will be laid this spring. Getting the receiving corps figured out should be the first priority, followed by shaping up the defensive line. Above all, Boise coaches obviously don't want any injuries.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.