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CFT preseason No. 7: Boise State

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2010 record: 12-1, 7-1 (T-1st WAC)

2010 bowl: 26-3 win over Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl

2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 9th/7th

Coach: Chris Petersen, sixth year; 61-5 overall, 38-2 conference

Offensive coordinator: Brent Pease, first year

2010 offensive rankings: second, scoring offense (45.1 ppg); second, total offense (521.3 ypg); 21st, rushing offense (200.2 ypg); sixth, passing offense (321.1 ypg)

Defensive coordinator: Pete Kwiatkowski, second year

2010 defensive rankings: second, scoring defense (12.8 ppg); second, total defense (254.7 ypg); seventh, rushing defense (103.8 ypg); fourth, passing defense (150.9 ypg)

Returning offensive starters: 7

Returning defensive starters: 7

Location: Boise, Idaho

Stadium: Bronco Stadium (Blue FieldTurf; 32,000)

Last league title: 2010

2011 schedule: [view]

2011 roster: [view]

2010 statistics: [view]

Snapshot: With 14 starters — including a Heisman candidate in quarterback Kellen Moore — returning from a 12-win squad a year ago, the Broncos, who have moved from the WAC to the stiffer Mountain West Conference, will once again be firmly entrenched inside the Top 10 to start the season.

Their prospects for a return trip to a BcS bowl will likely revolve around two games: the season opener against Georgia in what is essentially a home game for the Bulldogs as it will be played in the Georgia Dome, and a Nov. 12 matchup with Mountain West foe TCU. The former game will set the Broncos’ national stage pecking order for the remainder of the season; the latter will very likely serve as a de facto conference championship and determine which school would be in line for an at-large BcS bid.

While the Broncos return nearly two-thirds of last year’s starters, they did incur some significant losses via attrition. Their two leading receivers — Titus Young and Austin Pettis — are gone and last season’s backup wideouts like Tyler Shoemaker and Geraldo Hiwat will need to step up and replace the lost production. Additionally, the team’s leading tackler the past three years will need to be replaced as well.

Those losses aside, the Broncos, who finished second nationally in both points scored and points allowed, are loaded with veteran talent and the only surprising result this year would be if they weren’t in the national title discussion deep into the season. Provided they can dispatch their SEC opponent in the opener, of course.

Make-or-break game: Sept. 3 vs. Georgia at Atlanta

Certainly the November showdown with TCU will be rife with MWC implications, with the winner of that game in Boise poised to wear the conference crown. However, when it comes to the national perception of the BSU football program, it doesn’t get much bigger than the opener in SEC country against a school from the preeminent football conference in the country. A win against an SEC school, even what that may be perceived to be somewhat down compared to the other conference powers, could/would/should silence the critics — at least for a while — who harp on their “Little Sisters of the Poor” schedules.

Heisman hopeful: Moore

After throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns, and finishing first in the country in passing efficiency, Moore finished fourth in the Heisman voting last December, well behind winner Cam Newton of Auburn. As a senior this year, Moore will be one of three finalists for the 2010 Heisman — Oregon running back LaMichael James and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck being the others — who will return for another season, and will certainly be among the favorites for the award from the start. How much the loss of his two leading receivers as well as coordinator Bryan Harsin (Texas) remains to be seen, but any drop in production would project to be negligible at most. When it comes to 2011 Heisman contenders, Moore, based on his past on-field pedigree, is as much of a lock as anyone in the country can be in the preseason.

Postseason projection: Fiesta Bowl

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

Mountain West preview, vote

Chip Kelly says he never met to discuss USC vacancy

Chip Kelly

Whether you chose to believe him or not, at least Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is officially on the record. During his regularly scheduled Monday press conference in Philadelphia, Kelly said he never met with anybody to discuss the previously vacant head coaching position at USC.

Alright then. So at least that’s that. (But what about his agent?)

USC filled the head coaching position this morning by officially announcing Clay Helton will remain the head coach after serving as the interim head coach following the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian earlier this season. Kelly, the former head coach at Oregon, has had his name attached to multiple coaching rumors at the college level since he left for the NFL, including Texas and Florida before this position at USC opened. Kelly has stood firm on his public statements about not having any interest in a college job, but that never seems to silence the fun hypothetical discussions about his probable eventual return to college football.

Houston and Tom Herman have agreement in principle on new contract

UH Coach Tom Herman
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As the coaching carousel continues to spin, it seems Tom Herman will rest comfortably in Houston for at least one more season. Herman reportedly has an agreement in principle on a new contract to remain the head coach of the Houston Cougars.

We’ve agreed in principle is the best way to put it,” Herman said Monday during a press conference. “We’re working out the details.”

It was previously reported Houston had approved a significant pay raise for the first-year head coach, going up to $3 million with the reworked contract and making it a financial incentive to stay put as job offers flowed in. The push to make Herman the highest-paid coach in the Group of Five, passing Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville ($2.2 million). With a solid foundation for future success, at least in the American Athletic Conference and Group of Five picture, Houston’s financial commitment to Herman is a sign the program is ready and able to work as close to a power conference program as possible.

Herman’s name will continue to be one to watch in future coaching rumors, and in this world we should never say never to the possibility of Herman still being in play for a job elsewhere in this cycle of coaching changes. If Herman and Houston continue to win games, there is no question his stock will remain a valued commodity for power conference programs in the years to come.

Herman and Houston will host Temple this Saturday afternoon in the first American Athletic Conference championship game. The winner will be a lock for receiving the New Years Six bowl spot reserved for the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. Houston vs. Ohio State (Herman vs. Urban Meyer) is a real possibility in one of the New Years Six bowl games.

Not everybody seems happy about USC’s hiring of Clay Helton

Clay Helton

If there is one thing that can be said about USC hiring Clay Helton as head coach on a permanent basis, it is that it provides stability for the program moving forward. Current players have responded well to Helton. Future Trojans players are responding well to Helton on the recruiting trail. Former USC players? Well, that’s a different situation.

We saw some of this at Miami in recent years with former Hurricanes ripping now former head coach Al Golden. That was a bit of a different situation with Golden being a coach that went against the grain of all that was perceived to be representative of The U. Helton is different because he has been loyal to the program as an assistant coach during a turbulent time. He at least deserves respect of those following and those who have played for USC for that alone. The problem is Helton lacks the kind of appeal most wearing USC lenses expect from their coaching hire and it seems more likely to believe athletics director Pat Haden settled for Helton instead of being able to expand the coaching search and bring in a high-quality coach for the job.

There is one way to swing the emotions the other way for those unhappy with the decision. If USC beats Stanford to win the Pac-12 championship this week, that would be one step in the right direction for the Helton haters and the Haden skeptics (myself included). The pressure will be on more next season regardless of what happens this week in the Pac-12 championship game and whatever bowl game USC ends up playing. USC will be loaded with talent and will be a trendy pick to make a run in the Pac-12 and, perhaps, even the College Football Playoff.

USC names Clay Helton permanent head coach

Clay Helton

The top coaching vacancy in college football has been filled. USC has announced it will remove the interim tag from Clay Helton and make him the permanent head coach moving forward.

Helton has gone 5-2 since taking over the program following the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian as head coach. The most recent win this weekend against UCLA both snapped a three-game losing streak to the crosstown rival Bruins and clinched USC’s first trip to the Pac-12 championship game as Pac-12 South Division champions. Helton has been with the USC program since 2010 under various assistant roles. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2013 and named interim head coach that season following the firing of Lane Kiffin. He stayed on the staff following the hiring of Sarkisian from Washington.

Helton had become a clear player favorite in the program, as Helton calmed a troublesome environment of uncertainty in the middle fo the season and delivered a division championship. The only losses under Helton came on the road against Notre Dame in Helton’s first game as interim head coach and more recently at Oregon, a program that revived itself as well. If nothing else, Helton’s being named the head coach provides for some stability for the program, although there should be some questions moving forward whether it will be the right move or not in the long term. The USC job was thought to be the top job on the market and worthy of some high-caliber candidates. There had been rumblings USC reached out to Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, a former Oregon coach of course, but the odds Kelly was going to leave the Eagles on his own a year after getting general manager power were always low.

USC will continue to bring plenty of pressure to win, and win big. Helton will continue to guide a roster packed with talent and getting back to full strength after a stretch of sanctioned seasons. If Helton does not win, he will quickly enter the hot seat conversation.

USC plays Stanford for the Pac-12 championship this week.