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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

Josh Sweat should be good to go for FSU vs. UNC

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 24: Josh Sweat #9 of the Florida State Seminoles runs with a first half interception against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Derwin James is still at least a couple of weeks or so away from returning from his injury, but Florida State will likely get a talented defensive player back on the field this weekend anyway.

When asked Thursday if defensive end Josh Sweat will be available for the North Carolina game this weekend, Jimbo Fisher responded, “oh yeah.” Sweat sustained a meniscus injury in practice leading up to the Louisville game in Week 3 and, after it limited him in that contest, underwent surgery to repair the damage shortly thereafter.

At the time, the prognosis for a return was 1-2 weeks. Sweat missed the win over USF last weekend, but could see the field this weekend as he’s practiced the past couple of days.

“Healing really well, looks great” Fisher said in quotes distributed by the team. “We’ll see [Friday] morning, but [the knee] looks great.”

Sweat started nine of 13 games as a true freshman last season, and started the first two games in 2016 before the knee issue surfaced.

Greg Ward Jr., to Heisman voters: ‘Psssttt, I’m still here, don’t forget’

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1) runs past Connecticut defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi, left, en route to a 30-yard touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Deservedly so, most of the Heisman focus these first four-plus weeks of the 2016 season has been squarely on Lamar Jackson and the stunningly phenomenal season the Louisville quarterback is putting together. There are others, though, who merit mention.

Case in point? Greg Ward Jr.

In No. 6 Houston’s Thursday night 42-14 romp over UConn, the quarterback completed just over 84 percent of his passes for 389 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 65 yards and two scores for good measure. The win was the Cougars’ eighth in a row, with the last loss coming Nov. 21 of last year to… these very same Huskies.

On at least one occasion in avenging the loss, though, Ward Jr.’s sterling completion percentage got a little help from one of his receiving friends.

The latest virtuoso performance, which included his third 300-yard passing game of the season, pushed Ward Jr. to 1,503 yards of offense (1,325 passing, 178 rushing) and 13 total touchdowns (eight passing, five rushing) in four games while also battling a lingering shoulder issue. For comparison’s sake, and you know we’re not alone in doing so, Jackson will enter Week 5 with a statistical ledger that’s straight from a teenager’s video game: 1,856 yards of total offense and a ridiculous 25 total touchdowns in his four games.

While it’s still quite a ways down the road, Ward’s Cougars and Jackson’s Cardinals will square off in what’s shaping up to be a monumental mid-November Thursday night game that could go a long way in determining not only the Heisman race, but helping to shape the playoff picture as well.  In between, voters, don’t forget about the kid from Houston.

Report: Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel undergoes surgery, out as long as a month

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:  Sojourn Shelton #8 of the Wisconsin Badgers, Vince Biegel #47 of the Wisconsin Badgers, T.J. Edwards #53 of the Wisconsin Badgers react to a interception during the second half of a game against the USC Trojans in the National University Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Just in time for their toughest stretch of the season, No. 8 Wisconsin may be without one of the team’s most important defensive players.

Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel is set to miss the next several weeks after undergoing surgery to insert a screw in his cracked foot.

“He’s been playing on it for the last couple weeks, and it was bothering him a little bit,” Biegel’s father Rocky told ESPN. “He had X-rays last night and confirmed it was cracked. He either plays on it, and then if he breaks it, then he’s going to be out for eight weeks. Either way, he’s got to have surgery on it. So he can keep playing until it breaks or try to go through the season with it and try to fix it. At any time, he could break it all the way through. It was just a crack and they’re just putting a screw in it. It’s a very, very minor crack.”

No matter how minor it is, losing Biegel for as long as a month is a huge blow to a defense that has been among the best in the country this season. Wisconsin does have a bye week after traveling to No. 4 Michigan on Saturday but also have to play No. 2 Ohio State and division rivals Iowa and Nebraska to close out October.

Biegel has nine tackles on the year and a sack but is among the most experienced players on the team having played in 46 games at Wisconsin, including 32 starts. Redshirt freshman Zack Baun is expected to take his place.

If there is one bright spot for head coach Paul Chryst and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox however, it’s that the Badgers’ linebacking corp is one of the best in the country. Still, as good as Jack Cichy, T.J. Edwards and T.J. Watt have been this year, they’ll have to step up their games with an imposing schedule coming up.

Houston missing four starters for AAC matchup against UConn

SAN MARCOS, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Duke Catalon #2 of the Houston Cougars runs against Brandon McDowell #6 of the Texas State Bobcats at Bobcat Stadium on September 24, 2016 in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Houston is looking to avenge their only loss of the 2015 season on Thursday night against Connecticut but the Cougars will have to do so a little short-handed.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the team is down a whopping four starters and a key backup against the Huskies: starting linebackers Tyus Bowser (head injury) and Matthew Adams (coaches’ decision), running back Duke Catalon (head injury), cornerback Brandon Wilson (lower leg) plus backup tight end Alex Leslie (ankle injury).

Catalon has already missed a game this season and is arguably the biggest loss for the team as that will force them to rely on quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (who missed last year’s game) even more against UConn. The transfer from Texas is averaging 4.7 yards a carry on the year and had a big game against Oklahoma in the opener.

Coach Tom Herman and the sixth-ranked Cougars still should be able handle their business at home against a conference foe but the mounting injuries this early in the season are starting to get a little concerning if you’re a Houston fan.