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