Before anyone freaks out in the comments, know that this is not me predicting a Washington loss. Just imagine with me a hypothetical situation in which we’re eight days in the future, sadly reflecting on how Boise State defeated the Huskies on August 31st at the new Husky Stadium. This is a list of five reasons why that would likely have happened. You know, if it happened. Don’t worry, I’ll have the flip side (why Washington should win) up soon. The majority of my Boise State depth chart information comes from this ridiculously comprehensive depth chart and season primer from Idaho Statesman beat writer Chadd Cripe. Washington depth chart here.
1. Experience And Size At Wide Receiver: There’s no Titus Young or Austin Pettis type star here, and so BSU didn’t see Young or Pettis type production out of this group in 2012. However, that’s not really the Boise State identity anymore. What they do need is a solid group of targets for better-than-you-realize starting quarterback Joe Southwick, and that’s exactly what they have. The projected starters are 6’3″ 222-pound junior Matt Miller and 6’4″ 220-pound senior Geraldo Boldewijn, and in the slot 6’3″ 208-pound senior Kirby Moore. All veteran contributors and all very large pass-catchers. I pointed out earlier this season that the prospect of Kasen Williams and Damore’ea Stringfellow starting across from Boise State’s undersized corners would be tantalizing. Well, it’s the 5’11” Kevin Smith that will start across from Williams. In reality, with both of Washington’s corners standing under 6 foot, it’s Boise State that has the biggest size advantage in the passing game. Matt Miller is the only one of the trio that has put up a truly productive season, with 66 catches, 769 yards, and 5 scores last year, but Boise State has reason to be confident that the whole unit will step up. Boldewijn in particular could serve as a dangerous deep threat.
2. 2013 Keith Price Could Turn Out To Be 2012 Keith Price: A lot of the discussion on Price has been exactly how much better he’ll be this year compared to his mediocre 2012, and whether or not he is capable of rekindling that Alamo Bowl fire. And that’s reasonable. The offense is moving to no-huddle, the wide receiver position has great depth, the offensive line is set and healthy, and Marques Tuiasosopo is the quarterbacks coach. But the last two games Price played, the Apple Cup loss and the Vegas Bowl loss, he tossed game-sealing interceptions. Off season optimism shouldn’t lead Husky fans to forget all about how frustratingly, head-scratchingly bad Price’s decision making was at times last season. Particularly the really important times. I think he’ll be better, but it’s a reality: he might not be.
3. Head Coach Petersen Has 8 Losses In 7 Years: You can certainly argue that just because Petersen has almost always won in past years doesn’t mean this year’s team is automatically going to succeed (plus one of those eight losses was a 2007 defeat at Husky Stadium). But 84-8 is no joke. And last year’s 11-2 finish showed that Petersen wasn’t dependent on the Kellen Moore show to win games. Without the offensive fireworks to depend on, Boise State formed a new identity behind a formidable defense that only gave up four passing touchdowns all season long. Boise State is losing significant talent, especially on the right side of the offensive line and at corner, but they lost significant talent last year, too. Until Boise State has a “down year” that doesn’t involve 11 wins, they deserve the benefit of the doubt. Especially when the last game they played was a victory over Washington.
4. Broncos Run Game Should Be A Strength: D.J. Harper, who rushed for 1137 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012, is gone, but I don’t expect the running game to miss a beat. Jay Ajayi is expected to start as a sophomore after contributing 548 yards on only 82 carries, good for a hyper-efficient 6.7 yards per attempt. He has struggled with some injuries, but if he proves durable over the long season, expect him to continue the recent Boise State tradition of 1,000 yard rushers. Also expect him to run largely on the left side of the line, as Boise State will be starting three redshirt seniors at left tackle, left guard, and center. They should pave the way for Ajayi, and even if he is hurt, there is solid depth at the position. The two first time starters at right guard and right tackle are a question mark, but both have reportedly impressed in camp.
5. That Pass Rush: Boise State sacked the quarterback 37 times last season. That was good for 13th in the nation and it’s one of the primary reasons that the pass defense only gave up four passing touchdowns all year despite a lack of particularly elite defensive backs. The two leading pass rushers, junior defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (8 sacks) and junior defensive tackle Tyler Horn (5 sacks), both return, as do an assortment of players that chipped in 1-2.5 sacks. The loss of Samuel Ukwuachu, who was expected to start opposite Lawrence at end, hurts, but with a years growth and the top two contributors intact, expect the pass rush to be fearsome once again. It will be a serious test for Washington’s offensive line right from the beginning.