The 2020 college football season is two months away. Right? As it approaches with question marks, our 12th annual countdown series of our preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff, breaks down who we think are the top teams in the country. Last year’s eventual College Football Playoff semifinalists ranked first, fourth, fifth and sixth in our 2019 poll.
Our No. 25 team: Boise State
About the Broncos
2019: 12-2, 8-0 in the Mountain West; lost to Washington 38-7 in the Las Vegas Bowl
Coach: Bryan Harsin (71-22 overall, 64-17 in seven years at Boise State)
Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense
Shoes to fill: The most glaring holes are on the offensive line, where there’s only one returning starter — tackle John Ojukwu — from a group that allowed 27 sacks last year. It won’t be easy replacing guards John Molchon and Eric Quevedo, center Garrett Larson and tackle Ezra Cleveland (2nd round, Vikings). The Bronocos lost WRs John Hightower (51-943-8) and Akilian Butler (28-216-2), too; Hightower went in the fifth round to the Eagles. There are question marks on defense as well, as linemen Sonatane Lui, Chase Hatada, David Moa and edge rusher Curtis Weaver (5th round, Dolphins) departed.
Passing: Hank Bachmeier (led team), 137-219-1,879 yards, 9 TDs, 6 INTs
Rushing: George Holani (1st), 192-1,014-7; Robert Mahone (2nd), 89-425-6
Receiving: Khalil Shakir (2nd), 63-872-6, CT Thomas (3rd), 41-522-5
Tackles: LB Riley Whimpey (1st), 83; LB Benton Wickersham (3rd), 63
Sacks: LB Demitri Washington (4th), 4.5; NG Kekaula Kaniho (5th), 3
Interceptions: Several with 1
Offense: RB George Holani (freshman of the year; 2nd team); TE John Bates (hon. mention); WR Khalil Shakir (hon. mention)
Defense: NG Kekaula Kaniho (1st team); LB Riley Whimpey (2nd); CB Jalen Walker (2nd); CB Avery Williams (hon. mention)
Special teams: CB Avery Williams (special teams player of the year)
Bach for more: The good news in Boise is the return of QB Hank Bachmeier, who is coming off a successful freshman season (236 ypg, 9 TDs, 6 INTs). His chief running mate, RB George Holani (1,045 yards, 7 TDs) gives the Broncos run-pass balance. Holani extended BSU’s streak of having a 1,000-yard rusher to 11 seasons. The Broncos believe they have budding stars in slot receiver CT Thomas and wide receiver Octavius Evans.
Home-grown Harsin: Born and raised in Boise, Harsin graduated from Capital High School. At Boise State, he was a quarterback from 1996-99. He was a graduate assistant in 2001 and was an assistant for nine years for the Broncos before moving to Texas to become offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2011-12.
Eyes on Cobbs: Harsin has said that the next breakout star at Boise State might be sophomore Stefan Cobbs, a Texan who starred at Keller Fossil Ridge. He gave a glimpse of his potential last season with three catches for 57 yards and a touchdown, but he was a diamond in high school, earning district MVP honors as a senior when he caught 67 passes for 1,332 yards and 22 TDs. All told, Boise State has seven players from Texas, including sophomore linebacker Brandon Hawkins from Georgetown.
2019 national stat rankings
Where Boise State ranked nationally in various statistical categories last season — and how the Broncos ranked in 2018.
Scoring: 19th (2018 — 20th)
Scoring defense: 31st (30th)
Total offense: T-48th (21st)
Total defense: 33rd (39th)
Passing: 38th (18th)
Pass defense: 77th (70th)
Rushing: 59th (66th)
Rush defense: 15th (20th)
Red zone offense: 44th (69th)
Red zone defense: 51st (49th)
Turnover margin: T-61st (10th)
Time of possession: 37th (10th)
Our top 25 — so far
No. 25 Boise State
Our No. 24 team. Want a hint?
Here’s two: It’s the first Big 12 team on our poll, and its head coach is a two-time Big 12 coach of the year.
Our top 25 — by conferences
Mountain West — No. 25 Boise State