Sure, it’s just July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last season’s four College Football Playoff semifinalists were rated Nos. 3, 6, 13 and 24 on our 2015 list.
Today’s team: No. 24 Boise State (Related coverage: Bryan Harsin will be calling Boise State’s plays, too)
The Broncos will contend if … a rebuilt defense comes close to last season’s production. A year ago, the nation’s 12th-ranked defense allowed 20.2 points. With nine starters and plenty of firepower back from an offense that topped 40 points seven times, the Broncos won’t need a lockdown defense to reach 10 wins and recapture the Mountain West title.
INSIDE THE BRONCOS
Coach: Brian Harsin (third year, 21-6; overall, 28-11 at Arkansas State, Boise State)
2015: 9-4, 5-3 in the Mountain West; beat Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl 55-7
Returning starters: 9 offense, 5 defense
The key game: Sept. 10, Washington State
Hello: RB Jeremy McNichols, LB Tanner Vallejo, DE Sam McCaskill, QB Brett Rypien, S Chanceller James
Goodbye: S Darian Thompson (New York Giants), CB Donte Deayon (Giants), DE/LB Kamalei Correa (Baltimore Ravens), OT Rees Odhiambo (Seattle Seahawks), WR Shane Williams-Rhodes
Spring cleaning: The defense suffered a setback when Correa, a pass-rushing terror who led Boise State with seven sacks last year, left early and was drafted by the Ravens with the 42nd overall pick. Coupled with the departure of three starting defensive linemen, the Broncos look a bit vulnerable up front. But coaches touted the play of McCaskill this spring; the 6-3, 257-pound DE looks poised for a breakout senior year. Offensively, Cedric Wilson — a 6-3, 190-pound junior college transfer — should add to the wealth of talent at wideout.
Passing: Brett Rypien, 273-429-3,353 yards, 20/8 (1st)
Rushing: Jeremy McNichols, 240-1,337-20 (1st)
Receiving: Thomas Sperbeck, 88-1,412-8 (1st)
Tackles: LB Ben Weaver, 68 (1st)
Sacks: S Chanceller James, 3 (T-3rd)
RETURNING ALL CONFERENCE (5)
Offense: QB Brett Rypien (1st team), WR Thomas Sperbeck (1st), K Tyler Rausa (1st), RB Jeremy Nichols (2nd), TE Jake Roh (2nd)
- Harsin, in his third season, is a native of Boise and a Boise State graduate. He served as offensive coordinator and the primary play-caller for Texas from 2010-11. During his time at Texas, the Longhorns averaged 23.8 points per game in 2010 and 28.1 in 2011. Harsin took over the Arkansas State program following the 2011 season.
- Brian Rypien, the nephew of former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien, took over behind center as a freshman when former starter Ryan Finley broke his ankle early in the 2015 season. Rypien impressed, throwing for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns. However, Harsin says Finley played well enough during spring ball to earn a chance at recapturing his starting job entering summer workouts.
- Whoever lines up behind center will have a plethora of weapons at his disposal. McNichols ran for 1,337 yards and 20 touchdowns while catching 51 passes for 460 yards and six scores. Senior WR Thomas Sperbeck hauled in 88 passes for 1,412 yards and eight TDs.
Boise State's 2016 schedule
|Date||Opponent||Last yr's result (if played)|
|Sept. 3||at La.-Lafayette|
|Sept. 10||Washington State|
|Sept. 24||at Oregon State|
|Oct. 1||Utah State*||L, 52-26|
|Oct. 7||at New Mexico*||L, 31-24|
|Oct. 15||Colorado State*||W, 41-10|
|Oct. 20||BYU*||L, 35-24|
|Oct. 29||at Wyoming*||W, 34-14|
|Nov. 4||San Jose State*||W, 40-23|
|Nov. 12||at Hawaii*||W, 55-0|
|Nov. 19||at UNLV*||W, 55-27|
|Nov. 25||at Air Force*||L, 37-30|
|* Mountain West game|
Bosie State: The last 5 years
|2015||9-4/5-3||— / —||Poinsettia Bowl, W|
|2014||12-2/7-1||— / 16th||Fiesta Bowl, W|
|2013||8-5/6-2||19th / —||Hawaii Bowl, L|
|2012||11-2/7-1||24th / 18th||Las Vegas Bowl, W|
|2011||12-1/6-1||5th / 8th||Las Vegas Bowl, W|
|Total||52-14, 31-8||5 bowl games (4-1)|
2015 NATIONAL RANKS
Scoring: 13th (39.1 ppg)
Scoring defense: 24th (20.2 ppg)
Passing yards: 15th (310.2 ypg)
Rushing yards: 48th (191.4 ypg)
TOP 25 SO FAR …
No. 24: Boise State
No. 23: Coming Friday. Want a hint? This school has won three national men’s hoops titles — in 1980, 1986 and 2013.
1 school: Pac-12 (25-Washington State); Mountain West (24-Boise State)