Chris Petersen's return being billed as biggest regular-season game ever in Boise.
The Huskies open the 2015 season on Sept. 4, the first of 12 regular-season games in what Phil Steele rates as the nation’s toughest schedule. Here, we start a series of get-to-know-your-opponent primers.
Today: Boise State (Friday, Sept. 4 in Boise; 7:15 p.m. PT, ESPN)
Coach: Bryan Harsin, second year at Boise State
2014 record: 12-2, Mountain West champion, Fiesta Bowl champion
Returning starters: 17 (9 on offense, 8 on defense)
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Main storyline: After leading Boise State to unprecedented heights during his eight-year reign as head coach, Chris Petersen returns to Boise for the first time since leaving to take over the UW program in December 2013. Some have billed the matchup as the biggest regular-season game to be played in Boise. Harsin, a former Petersen pupil, in his first season led the Broncos to the Mountain West title and a victory over Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. UW is coming off an 8-6 season in Petersen’s first year in Seattle.
Key players: WR Shane Williams-Rhodes had a team-high 68 catches and 7 TD receptions for an offense that scored 39.7 points per game in 2014, ninth-best in the nation. The Broncos return their entire starting offensive line and three starters on the D-line, led by MWC sack leader Kamalei Correa. Junior LB Tanner Vallejo had 100 tackles last season, 16.5 for loss, and senior S Darian Thompson had 7 interceptions.
Key questions: The Broncos are the favorite to repeat as MWC champs, though they do have two big openings to fill on offense — at quarterback and running back. Jay Ajayi rushed for 1,823 yards and 28 touchdowns last season before heading to the NFL. Sophomore Ryan Finley emerged in the spring as the front-runner to replace the graduated Grant Hedrick at quarterback, though Finley’s status for the opener is in question after his alcohol-related arrest in April. Boise State is also introducing a new offensive coordinator, Eliah Drinkwitz, after Mike Sanford left for the same job at Notre Dame.
Quotable: “It obviously adds some more drama to the opening game for both of us. … We won a lot of football games together and we had a great experience. He’s done a lot for Boise State, we know that. Now he’s doing his deal at Washington and getting that program going. … It’ll certainly be interesting as that week develops and obviously as the game happens, just how everything works itself out.” — Harsin, on Petersen’s return to Boise