EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a 12-part series looking ahead to each of Marshall’s 2019 football opponents.
HUNTINGTON — Every year, there seems to be one team that is always is in the mix to bust into the national landscape from a Group of 5 program.
Boise State may be considered a smaller program, but they come with big-time clout after a successful run in the last decade as one of the country’s most consistent winning programs.
The 2019 season is expected to be much of the same with the Broncos being on the short list of teams expected to fight for a New Year’s Six berth for the Group of 5.
To do so, however, Boise State has a wealth of offensive talent that the Broncos must replace — most notably starting quarterback Brett Rypien, who led the Broncos to 35 points a game during his tenure.
The replacement for Rypien was head coach Bryan Harsin’s key task, and he took care of that in the spring. Freshman Hank Bachmeier has drawn comparisons to Rypien and impressed during the spring, so he has a slight advantage heading into fall camp over senior Jaylon Henderson, who is a former UTSA product.
The one who could throw a wrench into the mix is sophomore Chase Cord, who tore an ACL in the middle of last season and missed spring practices. Cord will be given opportunities in fall camp to overtake the other two.
In addition to Rypien, receivers Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson are also gone, and the running game takes a hit with the graduation of Alexander Mattison, who was a 1,400-yard back.
While the Broncos have a heavy rotation of skill players to replace, the offensive line returns intact with more than 100 starts at its disposal, which will aid whatever running back — likely Andrew Van Buren, Robert Mahone or Keegan Duncan — moves into the primary role. The offensive line is led by Ezra Cleveland and John Molchon, a pair of first-team all-conference returnees.
Defensively, the Broncos were injury-riddled in 2018, but the return of guys like safety DeAndre Pierce and David Moa signals that the Boise State defense may return to its tough form in 2019.
Boise State also returns defensive stalwart Curtis Weaver, who had 15 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks last season, but will have to replace some pieces to help Weaver get to the quarterback.
While the front-seven will need new pieces, the secondary should be stacked with the likes of cornerback Avery Williams, nickel back Kekaula Kaniho and graduate transfer swing player Khafari Buffalo, who can play either cornerback or safety, depending on need.
One area that will need drastic improvement is special teams, which was among the lower tier of FBS last season after excelling in 2017. The Broncos will replace both the place-kicker and punter positions, which could be a work in progress.
In terms of schedule, the early portion of the year will be challenging with a new quarterback and skill players trying to get acclimated.
Boise State starts the year with a matchup against Florida State before hosting fellow Group of 5 hopeful Marshall in the second week of the year.
In conference play, the two toughest games on Boise State’s schedule both come on the road with an Oct. 19 matchup at BYU and a Nov. 23 matchup at Utah State.
If Boise State is able to survive the transition period in the early portion of the non-conference schedule, the opportunity is there for a special — even undefeated — season. However, the tone will be set early with the matchups against the Seminoles and the Herd.