Boise St.-Virginia Tech Preview

After years of trying to prove it belongs among the elite

programs in the nation, Boise State’s new goal is to justify its

lofty status.

The third-ranked Broncos aren’t wasting much time doing that,

either.

Boise State begins its quest for a national championship as it

faces No. 10 Virginia Tech for the first time at FedEx Field in

Landover, Md., on Monday night.

Over the last decade, the Broncos have gone from feel-good

underdogs to one of the premier teams in the country. They received

a first-place vote while getting their highest preseason ranking

after going 14-0 and beating then-No. 3 TCU 17-10 in the Fiesta

Bowl last season.

Boise State finished the season at No. 4 in the AP poll, and

coach Chris Petersen isn’t concerned with proving critics wrong any

more.

“Let’s prove everyone right,” the Broncos’ fifth-year coach

said.

Boise State is again considered a Bowl Championship Series

contender, and it plans to maintain that status with its move to

the Mountain West Conference next year. This will be the last

season for the Broncos in the Western Athletic Conference, which

they’ve dominated with a 49-4 record while winning three conference

titles in four years under Petersen.

The Broncos have won two BCS bowls in that stretch, and are now

looking to take the final step and claim a spot in the national

championship game.

“It could happen,” said quarterback Kellen Moore, considered a

Heisman Trophy candidate. “Every year there are different

variables. Two years ago we were undefeated but there were a

handful of undefeated teams. Sometimes you lose out on those

things.

“You play well, in the end you’re going to be doing something

good.”

Returning all but one starter is a major reason expectations are

so high. The offense is intact after tying Houston with 42.2 points

per game to lead the nation last year.

In two seasons, Moore is 26-1 and has thrown for 7,022 yards

with 64 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His 39 touchdowns to three

interceptions last year was the best ratio in NCAA history.

Wide receives Austin Pettis and Titus Young combined for 142

catches and 24 touchdowns, while running back Jeremy Avery rushed

for 1,151 yards and six scores.

Boise State is also sound defensively, leading the WAC by

holding opponents to an average of 17.1 points.

Just how good the Broncos are in 2010 will be tested immediately

by Virginia Tech, which routinely boasts one of the best defenses

in the country.

The Hokies ranked ninth in average points allowed (15.6) and

11th in pass defense, giving up 167.1 yards per game with nine

TDs.

The unit, however, is a major question mark after losing seven

starters from a 10-3 season capped by a 37-14 win over Tennessee in

the Chik-fil-A Bowl.

“We’re playing against an offense that, I believe, is running on

all cylinders and I’m excited about that because it’s been awhile

since we had an offense like that,” defensive coordinator Bud

Foster said.

As opposed to relying heavily on its defense, Virginia Tech is

expected to boast a dynamic offense centered around quarterback

Tyrod Taylor, who had 2,311 passing yards and 370 rushing in his

first full season as starter.

The senior was key to the offense averaging 31.8 points to rank

second in the ACC last year.

“I feel the same way with him out there as I did when Michael

Vick was out there,” coach Frank Beamer said, speaking of the

dual-threat quarterback who led the Hokies to the 1999 national

championship game against Florida State. “Any play has a chance of

going a long ways.”

Virginia Tech’s offensive success will also hinge on running

backs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Williams ran for 1,655 yards

and 21 touchdowns, breaking the Atlantic Coast Conference freshman

yardage record Evans set in 2008 (1,265) before missing last season

with an ACL tear.

“Having these two backs behind me, that’s going to take a lot of

pressure off my legs and open up lanes for the passing area,”

Taylor said. “They’re going to stack the box knowing that we have a

great rushing game and that’s going to open things for me and my

receivers.”

Taylor has his top three targets back in wide receivers Jarrett

Boykin, Danny Coale and Dyrell Roberts, who combined for 92 catches

and 10 touchdowns.

“They’re the show right now,” cornerback Rashad Carmichael said

of the offense, “but we have a lot of pride and a lot of tradition,

so we’re going to do what we do on that side of the ball.”