Washington Huskies at Boise State Broncos (-10.5)
For 12 years, Chris Petersen patrolled the blue turf of Bronco Stadium at Boise State, first as OC (2001-2005) then as head coach (2006-2013). Now the head honcho at the University of Washington, Petersen will bring his Huskies to the “smurf turf” to face the Broncos as double-digit underdogs in Week 1 of the 2015 college football season (Friday, September 4, at 10:30 PM Eastern).
Petersen brought the Boise State program to national relevance during his tenures, posting an overall record of 92-12, going undefeated in 2006, and earning the team’s first-ever BCS bowl game berth at the 2007 Fiesta Bowl (which will forever be known for its impossibly exciting finish).
Petersen’s stint at Washington isn’t off to the same sort of start. He went just 8-6 last year in his first season at the helm and will have a bundle of holes to plug in 2015. In particular, Petersen will need to find a way to replace the defensive production of LB Shaq Thompson (who’s now playing on Sundays) and up the production of a passing game that finished 89th in the nation and 11th in the Pac-12 (throwing just 200.1 yards per game). Redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels and true freshman Jake Browning are both talented pocket passers, but asking them to lead the Huskies past a Boise State team that will start the year in the top-25 of most polls is a tall order.
The Huskies will go into Bronco Stadium with RB Dwayne Washington (697 yards and nine TDs on 132 carries in 2014) as their primary weapon on offense.
The junior, who will need to come up big in order to relieve some pressure from Washington’s young pivots, is confident heading into the year: “When I have opportunities in the open field, that’s when I show my speed off,” Washington said to the Associated Press. “As far as power, I’ve always been tough on the field. I’ve always run with power. I don’t want to get tackled. … I’m comfortable catching the ball, screens or even deep routes if I get the chance.”
The Huskies scored 30.2 points per game last season (57th) but allowed 24.8 PPG (40th), and they never had a dominant defense to rely on. For 2015, Petersen needs to change most of his front seven as their four defensive linemen graduated, and four-year starter John Timu and All-American Shaq Thompson are also gone.
Boise State, meanwhile, figures to be an offensive juggernaut again in 2015 – though they’ll have the advantage of running up the score on some weaker MAC squads. The team averaged nearly 40 points per game last season (ninth best in the country) and will have nine starters back on offense. However, the two omissions are arguably at the two most important positions: QB (Grant Hedrick) and RB (Jay Ajayi).
Sophomore Ryan Finley will take over the starting QB role and while RB Jeremy McNichols – also a second-year man – should see the bulk of the carries, though the Broncos may go with more of a running-back-by-committee approach now that the dynamic Ajayi is NFL bound.
Looking at the betting trends, Washington and Boise State have met three times since 2007, and the Huskies have covered the spread in all three. This time around, the Huskies are bringing an inexperienced team (especially on D) to one of the tougher stadiums in the country to face a high-powered offense. Expect the Broncos to defend the smurf turf with gusto and cover the 10.5-point spread.
Pick: Boise State (-10).
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