Both No.23 Boise State and Washington look to start 2015 off on the right foot, but Friday night’s game at Albertsons Stadium holds more significance than simply being the season opener. Washington head coach Chris Petersen will be making his return to Boise to face his the program he helped turn into a college football power.
Petersen was Boise State’s head coach from 2006-2013, going 92-12 during that time and winning the Fiesta Bowl twice. But after seven straight seasons of double-digit victories, the Broncos won just eight games in 2013 and when Steve Sarkisian left Washington for USC, Peterson decided to finally leave Boise. The Broncos bounced back with a 12-2 record last year under coach Bryan Harsin, and now they are the heavy favorites over Petersen’s current team.
“There’s a good portion of the team that’s connected to that coaching staff,” Boise State safety Darian Thompson said via the Idaho Statesman. “They’re the reason why we came to Boise State. If anything, it’s going to fuel the fire to want to go out there and win — especially at home in front of our crowd.
“It’s a regular game, as far as you’re either going to get a point in the win column or the loss column, but when it comes to the emotional side of it, I think there’s a little more added there.”
Petersen left the Mountain West to coach in a bigger conference, but Boise State is in a better position than Washington to have a big 2015 campaign. The Broncos are expected to win big over the Huskies, whom they are giving 13 points at Las Vegas casinos.
Boise State is known for being difficult to beat at home, and they went undefeated on their blue field last year. The Broncos dominated their competition, winning every home game by at least nine points. Three of those victories came by at least 25 points.
With 39.7 points per game, Boise State had college football’s ninth-highest scoring offense in 2014. Their biggest offensive weapon was running back Jay Ajayi, who totaled 2,358 yards from scrimmage and 32 touchdowns. While Ajayi was drafted by the Miami Dolphins, his replacement has the chance to be very productive.
Jeremy McNichols is the new starter in a crowded backfield, and he showed a lot of potential in his limited time on the field last year. The sophomore averaged 9.4 yards per carry on 17 attempts, and he caught 15 passes for 155 yards.
Ryan Finley will take over as Boise State’s starting quarterback after backing up Grant Hedrick last season. But Washington has been secretive about their quarterback situation, refusing to name a starter until game day. There is speculation that freshman Jake Browning will get the nod, but Jeff Lindquist and K.J. Carta-Samuels are also in play.
“We just think at this point it’s kind of the best for our program to move forward for these handful of days with less distractions — we think it will create a little less distractions,” Petersen said via The Seattle Times. “And then after that game, hey, we talk about it. I’m sure we’ll be talking about it all season long.”
The Huskies have a young offense with 19 underclassmen listed on the depth chart. They could start a true freshman at signal caller, which would make it difficult for Washington to match Boise State’s high-powered offense, especially in such a hostile environment.
Start Time: 10:15 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Betting Odds: Boise State -13 (vegasinsider.com)
Over/Under: 55.5 points
Prediction: Boise State over Washington, 38-20