So here we are at the start of another college football season, and once again, Boise State sits right near the top of the rankings.
The Broncos begin the season ranked No. 5, the top non-AQ team in the nation, hoping to make history with a spot in the BCS national championship game. That they are ranked so high should come as little surprise.
This Boise State team is just as loaded as the one that climbed to as high as No. 2 in the rankings in 2010. Heisman Trophy finalist Kellen Moore returns. So does his excellent running back Doug Martin, first-round NFL talent Nate Potter at left tackle, and one of the strongest defensive lines in the nation.
What do those players have in common? They are all seniors, accustomed to playing their careers in the bright spotlight that has become the norm for this program. In fact, Boise State will have 14 senior starters this season, a veteran team that has played in a BCS bowl game and lost just twice in their careers.
Twice. Think about that one for a minute.
This senior class is 38-2 since 2008 and needs 12 wins to set the school record for a senior class, currently held by the 2009 group.
Winning 40-plus games in a career has become something of the norm in Boise. Nine straight senior classes have gone past 40 wins, an incredible testament to their consistency.
“The bottom line is this program has been built year after year in making a constant progression,” Moore said. “You have to be very aware of what has gone before you. We constantly talk about when you came into the program it was at this level, and our goal is to leave it a better place and someone else will pick it up and hopefully take it to another level.”
But this senior class in particular has stood out because of the notoriety it has received.
Boise State made a BCS game following the 2006 season, and that stunning win against Oklahoma served notice to everyone in the country. But the Broncos have gotten much more national attention over the past three seasons, helped in part by that win.
But a bigger reason has been the player at the helm of this team for the past three years: Moore. Last season he became the first Boise State player to become a Heisman Trophy finalist. His three seasons as a starter have been stunning -- Moore has thrown for 10,876 career yards, 99 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
He is a big reason why Boise State started 2010 ranked No. 3, the highest preseason ranking in school history. He is a big reason why many wondered at the start of last season whether Boise State had a realistic shot at playing for a national championship.
He is a big reason why Boise State is being tabbed as a favorite to make it back into a BCS game. That would be a fitting “last hurrah” for a senior class that has accomplished so much.
“Our body of work shows we’ve been a pretty good class, but your senior year is how you’re remembered,” safety George Iloka said. “I want my class to go out with a bang. We have a chance to get the most wins in our class in school history. So that’s something you want to accomplish.”
Boise State has its share of questions headed into 2011. For one, the Broncos have to replace their top two receivers in Titus Young and Austin Pettis. For another, they have to replace three starters in the secondary, including leading tackler Jeron Johnson and playmaker Winston Venable. They also will have a new kicker and punter.
The season opener against Georgia will put this team under scrutiny from the start of the season. Boise State has never beaten an SEC team, and this game will be in the Georgia Dome, a veritable home game for the Bulldogs.
But the Broncos are used to scrutiny. Last season, Boise State had its BCS dreams crushed when it lost to Nevada in an overtime stunner. Coach Chris Petersen called last season's team “awesome” except for one half of football.
So can this year’s senior class be even better than last year, and leave with yet another BCS appearance?
“Those are big shoes to fill,” Petersen said. “Some of the young guys are going to have to step up. So we’ll have to see.”