By now, we have come to expect to see Boise State and TCU in the Top 25 every season. So when the preseason USA Today coaches Top 25 was released Thursday, the top non-AQ teams were right there in the top 15.
The Broncos will start the season ranked No. 7, while TCU is ranked No. 15. Boise State returns Heisman Trophy finalist Kellen Moore, along with Doug Martin, Nate Potter, Billy Winn, Shea McClellin and George Iloka, and expectations are high once again to return to a BCS game.
TCU, meanwhile, loses Andy Dalton off its Rose Bowl-winning team, which is why the Horned Frogs are outside the top 10.
Both teams open up their fall camps Thursday, so let us take a look at a few of the burning questions that they face.
1. Developing depth. No question the Broncos have some big-time senior players in Moore, Martin, McClellin and Iloka. In fact, 15 projected starters are seniors. That means Boise State has to develop its young players, something coach Chris Petersen emphasized at Mountain West media day in July. "We have some players that have played a lot of football that are very good players, and then we’ve got a big gap to some young guys that haven’t played and need the experience and need the knowledge," Petersen said. "On our team right now, I think it’s fairly wide. Our job as coaches is to narrow that gap."
2. Developing receivers. Petersen and Moore both emphasized they are not worried about their receiving group. Rather than relying heavily on two players the way they did the past few seasons with Titus Young and Austin Pettis, you will see more players involved. That means Tyler Shoemaker, Chris Potter, Kirby Moore, Mitch Burroughs, Aaron Burks and Geraldo Boldewijn (formerly Hiwat) will have expanded roles. True freshman Troy Ware had a nice spring and could contribute as well.
3. The kicker is ... Kyle Brotzman is gone, leaving a bit of inexperience at the kicker position. The Broncos have scholarship true freshman Jake Van Ginkel, who will practice for the first time this fall, along with walk-ons Dan Goodale and Michael Frisina.
1. Casey Pachall era begins. Much has been written about how Pachall will do in replacing Dalton. Pachall has heard all of it. "I am ready," Pachall said at a news conference earlier this week. "I am ready to be the guy that everybody looks to when things are good or bad. [The comparison to Dalton] doesn't bother me. It just gives me incentive and a little bit more motivation to be more of a leader and get more in that role."
2. Developing receivers. Leading receiver Josh Boyce returns, but Jeremy Kerley, Jimmy Young and Bart Johnson are gone. There is talent in Fort Worth, but much of it is unproven. It is tie for players like Antoine Hicks and Skye Dawson to step up and help Pachall get the job done. Boyce is confident in his teammates. "We've worked really hard this summer with Casey, to get our chemistry going," Boyce said. "We will be just fine."
3. Can TCU be No. 1 in total defense again? The stat is incredibly impressive -- TCU has led the nation in total defense for three straight seasons. Can TCU make it four in a row? Gary Patterson believes this unit can be even better than last season, even without defensive leader Tejay Johnson. Linebacker tandem Tanner Brock and Tank Carder return, and they should be the heart of the defense. Even with the potential, Patterson has no idea what type of identity this unit will take on. Each season, that changes. He will have a better idea once the season begins.