Bronco Football Preview: Game by Game Matchup and Preview of the 2023 Football Season

Photo by Taya Thornton

It’s time for football.

The Boise State football team is back in action on Sept. 2. The Broncos have made moves over this offseason to prepare for the 2023 season. 

Here’s what to watch for and what to know for the 2023 season.


Boise State’s offense brings two preseason first-team All-Mountain West players to the table this year in senior running back George Holani and senior right tackle Cade Beresford

Last season, Holani rushed for 1,157 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he’ll be complemented by sophomore running back Ashton Jeanty once again for a great power duo in the backfield. 

The passing game is a different story. 

Top receiver Latrell Caples will be out for the 2023 season due to injury and had 51 receptions for 549 yards, which could be a cause for concern for the Boise State offense. 

Of course, there are a couple of asterisks here. Last season was subject to a myriad of offensive drama, but this season we should see the stable and confident Bronco offense that we’re used to.

Sixth-year wide receiver Billy Bowens will be the leading returning receiver with 462 yards and four touchdowns last year and will be accompanied by three new receivers that committed last week.

This year I’m excited to see what a full season of both Taylen Green and new offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan looks like.

“I felt like we had a good connection last season, and that was just on the rip,” Bowens said in an interview with KTVB. “We didn’t have an offseason to work, so with this offseason under our belt … I’m feeling a lot more confident in him, he’s feeling a lot more confident in us and he’s spinning the ball for sure.”


The defense has a lot to live up to. The unit as a whole ranked 7th in the nation last season, with 30 sacks, 15 interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

With that said, the defense lost some of its key playmakers. JL Skinner (who led the team in interceptions) and Scott Matlock who have moved on to the NFL.

Edge rusher Isaiah Bagnah who had six sacks in 2021, transferred to BYU, leaving gaps in the defensive line to fill.

Photo by Taya Thornton

Not to say that the gaps aren’t fillable. First-team All-Mountain West senior linebacker DJ Schramm returns and is also on the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year, watchlist.

Returning safety Rodney Robinson had 49 tackles and three picks last year and will be a player to watch, as he started every game last season and is a veteran amongst the defensive back unit.

“We’re excited for this challenge because we know how much talent we have in this room,” Robinson said in an interview with KTVB.

Accompanying him in the secondary will be Seyi Oladipo at the nickelback spot. 

“Seyi has stepped up huge in his role at the nickel position…” head coach Andy Avalos said in an interview with KTVB. “It’s a fun position but it calls for a lot, not only physically but mentally as well, and he’s done a good job up to this point. We’re really excited about what he’s going to be able to bring to the table.”

The defensive backs will be the group to watch in week 1 vs. the University of Washington, whose passing game will likely be the best Boise State faces all season.


The team is jumping into the deep end this year. Last season spawned lots of questions about offense efficiency, defensive strength and overall power. Boise State will have an opportunity to answer them as soon as week one vs. No. 10 University of Washington.

This year’s Huskies team features three All-PAC 12 players, two offense, and one defense.

Third-team all-American Michael Penix Jr. will be one of the biggest tests for the Broncos secondary. 

Last season, Penix Jr. threw for 4,641 yards and 31 touchdowns and finished 8th in Heisman votes.

Washington’s pass game is serious, they’re returning two 1,000+ yard receivers this season. To say that Boise State’s secondary will be tested is an understatement.

The Huskies were ranked first overall in the nation in passing yards per game and were second in total yards per game. With their premier offense, Boise State’s defense will have to have answers to keep the team in the game and avoid a track meet. 

The Broncos are strong again defensively this year. This will be a battle of one of the best defenses in the nation vs. one of the best offenses.

On the other side of the ball, Washington’s defense was on the weaker side last season, giving up 372.7 yards per game and a turnover margin of +1. The Huskies’ defense ranked 60th overall in 2022, while Boise State’s offense ranked 69th.

With Kaonohi Kaniho back in action after his week one injury a year ago, along with Jaylen Clark on the other side, Boise State does have some depth at the cornerback.

The team recently completed their two fall scrimmages and head coach Andy Avalos seemed excited for how the team looks.

“It’s good to see the quarterbacks creating, operating the offense, moving the offenses down the field,” Avalos said. “It felt like both lines of scrimmages did a pretty good job … the thing that you wanna see is physicality and consistency.”

As the Huskies lead the all-time series record 3-2 going into this matchup, the Broncos are the underdog going into this fight and will have an opportunity to tie up the series.


The first game on the blue will be against the University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights on Sept. 9, and it will be no easy matchup.

UCF finished 9-5 last year on their season and beat some notable teams in the regular season, including Tulane University and the University of Cincinnati. 

In 2022, they were fifth in rushing yards and averaged 34.4 points per game, which is ahead of teams like Notre Dame, LSU, and yes, Boise State.

A huge part of UCF’s success in the run game comes from their quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. He was not only their leading rusher but had the most rushing yards of any quarterback in the nation with 862 rushing yards in the 2022 season.

Boise State’s defense will have to keep him contained and will be one of the biggest tests early in the season, just like Washington was for the defensive backs.

UCF also added a strong defensive player in sixth-year cornerback Decorian Patterson, transferring in from Middle Tennessee State. Last season he had 65 tackles, 11 pass deflections, and 7 interceptions.

Week two should showcase some fun battles between Boise State wideouts and the UCF secondary.


Continuing with non-conference matchups, the Boise State Broncos welcome the North Dakota Fighting Hawks to Albertsons Stadium.

September 16 will mark the first time the two teams play each other. North Dakota averaged 30 points per game last year and had a running back with a thousand-yard season, who moved on to the NFL.

This game should be heavily weighed in Boise State’s favor though. The Fighting Hawks allowed 30 points per game last season, and have only ever beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team once, when they took down Wyoming, 24-13 on Sept. 5, 2015.

Players to watch in this game will be wide receiver Bo Belquist and quarterback Tommy Schuster. They’re both seniors and should have a strong connection. 

With that said, Boise State’s secondary should outclass whatever comes their way, as should the rest of the team.


Our first conference game will be against one of our most beloved conference foes, San Diego State University (SDSU). As it stands now, Boise State is the favorite to win, just as SDSU is the favorite to join the collapsing PAC-12.

It’s no secret that winning this game will feel especially good this year because of the Aztecs’ recent attempt to depart the Mountain West to join the PAC-12.

San Diego State played their first week zero game just last Saturday, beating the University of Ohio 20-13. 

Their quarterback Jalen Mayden, who switched positions from safety last season, looked well-developed. He threw 17/27, 164 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.

SDSU’s Junior running back Jaylon Armstead also showed out. On just 8 carries, Armstead notched 78 yards rushing, averaging 9.8 yards per attempt.

The true star in the game was senior tight end Mark Redman, with just five receptions in the game, Redman had 62 yards and the team’s only two touchdowns. 

Andy Avalos expresses his confidence in Boise State’s defensive line, so shutting down the run game shouldn’t be a problem. Seeing how the defense will handle Redman’s 6’6”, 255 lbs frame will be interesting. 

On the defensive side, San Diego has experience in their secondary. All four are seniors and had a combined 17 tackles and one pick against Ohio. They’ll be a test for Taylen Green and the receiving core.

San Diego always plays us hard. The all-time matchup record is tied 4-4, so this is a great chance for Boise State to take the lead, as well as dish out some revenge to the most recent PAC-12 prospect.


Another road game and another American Athletic Conference (AAC) team, this week Boise State goes toe-to-toe with the University of Memphis.

Memphis had an underwhelming 2022 season after going 7-6 with many of their losses being within one score. 

Junior Memphis quarterback, Seth Henigan, had a 3,500-yard season last year. He did a good job spreading the ball around and getting five receivers with 400+ yards on the season. Despite his efforts, there was no true No. 1 receiver. Memphis’ top wideout last season only had 615 receiving yards.

Taya Thornton | The Arbiter

The Memphis offense still had a great amount of production and managed to put up 35.3 points per game last year, which is 22nd in the nation. 

Last season, Memphis was a great passing team, but they’ve lost talent at the receiver position over the offseason.

With that said, their backfield is looking strong. Junior running backs Jevyon Ducker and Brandon Thomas had 16 combined rushing touchdowns in 2022, and will most likely continue that success in the 2023 season. 

Key matchups this week will again be Boise State’s front seven vs. the Tiger’s offensive line. In 2022 Memphis gave up 37 sacks which is in the bottom third of the nation. 

Memphis’ defense was weak against the pass last year so expect to see plenty of gun-slinging from Taylen Green.


This week we’re back on the blue for another Mountain West matchup against San Jose State University (SJSU).

The record between the two is 13-1, but Boise State’s one loss did come in the most recent matchup in the COVID season of 2020. 

Last Saturday the Spartans lost to a powerful team — the No. 6 ranked University of Southern California (USC), 56-28. 

Senior quarterback, Chevan Cordeiro, looked decent considering the competition. He threw for three touchdowns, no picks and rushed for 52 yards (second on the team).

San Jose State struggled in the run game. Utah Tech transfer Quali Conely did rush for 108 yards with six carries, but 57 of those yards came in garbage time with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

Junior wide receiver Nick Nash had a huge individual performance vs. USC, with six receptions, 89 yards and three touchdowns. He and junior Charles Ross led the team in receiving yards and will be a tough unit for Boise State’s secondary to contain.

Again, there’s a big opportunity for Boise State’s front seven this week. Last season the Spartans gave up 42 sacks on the year. 

That stat alone should trickle down to the secondary in helping contain San Jose State’s pass game.


Third lowest points per game in the nation with 13.2. That statistic belongs to the 2022 Colorado State University Rams, whom the Broncos will face on October 14. 

Headed into 2023, Colorado State returns eight starters on defense which may help their odds against what should be a broken-in Boise State offense by this point in the season.

Colorado’s offensive situation remains questionable. They too are returning a sophomore quarterback in Clay Millen, boasting a 72% completion rate, but only 1,910 yards on the 2022 season.

Millen was sacked 59 times in 2022, making this week another potential field day for the Boise State pass rush.

One of the biggest threats this week is the connection between the powerful duo of Millen and senior receiver Tory Horton, who had 1,131 receiving yards in 2022. 

Barring injury on either side of the ball for Boise State, this game should be a routine curb stomp. Both the offense and defense will have played against higher-level opponents by now.


BYE week.


This week has the makings of a trap game.

Right before the big revenge game in Fresno, the Boise State Broncos have to play a “warm-up” game coming out of the bye week at home against the Wyoming Cowboys.

Wyoming, in short, has a team built to win in the 1960s. The Cowboys boast a tough defense, good offensive and defensive lines, and know how to eat up the clock and that’s about it.

These are the pluses of being a winning team during the Cold War. The minuses are that their quarterback, Andrew Peasley, threw 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year, and their top three producing receivers had 407, 308 and 299 yards respectively.

Their more than capable defense came up with six picks, nine forced fumbles and 37 sacks in the 2022 season. 

Last year Wyoming had a 1,000+ yard rusher in Titus Swen, who has since moved on to the NFL.

In other words, their pass game is a bit far off from what Boise State’s secondary saw in week one.

This is pretty good news for Boise State this year. As long as the defense can get off the field in a timely manner and the offense protects the football, this looks like a win.

Key matchups will be in the trenches. Just like last year, I expect a low-scoring game where Wyoming chews up a bunch of clock and plays good defense. 


Likely another Mountain West championship preview, the Boise State Broncos travel to Fresno State for their 26th matchup of all time.

The record is 17-8, but of course the last few years, the series has been a bit more contested. 

Lots of turnovers in Fresno could spell a down season, however, they have plugged in some key players into those missing slots for the offseason.

Taya Thornton | The Arbiter

Fresno State’s offense will look very different this year. Jake Haener was drafted to the New Orleans Saints last spring, so University of Central Florida transfer Mikey Keene will likely receive the starting position as a sophomore.

Keene could be a real threat to the Boise State secondary. During his time at UCF, he had a 68% completion rate. 

With that said, the Bulldogs lost their top two producing receivers and most notably, running back Jordan Mims, who had 1,370 rushing yards last year. 

Key matchups will be in the skill position department. Senior wide receiver Jaelen Gill transfers from Boston College as a former four-star recruit.

This particular matchup will, most likely, be heavily dependent on skill positions.

This year Fresno State almost looks unrecognizable compared to what we saw last December. Regardless, they’re projected to be in the Mountain West Championship game in December.  

As this is likely a prelude to what’s to come a few weeks later in the Mountain West Championship game, the standards are high for the Broncos to redeem themselves after a hard loss in the championship game. This will be a good chance for revenge, but probably won’t be the last time we see the Bulldogs in 2023.


The University of New Mexico football team has the second lowest points per game in the nation going into the 2023 season, with just 13.1 points. Things may be different for the Lobos this year.

New Mexico has a new quarterback in, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) senior transfer, Dylan Hopkins. His stat line is decent too. Last year he threw 10 touchdowns and four picks.

Hopkin’s resume is pretty thorough as well. With ten touchdowns and four picks last season, the newcomer will be accompanied by their new offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent, also fresh in from UAB. 

With an already well-established coaching and player dynamic, there’s some much anticipation for the duo.

The positives end there for the Lobos however.

Their offensive line brings experience, but not skill, allowing 3.7 sacks per game in 2022. 

New defensive coordinator Troy Reffett moves up the coaching chain to lead what was a pretty average defense last season, allowing 26 points per game (7th in the Mountain West).

On defense, New Mexico suffered last December as nearly their entire secondary left in the transfer portal. 

Players to watch for in this matchup will be New Mexico’s sophomore running back Christian Washington, as well as Dylan Hopkins

For Boise State, the entire defense will be highly watched. The last time the Lobos came to Albertsons Stadium, they didn’t score, I’m sure Andy Avalos will be looking to make that a regular occurrence.


For the last road game of the season, the Boise State Broncos will face the Utah State Aggies for the 27th time.

As Utah State is dealing with plenty of turnover on both sides of the ball this year, there is potential to see Boise State’s defense put on a clinic. Utah State does have some veterans returning on defense, however, three linemen and three defensive backs are gone this year.

On offense, Utah State returns senior quarterback Cooper Legas, who had 1,499 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions (most interceptions in the Mountain West). 

Their receiving core also looks thin this year. Their top producers are gone, leaving big gaps to fill. Only two seniors are listed on their roster for 2023.

Senior defensive tackle Hale Motu’apuaka could pose issues as he had five sacks last year, however, his surrounding defensive linemen will all be new starters. 

Defensively for Boise State, this week is an opportunity to be a hall hawk. Last year Legas didn’t take care of the football, so unless he drastically improves, Rodney Robinson and the Broncos should have a fun day in Logan, Utah.


Another team that is well suited for the old-age style of football Air Force has a championship-caliber team from World War II. 

Well, at least last year they did.

The Falcons are starting from scratch on offense this year, as both quarterback Haaziq Daniels and running back Brad Roberts, who had 1,728 yards, are gone, the Falcons will be in a desperate search for their new offensive superstars. 

The other side of the ball still looks good for Air Force. They were within the top five for defense in points allowed per game, passing yards per game and total yards per game last year, and they’re returning enough starters to keep that trend going in 2023.

This time around, Boise State’s defense should strive for quick three-and-outs, and hone in on their defense before wrapping up their regular season play.

This is the same game as it is every year. Boise State just has to buckle down and endure the Falcons’ run-pass option and get the defense off the field.

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