With Boise State coming into the season ranked No. 3, Broncos coach Chris Petersen knows he can no longer play the "no respect" card to motivate his team. So what have these Broncos adopted as their motto? "Let's prove everybody right," Peterson told his team in August. Boise State will get that chance right away as it challenges No. 10 Virginia Tech at FedEx Field on Monday. The result will have season-long implications for the BCS title game, with Boise expected to be the solid favorite in each of its games the rest of the way. Fair or not, the Broncos' national-title worthiness will be judged largely on their first four quarters of the season.
1. Can Boise handle the hype? With plenty of experience on both sides of the ball, the Broncos should not be spooked by the extra attention this clash will get on Labor Day Monday night. This one will feel like a bowl game in many ways: neutral site, NFL stadium, weeks of prep and an unopposed primetime television slot. The Broncos have proven themselves in these situations before, and steady quarterback Kellen Moore should be able to settle any nerves that arise on the offensive side.
2.Is Virginia Tech's defense ready? Defensive coordinator Bud Foster is one of the most respected assistants in the business, so the fact that he must replace nine starters (linebacker Barquell Rivers is doubtful for the opener) doesn't set off alarm bells as much as it would at other programs. Linebacker Bruce Taylor has impressed in the spring and preseason, and cornerback Rashad Carmichael led the Hokies with six interceptions last season and has embraced his role as the defense's leader. Going against the nation's passing efficiency leader from 2009 will be a stiff test for an inexperienced Hokies unit, but the talent is usually there for Virginia Tech.
3.The first half is paramount. If Boise State gets out to a 10-point lead early and takes away Tech's running game, it will spell trouble for the Hokies. But if Virginia Tech jumps on top and is able to pound away with the prolific rushing tandem of Darren Evans and Ryan Williams, quarterback Tyrod Taylor will become that much more effective and be able to burn Boise State with the occasional deep pass. If either team takes control midway through the second quarter, this one could be a runaway.
In 2009, Virginia Tech's defense allowed one touchdown in 23 possessions following a turnover.
Boise State enters the game as a 2.5-point favorite. The Broncos are 10-3-1 away from the blue turf the last two seasons against the spread and 4-1 under Petersen against the spread vs. BCS opponents. Virginia Tech is 1-5-1 vs. the spread in its last seven games against non-BCS opponents (excluding FCS opponents).
SI.com NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline weighs in with his thoughts on the top pro prospects in this matchup:
• T Nate Potter, Boise State: Potter has been nothing less than sensational since his redshirt freshman season and is Boise's best pro-prospect since Ryan Clady. He moves from the left tackle spot to play guard this year, but he possesses the size, footwork and athletic skill to hold down the blind side tackle position in the NFL. Grade: First-round prospect.
• RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech: Williams awed scouts with his play as a redshirt freshman last season and enters his sophomore campaign with high expectations. He creates his own yardage, making defenders miss at the line of scrimmage or in the open field. Even after what he's shown, his game comes with a large upside. Grade: First-round prospect.
• WR/RS Titus Young, Boise State: Young probed entering last April's draft, but decided to return for his senior season and now ranks as one of the best receiver/return specialists in the nation. He's a sure-handed wideout who can score from any point on the field. Grade: Fourth- to fifth-round prospect.
• CB Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech: Carmichael is a tough cornerback who battles with receivers throughout the route. He shows terrific recognition facing the action and may be best suited for a zone system. Grade: Fifth-round prospect.
Boise State proves everybody right, knocking off an ACC favorite and BCS bowl contender and keeping its national-title hopes alive. Boise State 27, Virginia Tech 20.