***** NCAA Football Preview - Boise State Broncos *****
 By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
 2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Once again the Broncos were the team to chase in the
 Mountain West Conference last season, their second in the league after moving
 over from the now-defunct Western Athletic Conference (for football at least).
 The team, No. 22 in the AP poll, opened up at 13th-ranked Michigan State and
 failed to score an offensive touchdown in what turned into a stunning 17-13
 loss for the Broncos. It was the first time since an ugly 58-0 setback to
 Washington State in 1997 that BSU failed to score a touchdown on offense.
 Boise State did force four turnovers in the meeting, but with new quarterback
 Joe Southwick taking over the offense, the unit sputtered and never got on
 Needless to say, after just the first game the Broncos were on an uphill climb
 to regain their composure and Southwick was fighting to keep head coach Chris
 Petersen from sitting him on the bench. Southwick, who entered 2012 with a
 grand total of just 400 passing yards during mop-up duty the previous two
 seasons, rebounded with a 300-yard passing game versus Miami-Ohio two weeks
 later and led the Broncos on a seven-game win streak in order to get Petersen
 back on his side, but considering the competition during the run the outcomes
 should have gone in favor of the Broncos.
 Against San Diego State at home on Nov. 3, the Broncos suffered an unexpected
 21-19 loss, a rare feat for a visiting opponent over the last decade or so in
 Idaho. It certainly didn't help that SDSU began the meeting with a 100-yard
 kickoff return for a touchdown, putting Boise State in an early hole. The
 Broncos were able to respond with three more regular-season wins against
 Hawaii, Colorado State and Nevada, in order to move to 10-2 overall and 7-1 in
 conference play (tied for first), but still BSU was relegated to the Las Vegas
 Bowl for the third year in a row, and for the fourth straight season Petersen
 and the Broncos brought home a postseason trophy with a narrow 28-26 victory
 over Washington.
 The Broncos fed off their defense a season ago as they held opponents to a
 mere 15.8 ppg (eighth nationally), although the unit somehow allowed a season-
 high 29 points to a New Mexico group that finished just 4-9 overall, was 1-7
 in MWC play, and yet played BSU to within three points in September
 nonetheless. One of the most successful head coaches in the last decade,
 Petersen now has a record of 84-8 overall in seven campaigns in Boise and is a
 staggering 51-4 in conference play, finishing no worse than second in any one
 OFFENSE: Clearly, coach Petersen was not thrilled with the early efforts of
 Southwick, but backup Grant Hedrick threw a total of just 17 passes a year ago
 which implies the coaching staff wasn't prepared to make a change in 2012.
 Now, 2013 might be a different story depending on how the schedule plays out,
 but coming out of the gate the job still belongs to Southwick after he
 completed almost 67 percent of his passes for 2,730 yards and 19 touchdowns.
 Unfortunately for Southwick, who was picked off seven times, he is playing on
 the heels of one of the most dominant passers in the history of college
 football in Kellen Moore who is the winningest signal-caller in FBS history
 (50-3) before leaving in 2011. The good news for Southwick is that he has his
 top two receivers back in Matt Miller and Kirby Moore who combined for 102
 receptions, more than 1,100 yards and six TDs last season.
 "Kirby is one of the rocks of our offense," coach Petersen said during Fall
 Camp. "He is always out here competing, he is always going full speed and he
 is always giving good effort."
 Another holdover is Holden Huff who, with just 17 catches in 13 games,
 averaged almost 15 yards per grab and tied for second on the team with four
 receiving scores. Unfortunately, what the offense is missing this time around
 is a major rushing presence with the loss of D.J. Harper who was responsible
 for 1,137 yards and a massive 15 touchdowns. Now just a sophomore, Jay Ajayi
 figures to get more action after placing second on the team a year ago with
 548 yards and four scores on 82 attempts. Placing sixth in the country in
 sacks allowed (0.77 per game), the offensive line will have to fill a few
 vacancies as well, although Charles Leno and Matt Paradis are coming back as
 returning starters in the trenches.
 DEFENSE: While the BSU offense continues to pull out a few gimmicky tricks now
 and then, the defense will once again be the focal point of the program even
 though it too is going to be rebuilding. Last season the unit was third in the
 nation in forced turnovers with 36 and second overall in turnover margin with
 a plus-1.54 per game, but those sort of numbers will be hard to come by in
 2013 given the number of new faces that will be trying to grab a spot in the
 starting lineup.
 Gone is top tackler J.C. Percy who hammered out an impressive 118 stops. So
 dominant was Percy, his 70 unassisted tackles was the same number of overall
 tackles that Jeremy Ioane managed as the second-best tackler on the squad.
 Ioane's return at safety also, along with that of Darian Thompson, means the
 Broncos have one of the best secondaries in the league once more this season
 as both players logged three interceptions for BSU. Earning a spot on the 2013
 Preseason All-Mountain West Football Defensive Team is Demarcus Lawrence who
 comes back after claiming All-MWC First-Team honors following a 2012 campaign
 in which he led the Broncos in tackles for loss (13.5), sacks (9.5) and forced
 fumbles (four), not to mention registering the only blocked kick of the season
 for the group.
 Another player to keep an eye on is junior linebacker Corey Bell who came on
 strong with fourth starts in the final five games of the season, finishing
 with 45 total tackles, 22 solo.
 "Corey knows only two speeds - fast and full," Petersen noted in early August.
 "He is very dialed in to what we're doing out here, and he brings a lot of
 positive energy to this team."
 SPECIAL TEAMS: Last season the Broncos outscored the competition by a combined
 253-57 in the first half, and then called off the dogs after intermission when
 they registered 91 points in the third and only 49 points in the fourth
 frames, respectively, with 87 of those 393 total points coming from kicker
 Michael Frisina. With Frisina now gone, that leaves Dan Goodale and Tyler
 Rausa to compete for the job.
 Goodale has game experience, thanks to being a kickoff specialist, so he
 probably has the inside track, while Rausa spent time at a junior college
 where he handled the placekicking responsibilities. From a punting
 perspective, Southwick actually booted seven kicks himself, with five landing
 inside the 20-yard line, but really the job belongs to Trevor Harman after he
 averaged better than 41 yards per kick on 42 attempts a year ago.
 OUTLOOK: Once again, Boise State stands alone when it comes to representing
 college football outside of the BCS conferences in the initial coaches poll,
 placing 19th on the list, one spot behind Nebraska and ahead of a TCU squad
 that was a mere 7-6 a year ago. The squad is also 19th on the initial AP poll
 as well.
 The Broncos have been ranked in the debut release of the national polls in
 each of the last five seasons, one of only 11 teams to achieve the feat, but
 that also puts a huge target on their back as they tee off against Washington
 on the road to begin the 2013 campaign. However, the schedule appears to be
 quite kind to BSU for the most part, save for a road trip to Fresno State the
 third week of September, as well as stops at Utah State and BYU later in the
 calendar. Aside from the meetings with the Huskies and Cougars, the only other
 non-conference bouts involve first-time opponent Tennessee-Martin at home on
 Sept. 7 and a visit from a Southern Miss team that was not only thumped by the
 Broncos last year (40-14), it is also the lone winless team in the nation from
 a year ago as well.
 08/23 09:20:05 ET