The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time.
No. 12 Boise State
Ninth-year senior tailback Ian Johnson says a recent flare-up of bursitis won't keep him out of this year's exciting Sept. 3 opener on Boise's blue turf.
OK . . . it only seems as if Johnson had college football's only rollover scholarship.
The forever hero of Boise State's epic Fiesta Bowl win against Oklahoma, though, has finally exhausted his eligibility.
The team will miss his leadership . . . and 58 career touchdowns.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, though, this isn't the beginning of Boise's end; it's only the end of Boise's beginning.
The program Chris Petersen inherited from Dan Hawkins in 2006 has been machine-like consistent, with its toughest opponent being the Bowl Championship Series.
Three times this decade Boise State has finished the regular season undefeated and two times the Broncos have been edged out by Utah for an automatic BCS bid.
In 2004, Utah went to the Fiesta and Boise State to the Liberty and last season, it was Utah to the Sugar and Boise to the Poinsettia.
Boise State earned the BCS bid in 2006, and made it count with its Statue of Liberty victory over the Sooner schooners.
The off-season involved politics, with Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier making his team's anti-BCS case during May proceedings at congressional hearings.
"How many more years do we need to go undefeated before we get a chance?" Bleymaier asked.
Oh, you mean for the national title?
Boise State's little-guy, bobblehead mini-dynasty has been suffocated some by membership in the Western Athletic Conference, a league that ranks middle of the road in conference power rankings. There's been talk Boise State might one day move to the Mountain West.
Until that happens, or doesn't, watch the Broncos dominate. With only two seniors on the two-deep roster, Boise State should be better next year -- but don't write off '09.
Quarterback Kellen Moore, a brilliant freshman, is now a brilliant sophomore. He threw for 3,486 yards in 2008, completing nearly 70% of his passes with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Broncos were hit hard by receiver departures, but speedster Titus Young returns after sitting out most of last year for disciplinary reasons.
Jeremy Avery, who gained 614 yards last season, picks up for Johnson at tailback and returning all-WAC junior end Ryan Winterswyk leads the defense.
A super season hinges on the home opener against Oregon, bent on revenge after last year's 37-32 loss in Eugene. Some Ducks haven't forgotten what they considered a cheap shot that knocked quarterback Jeremiah Masoli out of the game. The teams, as part of an opening-weekend campaign to show sportsmanship, have agreed to pre-game handshakes on the field -- that could be interesting.
Another potential hiccup for Boise is a Nov. 27 visit by Nevada, a team some think capable of rearranging the WAC standings.
The countdown so far: 25. UCLA; 24. Nevada; 23. Notre Dame; 22. Oregon State; 21. Florida State; 20. Nebraska; 19. North Carolina; 18. Utah; 17. Georgia Tech; 16. California; 15. Virginia Tech; 14. Alabama; 13. Georgia; 12. Boise State.