Boise State vs Wyoming FOOTBALL

Boise State linebacker Benton Wickersham (25) brings down Wyoming running back Xazavian Valladay (6) during a game on Nov. 9, 2019.

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Once again, the Boise State football team will start the season at the top of its division.

The Broncos were selected to finish first in the Mountain Division’s Preseason Media Poll, released Tuesday by the Mountain West, picking up 20 of the 21 of the first-place votes by media who cover the league’s 12 teams. Wyoming, which finished second in the poll, picked up the other first-place vote.

It will mark the 13th straight year the Broncos have been picked to win either their conference or their division before the season began.

The last time Boise State wasn’t a preseason favorite was 2007, when it was coming off its first Fiesta Bowl season. The Broncos were picked to finish second in the WAC, behind Hawaii, that season.

Boise State is coming off its third straight Mountain Division title and its second Mountain West championship in that span after beating Hawaii in last year’s title game. The Broncos also went 8-0 in conference play, completing an undefeated Mountain West slate for the first time since joining the league in 2011.

There’s plenty of reason to believe that the Broncos are capable of repeating in 2020. Boise State returns sophomore quarterback Hank Bachmeier, as well as backup Chase Cord, who spent time filling in for Bachmeier when he missed time to injury last season. George Holani, who extended Boise State’s best-in-the-nation streak of 12 straight years with a 1,000 yard rusher, returns for his sophomore season. And while 2019 leading receiver John Hightower has been drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, the Broncos return Khalil Shakir, CT Thomas, both of whom had over 40 catches last season. They also get back tight end John Bates, who caught 22 passes for 273 yards last season.

Defensively, the Broncos return four of their five leading tacklers from last year in Riley Whimpey, Benton Wickersham, Kekaula Kaniho and Jalen Walker.

Where the biggest question mark for the Broncos may be this season is along the line. Boise State returns just one of nine starters along the offensive and defensive lines from last season, with junior right tackle John Ojuwku being the only returner.

After Boise State and Wyoming, Air Force is picked to finish third in the Mountain Division, while Utah State is fourth, Colorado State fifth and New Mexico sixth.

In the West Division, San Diego State is the favorite, picking up 19 of the 21 first-place votes. Second-place Nevada picked up two first place votes, while defending division champion Hawaii is picked to finish third. Fresno State, San Jose State and UNLV were selected fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.

Polls were originally supposed to be released next week at the league’s Virtual Media Days. But the league postponed that on Monday and will be releasing preseason honors throughout this week. The Preseason All-Mountain West Team will be announced today, while Preseason Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Year on Thursday.

Boise State is scheduled to kick off the season on Sept. 5 with a game against Georgia Southern, then start Mountain West play the following week at Air Force.

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