Boise State vs FSU football

Robert Mahone (34) breaks a big run against Florida State on Aug. 31, 2019, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. Mahone finished with 142 yards rushing and two touchdowns and the Broncos won, 36-31.

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The Idaho Press is counting down the top 20 questions facing the Boise State football team during the 2020 season. Today is question No. 18: What are the toughest games on the schedule?

We’ll have a good idea about the direction of Boise State’s 2020 season after the first month. The Broncos play maybe their three toughest games of the year in the first four weeks.

Of course the non-conference season may not happen due to COVID-19 since both the Big Ten and Pac-12 have already canceled non-conference games, but to this point none of Boise State’s games have been canceled so we’ll proceed forward as if there will be a full schedule until told otherwise.

The first four (scheduled) games are maybe the toughest four-game stretch the Broncos have had to open a season in quite some time, starting with a sneaky opener at home against a Georgia Southern team that has won 17 games and been to a pair of bowl games the past two seasons.

Week two features a road game at Air Force – the preseason pick from Street and Smith to win the Mountain Division ahead of the Broncos. The Falcons return their quarterback and running back, and no Boise State fans need reminders about the Broncos’ struggles against the Falcons in recent years. Air Force beat the Broncos three straight years from 2014 to 2016.

Up next is probably Boise State’s toughest game of the year when they host Florida State on Sept. 19. What would have been the toughest ticket to a Boise State home game maybe ever now loses some of its luster as the game likely will be played in front of a limited crowd – if any fans are allowed in at all.

Boise State of course went to Tallahassee last year and came back to top the Seminoles 36-31 in the season opener. Florida State now as a new coach in former Memphis boss Mike Norvell, and the Seminoles figure to be out for revenge after blowing a double-digit lead at home to the Broncos.

It’s probably unlikely the game is played, but the ACC has yet to cancel non-conference games so it remains on — for now.

Things won’t get much easier the following week when Boise State travels to play at Marshall. The Thundering Herd came to Boise last year and put up a fight, falling 14-7 in a tightly contested game at Albertsons Stadium. Marshall went on to win eight games – and traveling across the country to play in an unfamiliar atmosphere can be a tricky challenge for any team.

Boise State would probably gladly take a 3-1 record after four games. Heck they might even take 2-2 because the schedule lightens up dramatically the rest of the way.

A road game at Hawaii in late October could be sneaky. The Rainbow Warriors won 10 games last season but lost twice to the Broncos in Boise – including in blowout fashion in the Mountain West title game. Hawaii also loses coach Nick Rolovich, who went to Washington State.

The only other tricky game on the schedule would seem to be a Friday night home game against BYU in early November. The Broncos were 6-0 and approaching the top 10 in the polls when they went to Provo and lost to the Cougars last year. Boise State is just 4-3 against BYU the past seven years, and two of the wins came by five or fewer points.

A road game at Wyoming could be tough – especially in late November. But nothing else jumps out as cause for concern for the Broncos. Home games against San Jose State, Utah State, UNLV and Colorado State should all be easy wins. A road game at New Mexico also shouldn’t be much of a contest.

So what’s the toughest of them all? Florida State and Air Force appear at this point to be the two toughest games on the schedule – and the matchup with the Seminoles is likely the toughest. How often does an ACC team come to Boise, and one with the cache and history that Florida State has? The Seminoles will have a huge talent advantage – but as the Broncos showed last year that doesn’t mean everything.

After the road matchup with Air Force, Wyoming, Marshall, Georgia Southern and BYU follow as the only real threats to the Broncos. Another 10-win season would appear possible for the Broncos – as long as they can avoid a disastrous start in September.

But will the Broncos even get to play a full schedule this fall? Who knows at this point.

B.J Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013. He is an Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll voter, and also contributes to KBOI-TV as a Boise State insider.

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