The Troy football team will open the much-anticipated 2017 season with a trip to Idaho to take on the Boise State Broncos.
The Trojans will be traveling west of the 100 degree latitude line for the fifth time in school history on Saturday to battle a team that has averaged 11 wins a season for the last 18 years.
Two of the nation’s top Group of Five conference quarterbacks will duel on the blue turf when Troy senior Brandon Silvers meets Boise State junior Brett Rypien.
Silvers led the Sun Belt in 2016 with 23 passing touchdowns while Rypien led the Mountain West in passing yards with 3,646.
Silvers will have all of his primary weapons from last year at his disposal on Saturday, including wide receivers Emanuel Thompson and Deondre Douglas. Thompson caught 80 passes last year for 820 yards and six touchdowns while Douglas led the country in receptions without a drop with 60.
Seniors Tevaris McCormick and John Johnson are also key wide receivers to look for in this matchup with a combined 59 catches and 761 yards last year.
For the Broncos, Rypien’s top target of 2016 – Thomas Sperbeck – has graduated. Running back Jeremy McNichols, the third leading receiver last year, is also gone.
Rypien will still have senior Cedrick Wilson to throw to, however. Wilson, an explosive playmaker, averaged 20.2 yards per catch last year on 56 receptions. He is the only returning player with more than 15 catches for the Broncos.
Troy’s secondary is deep, but may not be challenged by any other quarterback this season more so than the one it faces this Saturday. However, the Trojan defensive back group picked off 17 of Troy’s 22 interceptions last year with junior corner back Blace Brown leading the way with six.
Boise State will also need to replace the production of McNichols, who tallied over 2,100 yards of total offense last season.
Sophomore Alexander Mattison, who tallied 328 yards in 2016, should get the first Bronco carry of the game, but senior Ryan Wolpin will also be a key factor after seeing limited action last year.
Troy’s run defense was best in the conference last year and brings a deeper and stronger defensive line to Boise.
Boise State averaged a middling 174.5 rushing yards a game last year and could struggle having to break in new backs.
For Troy, senior tailback Jordan Chunn returns and is just 808 yards away from an FBS school record in career rushing yards. He leads a deep group that also welcomes in Memphis transfer Jamarius Henderson.
Boise State allowed only 12 rushing touchdowns last year, good for 12th in the country. Junior defensive tackle David Moa was highly disruptive in 2016, registering 10.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.
After Moa, Boise State will be looking for someone else to step up on the defensive line following the graduation of Sam McCaskill, who had 14 stops behind the line last year.
Behind the line, Boise State is in a similar situation as Troy. Three of the Broncos’ top four linebackers have graduated. Junior Jabril Frazier will be the leader in the group after registering 38 tackles and four sacks last season.
Unlike Troy, Boise State will need to find playmakers in the secondary. The Broncos intercepted only seven passes last year – compared to Troy’s 22 – and four of those picks came from players who graduated.
This is a rare non-conference game between two highly-regarded Group of Five teams and will give fans around the country a measuring stick for how talented the Trojans are.
The game this Saturday will be on ESPNU at 2:45 p.m. in Boise, Idaho.