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Game Preview: Boise State set to host Troy Saturday in season opener

The game features a matchup of two 10-win teams from last season and was ranked by USA TODAY as the No. 7 game of the entire opening weekend of college football. (KBOI Staff Photo)

BOISE – The Boise State football team will kick off the 2017 season Saturday with a 1:45 p.m. kick off against the Troy Trojans inside Albertsons Stadium.

The game features a matchup of two 10-win teams from last season and was ranked by USA TODAY as the No. 7 game of the entire opening weekend of college football.

Boise State went 10-3 last season but failed to reach the Mountain West title game for the second consecutive season, while Troy started 8-1 before losing two of its last three regular season games to miss out on a Sun Belt championship.

Here are five storylines heading into Saturday’s opener for the Broncos…

QUARTERBACK BATTLE

Two of the better quarterbacks in the country will face off Saturday in Boise State’s Brett Rypien and Troy’s Brandon Silvers. Both are currently in the top 10 in the FBS in career passing yards.

“This is going to be an awesome battle,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “You’ve two really good quarterbacks. … Two guys that have experience, two guys that I think are well coached, two guys tha1t are in systems that I think play into their hands and favor them.”

Silvers is No. 5 among current FBS quarterbacks with 7,394 career passing yards, while Rypien is No. 9 with 6,999 passing yards. Silvers will be just the third active quarterback to make his fourth-straight season opening start.

Rypien passed for 3,646 yards and 24 touchdowns last season to go along with eight interceptions. Silvers passed for 3,180 yards and 23 touchdowns and had eight interceptions.

NO MCNICHOLS OR SPERBECK

Boise State lost more than 3,000 combined yards with the departures of running back Jeremy McNichols and wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck last season. Who will replace them is one of the biggest questions heading into the season.

McNichols accounted for 2,255 all-purpose yards last season – the second-most in a season in Boise State history – and scored 27 total touchdowns (second-most in the country). He accounted for 53 touchdowns the past two seasons.

Sophomore Alexander Mattison and senior Ryan Wolpin will likely get most of the carries in his place, but the Broncos don’t appear to have a ‘featured back’ heading into the season. Mattison impressed as a true freshman last year, but Wolpin earned a ‘co-starter’ label on the depth chart with an impressive offseason.

Redshirt freshman Robert Mahone and true freshman Drake Beasley could see action in the backfield as well.

At wide receiver, Sperbeck is the school’s all-time leading receiver and had 80 catches for 1,272 yards and nine touchdowns. CCedrick Wilson ascends to the No. 1 receiver spot, but the Broncos are desperately in need of others to step up.

A.J. Richardson and Sean Modster will likely move into the starting lineup, but Akilian Butler, Bryan Jefferson and others could play big roles as well. Who emerges as contributors from a mostly inexperienced group of wide receivers will be a key to the 2017 season.

YOUNG DEFENSE GETS EARLY TEST

Boise State’s young defense gets a stiff test right out of the gate against a potent and experienced Troy offense. The Trojans bring back 98.7 percent of its offense, which is the most of any team in the FBS.

The Broncos will likely start three true sophomores in the secondary in corner Reid Harrison-Ducros and safeties DeAndre Pierce and Kekoa Nawahine.

Boise State’s group of linebackers have no career starts with the departures of mainstays Tanner Vallejo, Ben Weaver, Darren Lee and Joe Martarano.

And the defensive line took a hit with the graduations of starters Sam McCaskill and Elliot Hoyte.

Boise State coaches feel good about the defense, but there’s plenty of question marks – and reasons for concern – heading into Saturday’s opener against a strong Troy offense.

RARE DAY GAME

Saturday will mark the first day game at Albertsons Stadium in nearly four years. The Broncos are accustomed to playing games that don’t start until after 8 p.m., but were able to get a rare afternoon kick off for the opener.

Boise State has played a few day games in recent years including at UCONN (2014), at UNLV (2015) and at San Jose State (2015), but all have been on the road.

Rypien joked that he didn’t know what it would be like since he’s never experienced a day game inside Albertsons Stadium.

It’s the first nationally televised afternoon home game for the Broncos since 2012.

TICKET SALES

Boise State has surprisingly had trouble selling tickets for Saturday’s game. They reported Thursday afternoon that just over 28,000 tickets were out for the opener against Troy. Capacity is around 36,000.

Labor Day weekend, the expected 90-plus degree temperatures and ticket prices have all been used as reasons for the amount of available tickets.

Some fans also apparently must not be impressed with Troy, who may not have the same name recognition as Alabama or Florida State but is one of the better teams that will visit Albertsons Stadium all season.

Boise State hasn’t had a home opener with fewer than 30,000 fans since they hosted Sacramento State in 2006.

Tickets can be purchased at the Boise State ticket office at Albertsons Stadium or online at BroncoSports.com.

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