SEATTLE — When Kalen DeBoer took the field with Washington for the first time a season ago, there was a belief, but maybe not certainty, about how well his new team would respond.
A year later, after 11 wins, including a bowl game victory, and now a No. 10 AP Top 25 ranking entering the season, DeBoer is confident in what he’ll get from the Huskies.
“(We’re) more comfortable with the consistency and the effort that I know we’ll bring,” DeBoer said. “It doesn’t mean that everything is always perfect. We know that. That’s going to come even with Week 1 here. We’ll certainly get challenged. But I do feel confident and that we’re going to have a response where, when it comes to gut-check time, these guys are going to dig in.”
The first test of DeBoer’s second season in charge comes right away when Washington hosts Boise State on Saturday.
Boise State is the preseason favorite in the Mountain West and the Broncos come in with a talented offensive backfield, a stingy defense and a history of early-season upsets of highly touted opponents.
“Having the opportunity to go on the road in the opening week and play the No. 10 team in the nation, you don’t always get that,” Boise State coach Andy Avalos said. “It calls for a great deal of preparation obviously, and focus and discipline.”
Washington fits the bill of the kind of team Boise State has taken down in the past. The Huskies are more than two-touchdown favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, and it’s been a while since the Broncos have enjoyed a notable Week 1 win over a ranked opponent.
The last time Boise State knocked off a ranked opponent in its opener was 2011 when it beat Georgia in a game where the Broncos were the higher-ranked team.
This game will be the beginning of what Washington hopes will be another standout season from quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Washington was late in starting a Heisman Trophy campaign last year for its quarterback, but the hype around Penix started before the opener this time around.
Penix’s numbers from last year may be hard to match now that opponents have a full season of film on him with the Huskies. He threw for 4,641 yards and 31 touchdowns last season but it will be the evolution of the offense that will help determine Washington’s success.
GREEN MEANS GO
Unlike last season, there is no question who the Broncos' leader is under center. Once Taylen Green took over as the starter last season replacing Hank Bachmeier, Boise State took off. His ability as a runner and a passer changed the dynamic of the Broncos offense and he led a group that scored 30 or more points six times in the final 10 games. Green finished the year with 2,042 yards passing and another 588 rushing.
Green did struggle at times and his worst game last season came in the Mountain West title game against Fresno State when he threw two interceptions. But he rebounded with 121 yards rushing and two TDs to go along with one passing touchdown in Boise State’s bowl game victory over North Texas.
Boise State’s best chance to stay in the game may be to play keep away from Washington’s offense. In that case, the Broncos are blessed with one of the best running games in the Mountain West. Running back George Holani rushed for 1,157 yards last season, Ashton Jeanty added 821 yards and Green’s athleticism contributed another 588 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.
Washington’s rushing defense was solid last season but the Huskies gave up more than 150 yards on the ground in their two losses.
If Green and Boise State’s offense are going to have a big game, they will need to find a way to handle Washington’s defensive front. Edge rushers Bralen Trice and Zion Tupuola-Fetui are one of the best pass-rushing duos in the country. Trice was a preseason AP All-America selection after finishing last season with nine sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Tupuola-Fetui has worked his way back from injury.
Boise State’s offensive line has experience in right tackle Cade Beresford, center Garrett Curran and left guard Ben Dooley. But the Broncos expect to start sophomore Kage Casey at left tackle and redshirt freshman Roger Carreon at right guard. They have appeared in only six college games between them.