Over and over for nine months, Saturday’s game between Washington and Boise State has been called a rematch.
It, of course, is when the word is applied to the two generalities that are the schools. After closing last season playing each other in the Las Vegas Bowl, Washington hosts 19th-ranked Boise State on Saturday night at 7 to kick-off the new year for each.
However, that’s where the rematch talk should end.
The Broncos are different in many ways, making this game more a showdown between last year’s Huskies and an altered Boise State group.
Of the 22 offensive and defensive starters listed on Boise State’s two-deep depth chart from the Las Vegas Bowl last December, just nine remain.
The Broncos have elevated some players from second string to starters. They have changed the positions of others. They also have a large factor back in defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who was suspended for the bowl game. Lawrence was named first-team All-Mountain West after picking up team-highs of 13 tackles-for-loss and 9.5 sacks.
Subsequently, the supposed strangeness of ending then opening a season with the same opponent is a little lost on Boise State head coach Chris Petersen.
“In some ways for us, it doesn’t feel weird because we’re so new and so different,” Petersen said.
Yet, the Broncos are ranked 19th in the nation. That’s in part a ranking based on expectations developed in the past decade or so. Eleven-win seasons have become standard fare, if not disappointments, for the Broncos. Boise State finished “just” 11-2 last year after beating the Huskies 28-26 in Vegas.
To get back to that amount of victories, the Broncos will count on the few holdovers they have, starting with quarterback Joe Southwick.
Southwick was a rock in Washington’s shoe throughout the Las Vegas Bowl. He scampered around leaving the Huskies flailing and faltering. His rushing numbers were not gaudy, 11 carries for 39 yards, though were a large influence in the game.
“I think as a defense, we underestimated his mobility,” UW middle linebacker John Timu said.