The Times’ college football rankings: No. 20 Boise State

The star quarterback is long gone, and by long we mean a deep route to the Detroit Lions.

Boise State had a four-year record of 50-3 with Kellen Moore at quarterback passing for 14,667 yards and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 142 to 28.

He’ll be missed like Old Yeller.

The NCAA bed-check police took some of Boise State’s scholarships away because recruits were sleeping on players’ couches — justice never rests — and the Broncos’ defense needs a massive makeover.

So this should be it for Boise State, the finally-gotcha-moment after years of uncanny success under blue skies over a bluer field. This should be the year the Broncos get theirs, the year it comes back in their faces, the year they are picked to finish … first?

Well, of course.

Chris Petersen is still the coach, which means Boise State isn’t going anywhere — until next year, to the Big East.

Boise State has been picked to win the Mountain West Conference and remains the outside-the-BCS-power-conferences school most likely to earn a major bowl bid.

This isn’t two years ago, when we picked Boise No. 1 and rode the Broncos to the brink of a national title game berth. But neither is the school turning back into a junior college.

Boise State has some issues, but not nearly as many as New Mexico.

“I’m an honest guy,” San Diego State Coach Rocky Long said at Mountain West media day. “Boise State is the best team in the league.”

Hasn’t it always been?

Yes, generally, except for last year, when Boise State’s only defeat cost it the conference title to Texas Christian.

Boise must replace one of the best quarterbacks/leaders in college history, a top-drawer tailback and almost every starter on defense. But it kept a system that works and belief it will work again.

You could have expected a falloff after Dan Hawkins left for Colorado in 2005 and also after Boise State’s epic win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Boise State blue didn’t fade to black after Jared Zabransky and Ian Johnson blazed glory. It replaced those guys with quarterback Moore and tailback Doug Martin.

Boise State is going to be good this year — maybe very good. But it isn’t on this year’s shortlist for outside title contention and faces a difficult first game at Michigan State.

The quarterback situation is unsettled, with last year’s backup, Joe Southwick, likely to get the first long look. Or it could be a kid, as Moore was, who steps out of nowhere to make his name.

“You want to get it right,” Petersen said, "… as right as you can.”

Boise State lost more than a dozen starters but returns 22 seniors who don’t need directions to the playing field. “We have a good amount of experience that people don’t know about,” senior offensive lineman Joe Kellogg said.

The Broncos are loaded at receiver and won’t have much frontline drop off at tailback with senior D.J. Harper replacing Martin.

The defensive line, the spine of the team’s recent greatness, needs to be retooled.

Here’s a guess: It will be.

“We expect to do well, we expect to win,” Petersen said.

Boise will win a lot, probably, but not win it all.

The countdown so far: The countdown so far: 25. Notre Dame; 24. Texas Christian; 23. Utah; 22. Kansas State; 21. Louisville; 20. Boise State.