Boise State football: Gentlemen, take your marks

The starting point for 2018 is post position 22. Boise State is ranked 22nd in the preseason AP Poll released yesterday. And good ol’ UCF is one spot above the Broncos, coming in 21st. That flip-flops the scenario in the Coaches Poll a couple weeks ago—Boise State was 22nd there, too, but the Knights were 23rd. Two thoughts here: the Broncos have one Power 5 opponent (at Oklahoma State). UCF has two (at North Carolina and home against Pittsburgh). A Boise State win over the Cowboys would top whatever the Knights could do. Then again, if the Broncos don’t take care of business at Troy a week from Saturday, it’ll be the Trojans jockeying for position with UCF.

Upon release of the AP Poll, ESPN.com posted a feature headlined, “What makes a successful season for each Top 25 team?” Kyle Bonagura had this for the Broncos: “It’s hard not to look ahead to Sept. 15, when Boise State travels to Oklahoma State, where a win could propel the Broncos into the playoff discussion.” Yes, he said “playoff.” But Bonagura didn’t really say what makes a successful season for the Broncos. Is it nothing short of a New Year’s Six berth? Andrea Adelson handles UCF, writing, “The schedule is more difficult, but given the new standards UCF has set for itself, making it to the conference championship game—at the very least—qualifies as a successful season.” Expectation pressures are on Boise State, I guess.

After Boise State’s second scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday, coach Bryan Harsin singled out the placekickers, guys who generally toil in anonymity this time of year. Harsin said Joel Velazquez was 3-for-3 in the field goal department with a 52-yarder, and Hayden Hoggarth was 4-for-4. Coming out of spring ball last year, Velazquez was presumed to be the field goal kicker for 2017. But Hoggarth ended up attempting every one for the Broncos, going an efficient 18-for-23 with a long of 41 yards. If 52 yards is truly Velazquez’s range now, he’ll see some action there. Last season Velazquez took about a third of the snaps as punter, with Quinn Skillin in two-thirds of the time.

More NFL wrapup from the weekend: Doug Martin was held out of Oakland’s 19-15 loss to the L.A. Rams Saturday. That’s a good thing, right? Marshawn Lynch was inactive for the Raiders, too. Jeremy McNichols got a decent look from San Francisco at Houston Saturday night with 10 carries. But he gained only 28 yards in the 49ers’ 16-13 loss to Houston. McNichols also had three catches for 19 yards. And Tanner Vallejo, trying to stick for a second season in Buffalo, logged three tackles, two of them solo, in a 19-17 win at Cleveland.

Idaho isn’t posting stats from its fall camp scrimmages, but we do know that wide receiver Cutrell Haywood has been scoring lots of touchdowns. He got into the end zone four times on five catches in the Vandals’ first scrimmage 10 days ago, and he put up five more TDs on Saturday. If Haywood can morph his scrimmages into real games, the Vandals are going to have a formidable weapon. So get to know him: he’s a 6-0, 203-pound redshirt freshman from Stockton, CA. He had 100 receptions and 22 touchdowns as a senior at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School.

The non-conference schedule is set for Boise State men’s basketball, and as expected, the home game against Oregon makes all the difference for Bronco fans. Outside of the Ducks’ visit to Taco Bell Arena December 29, Boise State’s home opponents are Idaho State, Jackson State, Central Washington, Alabama State and Pacific (the West Coast Conference one). It is nice to have an in-state game on the slate, though. The Broncos and Bengals last played two years ago—an 82-59 win for Boise State.

It’s what happens away from Boise that will really shape the team’s resume. In addition to the return trip to Eugene, the Broncos have the Cayman Islands Classic, where they’ll open against Creighton. Their road victory over the 11th-ranked Blue Jays six years ago was one of the biggest in school history. Boise State will play St. Bonaventure or Georgia State, both NCAA Tournament teams (like Creighton), in the second game. The Broncos also visit Grand Canyon, who coach Leon Rice calls “this year’s Loyola Chicago.” GCU has one of the most rabid student sections in the country.

A couple baseball notes: the Boise Hawks jumped up early and added on late in an 8-4 win at Salem-Keizer. The Hawks’ Cade Harris and Daniel Jipping both clubbed their eighth home runs of the season—both were two-run shots, and both came with two outs (Harris’ in the second inning and Jipping’s in the eighth). And Boise State coach Gary Van Tol has completed his staff by hiring former major leaguer Travis Buck as his bench coach. Buck was a first-round draft pick of Oakland in 2005 and played four seasons with the A’s, followed by one in Cleveland and one in Houston.

This Day In Sports…August 21, 1982:

One of the pitchers who made saves a thing, Milwaukee Brewers reliever Rollie Fingers, becomes the first player in major league history to record 300 career saves in a 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners. Fingers, sporting his trademark handlebar moustache, had emerged as one of baseball’s premier relievers in the 1970’s while helping the Oakland A’s to three straight World Series championships. As a Brewer, he won both the American League Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player honor in 1981. Fingers was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)