Broncos are underdogs on the balance sheet

There’s one thing to remember when you consider that Boise State and Oregon are evenly-matched Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl. That is far from the case at the bank. The gap between the Power 5 and the Group of 5 is forever growing larger, as the Power 5 has banded together to essentially rule the FBS. The Ducks are Exhibit A. Since these teams last played in 2009, the Pac-12 Network and increased national TV contracts have led to an explosion of revenue for Power 5 schools. Oregon’s athletic budget is almost three times that of Boise State, $113 million to $39 million. Proportionately speaking, that’s a much larger crevasse than existed eight years ago. Along those lines, what was the Bronco men’s hoops team doing on the same floor as Oregon almost two weeks ago? Oh yeah. Never mind.

Headline: “Las Vegas Bowl wanted Oregon vs. Boise State so executives were ‘doing backflips’ when match-up was finalized.” That’s in the Eugene Register-Guard. Ironically, there’s a Coach Pete effect. Here’s was the trickle-down process that made it happen, as tracked by beat writer Steve Mims: On December 2, TCU’s loss to Oklahoma moved Washington up to No. 11 and into the Fiesta Bowl, thus pushing Arizona up to the Foster Farms Bowl and the Ducks into the Las Vegas Bowl. Later that night, the Broncos defeated Fresno State 17-14 to capture the Mountain West title and finalize the matchup with Oregon. “It was certainly attractive to us,” LV Bowl executive director John Saccenti said. “We thought we had a shot, and we were paying attention the whole time.”

It’s interesting how the Register-Guard frames the two-game history between Boise State and Oregon, featuring two Bronco wins. The 2009 game is what you’d expect—LeGarrette Blount’s punch is the single most-remembered moment (not his stat line: eight carries for minus-five yards). But the 2008 game? “The first meeting between the two schools was Boise State’s 37-32 win at Autzen Stadium, a game often remembered by Oregon fans for a late hit that knocked quarterback Jeremiah Masoli out of the game.” Not Kellen Moore’s 386 yards and three touchdowns in his first road start, or the fact that it was the Broncos’ first road win ever over what we then called BCS schools. Boise State linebacker Ellis Powers delivered the penalized blow on Masoli, and the Ducks were bitter bitter bitter.

Yesterday we updated former Boise State star Doug Martin’s situation in Tampa Bay. Not good at the moment. As far as the other two ex-Bronco running backs in the NFL go, one continues to be on the rise, and the other is still waiting to see the field. Jay Ajayi is now a focal point of the Philadelphia Eagles offense with MVP candidate Carson Wentz lost for the season with a torn ACL. Ajayi appears capable, having rushed for 307 yards and a touchdown with 6.9 yards per carry in the five games since coming over in a trade with Miami. Ajayi’s been averaging less than nine rushing attempts per game—expect that number to rise. McNichols just spent his second week on the 53-man roster of the San Francisco 49ers, but he has not yet been activated.

You could categorize tonight’s Boise State hoops matchup as a trap game. The visit by Grand Canyon, unfortunately, is drawing a “meh” from Bronco Nation. But this is a 7-2 team that’s favored to win the WAC championship (remember the WAC?). The Antelopes are coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons and come in with the conference’s Preseason Player of the Year, Josh Braun. GCU is coached by former Phoenix Suns standout Dan Majerle. I remember Majerle when he played at Central Michigan. (How old do I feel?) One potentially important factor: tonight’s test will be Grand Canyon’s first true road game this season.

One of the guys personifying Boise State’s deep bench is sophomore guard Marcus Dickinson, who’s been sporting a splint on the middle finger of his shooting hand the past five games. The splint stems from an injury Dickinson suffered while diving for a loose ball against Iowa State last month. He has gone 7-for-17 from three-point range since, though, canning a trio of treys last Saturday versus Sacramento State. “I think I’m shooting better with this on than I am without it,” quipped Dickinson on the KBOI postgame show after the win over the Hornets. He is one of the many hot hands carrying the Broncos right now, averaging better than 51 percent from both the field overall and beyond the arc.

Mountain West hoops has been taking two steps forward and one step back this season. Overall, the performance has been good. New Mexico, at 3-7, has not. The MW needs a strong UNM. The Lobos are a traditional conference power that plays before huge crowds in The Pit, but the natives are restless under new head coach Paul Weir. The issue right now is one of UNM’s few veterans, Sam Logwood, the team’s senior captain and leading scorer and rebounder. Logwood is taking “personal leave” from the program to contemplate his future, including whether he will continue playing for New Mexico. Logwood had announced he was transferring last March, but he changed his mind after Craig Neal was fired and Weir was hired. I’d be surprised if Logwood comes back.

The Idaho Steelheads will be looking for another strong start tonight when they host Rapid City in CenturyLink Arena. If they get one, then they can just stay the course—the Steelheads are 10-1 when leading after two periods. Idaho will be without rookie star Justin Parizek, who has been fined and suspended for one game by the ECHL “as a result of his actions at 2:56 of the second period” in the Steelheads’ win over Utah last Saturday night. Parizek wasn’t penalized for whatever he did, but it happened right after a fight.

Two other campus wraps: Boise State’s Curtis Weaver has added USA Today Freshman All-America honors to his portfolio. Weaver, a first-team All-Mountain West defensive lineman and the first freshman first-teamer on defense in conference history, was an honorable mention All-American (all classes) at SB Nation. Weaver leads the MW—and all FBS freshmen—with 9.0 sacks. Idaho punter Cade Coffey out of Lakeland High in Rathdrum is also a Freshman All-American after averaging 44.6 yards per punt this season. And the Bronco women’s gymnastics team will open the season next month with its highest preseason ranking in school history. Boise State is 13th in the NACGC/W Poll, matching its ranking at the end of the 2017 season.

This Day In Sports…December 13, 2007, 10 years ago today:

Twenty months in the making and 409 pages long, the Mitchell Report is released with its findings on the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. The investigation was headed by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, hired by commissioner Bud Selig to examine the infamous Steroids Era. There were more than 80 players implicated in the report, the most significant of which was one of baseball’s all-time great pitchers, Roger Clemens.

(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.)