Ever since the offseason began in January, there have been “way too early” top 25 lists and all the offshoots—all the way to the first official one, the preseason Coaches Poll that had Boise State at No. 22. The Broncos have been placed from the mid-teens to the mid-20’s, but I can’t recall any rankings that didn’t include them at all. Until now. The Sports Illustrated Preseason Top 25 has no Boise State, but it does have the “defending national champion,” UCF, at No. 17. Also out of the AAC, there’s Houston at No. 20. And from Conference USA, Florida Atlantic at No. 25. Oh well, so Boise State misses one. Cliché alert: It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. CBSSports.com released its rankings for all 129 FBS teams yesterday. The site tabs Boise State 21st and UCF 23rd.
ESPN.com laid out “the most important fall camp storyline for each Top 25 team” yesterday. For Boise State (which is No. 19 on ESPN’s preseason list): “Transition at receiver.” On paper, that makes sense. “The only real question mark for a veteran-laden team is receiver and the production vacated by 1,500-yard wideout Cedrick Wilson,” writes Joe Trotter. “The Broncos are hoping that promising sophomore Octavius Evans can help make up for that loss. He has already been turning heads this preseason.” All true. But the only real question mark? We go back to that tight end issue again. There’s so much responsibility at that position in the Boise State offense. One example would be Alec Dhanens, now gone. His occasional appearances at fullback were an important part of the Broncos’ running game.
With true freshman wide receiver Cam Thomas having not qualified academically, Boise State had a scholarship available. And this late in the game, there aren’t going to be any unexpected additions to the roster. So coach Bryan Harsin used it yesterday on a walk-on. These surprise announcements get more creative all the time. At a team meeting, Harsin held up a blue T-shirt with “I crushed every deck this summer” on the front, a reference to the traditional running of the upper deck at Albertsons Stadium (over and over and over). He was presenting it to punter Quinn Skillin, and then he turned it around to reveal “And all I got was this full-ride scholarship” on the back. Boom. Emotion. Skillin averaged 40.4 yards per punt last season, placing 18 boots inside the 20-yard line.
So far, talk of the Boise State running game has centered on returning 1,000-yard rusher Alexander Mattison and true freshman Andrew Van Buren. Robert Mahone, the presumed backup to Mattison, has turned into the tweener and has been somewhat anonymous. Fans clamored for more Mahone after he was the only running back to manage any appreciable yards in the thumping at the hands of Virginia last September. He then got the start in the next game at BYU, lost a fumble in the first quarter, and played sparingly the rest of the season. He did get 12 carries in the Las Vegas Bowl win over Oregon but managed only 40 yards. Mahone is a rejuvenated guy now, though. “He changed his body this summer,” said Harsin. “Now we’ll see what he brings to the backfield.”
I’m here to tell you, the former Boise State standout I’m rooting for tomorrow night when the NFL preseason hits is offensive lineman Rees Odhiambo as the Seahawks host the Indianapolis Colts. Last week, Odhiambo went to the U.S. Immigration Center in Tukwila, WA, to finish a journey that has lasted 18 years, since he moved to the Dallas area from Nairobi, Kenya, with his mother. The immigration officer asked Odhiambo a series of questions about his background. It ended with a test of his U.S. history knowledge. He passed. He gave his oath. And Rees Odhiambo, the first Kenyan-born player ever drafted into the NFL, is now a U.S. citizen. “It was a big, exciting moment for me just because I’ve been working hard for this since I got (to America),” Odhiambo told the Seattle P-I.
The STATS FCS Preseason Poll is out, and three Big Sky teams are ranked. One of them is not Idaho. Weber State is No. 8, Eastern Washington is No. 9 and Montana is No. 24. The Vandals are in the “others receiving votes” category, after conference mates Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. Why is Idaho picked to be a middling team despite being a new arrival from FBS football? The Vandals lost a lot off last year’s team, including quarterback Matt Linehan. Most of the receiving numbers have departed. The returning leader there is senior David Ungerer, with 555 yards and six touchdowns in his career. There is a wideout getting rave reviews early in fall camp, though: 6-2 junior college transfer James Cotton.
The San Diego State Aztecs have a place to play the next two years (following this season). But it’s going to cost ‘em. The San Diego City Council voted 6-1 Monday night to extend SDSU’s agreement with SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm) by two years, taking it through the 2020 season and delaying the wrecking ball. But the Aztecs will have to pay $1.1 million per year, plus net parking and concessions revenue, which totaled about $733,000 last year. It sounds like the whirlpool lease that the University of Hawaii is stuck with at Aloha Stadium. But the city of San Diego was seeking the least amount of fleecing of the taxpayer—it will still lose an estimated $5.6 million in fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021 on stadium operations.
On the pro front, the Boise Hawks had three representatives in the Northwest League-Pioneer League All Star Game last night in Grand Junction, CO. One, Daniel Jipping, was injured and didn’t play. Another, Terrin Vavra, just didn’t get into the game. Danny Edgeworth walked and scored a run in the NWL’s 13-10 loss to the Pioneers. The Hawks return to action tomorrow night against Spokane at Memorial Stadium. And Justin Parizek will be back for his sophomore year of sorts with the Idaho Steelheads. Parizek has agreed to terms with the Steelies after a rookie year that saw him ranked fourth among all ECHL rookies with 27 goals and second with 60 points in 64 games.
This Day In Sports…August 8, 1988, 30 years ago today:
The Chicago Cubs play the first night game in the history of Wrigley Field. And it was memorable for its frustration. The nocturnal debut against Philadelphia was rained out after 3½ innings, so the first official night game at Wrigley was the one the following night, when the Cubs beat the Mets, 6-4. It was the last ballpark to play day games only, and neighbors are still touchy about the lights. The Cubs are allowed 47 night “events” per year, including games, concerts and other happenings.
(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.)