What’s the latest on Big 12 expansion? What—you don’t care anymore? Boise State has already been dismissed from class, but Colorado State is in the pool of 11 or 12 remaining candidates (if expansion happens at all). Conference presidents and chancellors are scheduled to meet on Monday, at which time expansion is certain to be a topic. They could announce a plan to expand (without naming names), announce that the league will stay put, or prolong the agony for those wanting to get in. There are so many factors the Big 12 brass will consider, but football value is still at or near the top of the list. It’s the most visible qualification, anyway. That’s why the game on the blue turf Saturday night can be seen as very important to Colorado State.
What CSU brings to the table in the money sport is a beautiful new 41,200-seat on-campus stadiu, set to open next season. But what it really needs to bring is wins. The Rams are trying to build that football equity, and it ain’t easy. Since a streak of 10 straight winning seasons ended in 2003, CSU has had one great year, when it went 10-3 in 2014 under Jim McElwain, now the coach at Florida. There have been seven losing seasons in the past 12 years, and the Rams have dropped 18 straight games to ranked teams dating back to 2002.
In the “Big 12 expansion candidate tracker: Week 6” from Max Olson at ESPN.com, we see that BYU, next Thursday’s guest in Albertsons Stadium, is his Team of the Week after pinning a 31-14 loss on Michigan State. And the Cougars’ Jamaal Williams is Olson’s Player of the Week from the candidate schools after rushing for 163 yards and two touchdowns against the Spartans. Olson also has “Big 12 Expansion weekly standings,” based on football performance. Houston still leads his list, followed by South Florida (a surprising 5-1), Air Force and BYU. Colorado State is No. 9 despite its 31-24 win over Utah State last week.
Boise State’s sack differential so far this year is striking. The triple-option that New Mexico runs limits a defense’s pass rush opportunities, but the Broncos were still able to post three more sacks last Friday night. They now have 20 sacks on the season—their average of 4.0 per game is second in the country. Then there’s the other side of the ball. The Boise State offensive line has circled the wagons around quarterback Brett Rypien, allowing just four sacks this season. “I think they’ve been really solid,” said coach Bryan Harsin of his O-line. That’s 20 sacks on defense and four on offense in five games. Over a 13-game season last year, the Boise State defense made 33 sacks—the offense allowed 31.
Yesterday was Mountain West Media Day for basketball, and that means the conference’s preseason poll is out. After three straight years as the No. 2 preseason pick, Boise State is tabbed to finish fifth, while San Diego State garnered 23 of 26 first-place votes as the favorite to win the title. Nevada, who took a quantum leap last winter under new coach Eric Musselman, is second in the media voting, followed by New Mexico and Fresno State, the upset winner in the Mountain West Tournament last March.
The Broncos were probably expecting to be rated lower, considering they lost three veteran producers off last season’s squad (James Webb III, Anthony Drmic and Mikey Thompson). “We’re going to be underdogs this season,” senior Nick Duncan said at the BAA luncheon Monday, making it clear he and his teammates embrace that role. There are no Broncos on the preseason All-Mountain West team, nor did they draw any mention among the newcomers. Fans need an orientation with this group, and they can get one Saturday afternoon at 4:15 in Bronco Gym.
The Cascade Conference preseason poll also rolled out yesterday, and coaches in the league apparently see the Coyotes’ 17-13 campaign last season as an aberration. The Yotes return four starters and seven of their top eight scorers and have been tabbed the favorites to win the Cascade championship. Joey Nebeker, the former Melba Mustang who began his college career at Boise State, is already a senior. Nebeker averaged 20.7 points per game last season on his way to NAIA All-America honors.
The Safeway Open kicks off the 2016-17 PGA Tour season today in Napa, CA, and former Boise State stars Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt are both in the field. DeLaet is hoping to bounce back from a disappointing season that saw him finish 120th in the FedExCup standings and earn $908,557 (if you can be disappointed about that). DeLaet spent most of the season with a massive beard—he is clean-shaven now. Merritt’s season was similar but not necessarily disappointing. He was 121st in the standings and picked up $922,707 in winnings. And now, it’s Merritt who’s sporting a beard.
Idaho Steelheads coach Neil Graham is doing the standard roster shuffle in advance of Opening Night tomorrow against the Utah Grizzlies in West Valley City. Forwards Travis Ewanyk and Caleb Herbert and defenseman Brandon Anselmini have all joined the Steelheads, and all have AHL-level pedigrees. Ewanyk, a former third-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers, has played three AHL seasons. Herbert and Anselmini are on loan from the Steelies’ AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars.
Back to football: Idaho State, fresh off a bye week, travels to Northern Arizona Saturday. Things should be a bit more conventional for the Bengal defense in this game. Two weeks ago ISU fell 45-20 at Portland State as the Vikings rushed for 531 yards—and passed for zero. The Bengals have a chance on Saturday, though; the Lumberjacks are 2-4 on the season and 1-2 in Big Sky play. Also, work appears to be underway on the future Big Sky spreadsheet. The Idaho State Journal’s Madison Guernsey tweeted yesterday that ISU athletic director Jeff Tingey said the Bengals will host Idaho in 2018 and will play in Moscow in 2019.
This Day In Sports…October 13, 1979:
Boise State, now on a roll after a 9-7 Opening Night loss to Long Beach State, visits the Kibbie Dome and wins its fifth straight game in a 41-17 romp past Idaho. Quarterback Joe Aliotti was 20-of-24 for a completion percentage of 83 percent, a Bronco record that would stand for 23 years. BSU would go on to finish 10-1 overall and 7-0 in the Big Sky, but would stay home for the Division I-AA Playoffs. The Broncos were ineligible for the Big Sky championship and the postseason while on probation for an illegal scouting incident the previous season.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)