Just win, baby, and see what happens

With Boise State in the College Football Playoff rankings for the first time this season at No. 25, there is a path to a New Year’s Six Bowl if the Broncos can find a way to win out. While Utah State also debuted at No. 23, Cincinnati did, too, at No. 24. The Bearcats play at No. 11 UCF Saturday night. This is how it can happen for Boise State (or Utah State, for that matter). Both teams have to root for UCF to beat Cincinnati. That will slide the Bearcats back. A UCF loss Saturday wouldn’t knock the Knights far enough down in the rankings—and a Cincinnati win would put the Bearcats in the driver’s seat. Then the Broncos (or the Aggies) would have to hope for a UCF loss in the American conference championship. If you ain’t a champ, you don’t get the Group of 5’s New Year’s Six Bowl. There you go.

As we look back on Brett Rypien’s career, we see a checkered track record against New Mexico. One of the oddest games in Boise State history sticks out like a sore thumb. It was the shocking 31-24 loss to the Lobos on the blue turf in 2015, a game in which UNM went in as a 30.5-point underdog. The Broncos had to throw, and throw Rypien did. He put it up 75 times, breaking the old school record by 15 attempts, and completed 41 for 506 yards and two touchdowns. But the Lobos intercepted Rypien three times. He redeemed himself with a lights-out performance in 2016 in Albuquerque, throwing for 391 yards and five TDs with no picks in a 49-21 Boise State win. Rypien didn’t even play against New Mexico last year on the blue turf as he recovered from a hellacious hit that had knocked him out of the Washington State game the previous week.

Even without John Hightower, Boise State continues to spread the ball around, and the Broncos hope their well-chronicled wide receiver diversity can derail the Lobos defense Friday night. Hightower missed the Fresno State game, and his status for New Mexico is unknown. But Brett Rypien still connected with eight different pass-catchers last Friday night against the Bulldogs. The Broncos and Washington State are the only two teams in the nation to have eight or more receivers catch at least one pass in every game this season. (Truth be told, the Cougars are the only team in the country with at least nine players making a catch in every game.)

Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson each had five receptions versus Fresno State, while Khalil Shakir was a prime contributor with four grabs. Shakir made his first career touchdown reception, with the 49-yard fourth-quarter bomb from Rypien turning out to be the game-winner. (Shakir’s first college TD of any kind came on a two-yard run at Wyoming.) The tight end unit also stirred the pot in the Fresno State game. Chase Blakley was the recipient of a flea-flicker throw, ending with two catches for 17 yards. John Bates made only one grab, but it played a big part in the victory. The Broncos were still trailing 17-3 in the third quarter when, on a third-and-16, Bates busted a couple of tackles for a 15-yard gain. Boise State converted on fourth-and-one and finished the drive with their first touchdown of the night.

Saturday’s Idaho game at Florida is a makegood of sorts. The Vandals and Gators were set to kick off the season in 2014, but the evening began with a three-hour lightning delay. The contest then got underway, with Florida’s Bradley Njoku returning the opening kickoff 64 yards and Idaho’s Jayshawn Jordan making a touchdown-saving tackle. That would be the only play of the night, though. After another one-hour stoppage, the game was canceled. Idaho seniors Dorian Clark and David Ungerer were slated to make their collegiate debuts in the 2014 game—they now go back to Gainesville to wrap up their college careers.

Doug Martin has been decent recently in what has become an indecent season for the Oakland Raiders. Martin had 15 carries for 61 yards and three catches for 31 yards in the Raiders’ 20-6 loss to the L.A. Chargers last Sunday, Oakland’s eighth loss in nine games. In three starts since the injury to Marshawn Lynch, the Boise State product has rushed for 182 yards and has averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Also, Tanner Vallejo’s stock apparently keeps rising in Cleveland. After being sprinkled in on the Browns’ special teams in the early part of the season, Vallejo is now getting meaningful time on defense. He played 41 snaps in Cleveland’s 28-16 win over Atlanta, making six tackles, four of them solo. Vallejo received the Browns’ third-highest defensive grade of the week from Pro Football Focus.

One thing Boise State men’s hoops coach Leon Rice intimated in his biting postgame comments after last Saturday’s loss to Idaho State was the lack of floor leadership at crunch time. Rice didn’t mention his former go-to guy, Chandler Hutchison, by name. But he did say, “They were looking around for that guy to walk through the door. That’s what bothers me.” The natural guys to take charge—Friday night against Jackson State and beyond—would be veteran guards Justinian Jessup, Alex Hobbs and Marcus Dickinson, all juniors who have played a lot since they were true freshmen (especially Jessup). That trio combined to go 4-for-18 from the field against ISU.

The 205th Battle of Canyon County was definitely that last night. The United Heritage Mayors Cup will stay at College of Idaho for at least the next week after the Coyotes hung on for an 86-82 double-overtime defeat of Northwest Nazarene in Caldwell. Former Centennial standout Talon Pinckney hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 39 seconds left in the second OT to edge the Yotes ahead for good. That spoiled an incredible night by Adonis Arms, NNU’s junior college transfer from Milwaukee. Arms poured in 28 points, hitting two free throws at the end of regulation to force the first overtime, and converting a three-point play to force the second. C of I and the Nighthawks meet in the second leg of the series next Tuesday in Nampa.

Get used to Rapid City, Idaho Steelheads fans. The Steelheads and Rush play the first of 17 games against each other this season when they open a three-game series tonight in CenturyLink Arena. Idaho went 11-2 against the Rush last season and goes in with a four-game winning streak against the visitors, but the Steelies haven’t quite found their stride yet. Props go to Nolan Gluchowski, a 24-year-old defenseman from Wixom, MI. Gluchowski is kind of old for an ECHL rookie, but he just finished a four-year, 133-game college career at Saint Lawrence University last March. He scored his first professional goal for the Steelheads last Saturday against Tulsa.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI…partners in profitability!

November 14, 1998, 20 years ago today: A little over a year before finishing his college career against Boise State in the Humanitarian Bowl, Louisville quarterback Chris Redman records the highest pass efficiency rating for a game of at least 50 attempts in NCAA history at 199.2. Redman connected on 44-of-56 passes for 592 yards with six touchdowns and one interception in a 63-45 win at East Carolina. The yardage and touchdowns remain Louisville single-game records.

(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.)