New Year’s Six Bowl prospects from afar

On December 4, the College Football Playoff committee will have five Group of 5 champions to choose from to decide one of the New Year’s Six Bowl berths. That has to be hammered home. It doesn’t matter if a team is 11-1 but is not a league champ. That’s why Boise State’s going to be doing some scoreboard watching after its 30-28 loss at Wyoming. For the Broncos, it’s always about winning the games you’re supposed to win, which they did not do in Laramie. I harken back to what USA Today’s Paul Myerberg wrote after he covered the Washington State game in September: “Boise State will almost certainly be favored in every game remaining on its schedule, an unintimidating hodgepodge of also-rans and borderline bowl participants.” Of course, the Cowboys didn’t fit that description.

Western Michigan appears to be in control right now. But if WMU is still undefeated December 4, it may not be over, depending on who wins the Mountain West. Dr. Jerry Palm said yesterday on KTIK he thinks a 12-1 San Diego State team that’s an MW champion would jump Western Michigan in the committee’s collective mind. The “other Broncos” are actually on ESPN2 tonight against Ball State. Their final game of the regular season is against Toledo, which appears to be the team with the best chance to beat them. The biggest threat from the AAC may now be South Florida, but the Bulls are 7-2. No Conference USA team has fewer than three losses. The Sun Belt will say, “Don’t forget about us.” Troy is 7-1, and its only loss was by six points to No. 3 Clemson. The Trojans have to be considered if they win out.

Former Boise State coach Dan Hawkins was a veritable fountain of interesting thoughts yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk. Turnovers were his main theme. Hawkins talked specifically about Jeremy McNichols’ lost fumble on Boise State’s first drive. Hawk said it’s imperative that players know there are consequences. He told the story of the Wyoming game in 2002, and how leading into it he was drilling Brock Forsey on ball security. “Next time you put it on the ground, you’re going to be standing next to me on the sideline,” recalled Hawk. “He put it on the ground, and there he was.” It’s important to note that Forsey came back in and peeled off a 58-yard run that was key in putting away a 35-13 win in Laramie. To be fair, let’s note that McNichols was replaced by Alexander Mattison on the Broncos’ next possession.

Hawkins has been in this spot before, so he can relate to what Boise State has to do now. “This is when you really find out where your culture and character really is,” he said. “A weak mind and a weak soul is going to fold in November.” But for Bronco nation, he had this: “Hey, you’re 7-1. If you could trade with a lot of schools in America, you wouldn’t do it.”

The program still has respect. Boise State coach Bryan Harsin (who happens to turn 40 today) was named to the Dodd Trophy Midseason List yesterday. Harsin has a 28-7 overall record in 3½ seasons with the Broncos. He was named a Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award candidate a couple weeks ago. Also, senior Sean Wale is on the candidate list for the Ray Guy Award, given annually to the nation’s top punter. Wale, who was also named a William V. Campbell Trophy (“academic Heisman”) semifinalist, has been one of the Broncos’ few special teams beacons as a senior, ranking 14th in the country with a 45.0 yards-per-punt average.

San Jose State visits the blue turf Friday night for an ESPN2 matchup, presumably with athletic director Gene Bleymaier in tow. Bleymaier, who spent 29 years as Boise State’s AD, had to be dismayed by the crowd that showed up for the Spartans’ 30-24 win over UNLV Saturday night. It was a shockingly small crowd, even by SJSU standards. Attendance was announced at 15,733, but the stands were barely dotted with fans (and I do mean dotted). It’s an ongoing battle for the Spartans, who reside at the bottom of the major sports totem pole in a very crowded Bay Area sports scene. They’re no doubt looking forward to the energy Albertsons Stadium will provide.

This is the Tyrone Crawford the Dallas Cowboys signed up for when they drafted him in the third round in 2012. The Cowboys are now rolling after Sunday night’s 29-23 overtime victory against Philadelphia, and the table is set for the former Boise State star to be a defensive centerpiece. Crawford logged a career-high six tackles and season-high 1.5 sacks in the win, adding a fumble recovery to help spur Dallas’ fourth-quarter rally. The guy the Cowboys have always wanted to be a centerpiece, former Bronco Orlando Scandrick, finally returned from nearly a month’s worth of hamstring problems to contribute three tackles, including a big sack of Eagles rookie phenom Carson Wentz in the final minute of regulation.

More weekend catch-up—former Boise State star Graham DeLaet was one shot off the lead entering the final round Sanderson Farms Championship, seeking his first PGA Tour win in Jackson, MS. But it was one of those Sundays for DeLaet, who shot an even-par 72 and finished in a tie for eighth. He was three-under at the turn and took the lead before a double-bogey on No. 11 and a bogey on 12. Still, it equaled his best result since last March, and it was worth $121,800. Fellow former Bronco Troy Merritt was solid through the weekend, tying for 11th and making $96,600.

As a drama-filled Game 6 of the World Series approaches tonight in Cleveland, here’s a “Did you know?” for you. Did you know that Cubs manager Joe Maddon once spent some quality time wearing a Boise Hawks uniform? Maddon was a roving minor league hitting instructor in the Angels organization from 1987-93 and was assigned to the Hawks for a period of time in 1990, the season the club won its first divisional championship. Maddon coached first base while he was here, and he was in the middle of the only brawl I’ve ever seen at Memorial Stadium (helping break it up, I trust). I recall Hawks first baseman J.R. Phillips, a future major leaguer, emerging with a bloodied nose. Maddon also managed at Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League. He seems very mellow these days, even during this historic, uber-intense Series.

On the hoops front, College of Idaho is tonight’s exhibition foe for Pac-12 power Arizona in Tucson. The Wildcats came in at No. 10 yesterday in the AP Preseason Poll. Regardless of what happens in the McHale Center, the Coyotes will come home with some invaluable experience. And former Boise State guard Montigo Alford will give it a shot in the D-League after being drafted in the fourth round Sunday by the Reno Bighorns. Alford averaged 4.1 points per game as a senior last season for the Broncos. The challenge in making the Reno roster would be his height at the pro level (5-9); the plus would be his craftiness.

It’s win-or-go-home time for the Boise State women’s soccer team, which qualified as the sixth and final seed last week in the Mountain West Tournament. The Broncos play tonight in San Diego against third-seeded host San Diego State. Three Boise State standouts were honored by the conference yesterday, highlighted by true freshman Raimee Sherle out of Rocky Mountain, named the MW Newcomer of the Year. Sherle was also first-team All-Mountain West, joined by Bronco goalkeeper Janelle Flores. Mikayla Schachtell earned a spot on the MW all-newcomer team.

This Day In Sports…November 1, 1996, 20 years ago today:

Four weeks after an exhibition game in the BSU Pavilion, Shaquille O’Neal makes his official debut with the L.A. Lakers in a 96-82 win over Phoenix. O’Neal scored 23 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. He had been with the Orlando Magic since entering the NBA in 1992, seven months after his final collegiate game—an LSU loss to Indiana at the Pavilion in the NCAA Tournament.

(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.)