Our tour of the five leading college football preview magazines continues today with ESPN’s, which can be confusing. The publication picks Boise State to win the Mountain West but has it No. 36 in its Football Power Index. That little nugget was left out of the ESPN.com feature last week that called the Broncos a sleeper for the College Football Playoff. It’s shocking how much ESPN’s FPI devalues the Group of 5 conferences. Yes, Boise State is the highest-ranked Group of 5 team. At No. 36? BYU is next at No. 44, then South Florida No. 45, and Houston at No. 47? Welcome to 2016, the year of the Great Divide. Maybe the huge financial gap is starting to be reflected on the field.
Back to Boise State’s prospects. Writes Carl Carchia, “After a ‘down’ year in 2015, the Broncos return eight offensive starters, restoring fans’ optimism. Anything but a New Year’s Six bowl will be unacceptable.” Oh boy. While pumping up the attributes of quarterback Brett Rypien, Carchia zeroes in on defensive concerns. He calls cornerback Jonathan Moxey the “X-factor” after making only two interceptions last year, and Carchia has the top position battle at defensive tackle between redshirt freshmen Matt Lochar and Sam Whitney and junior college transfer Daniel Auelua. The fact that all three will be making their collegiate debuts in 60 days tells you how much is up in the air.
Ed Cunningham surprisingly ranks Boise State fifth in his offensive line unit ranking. Cunningham cites right guard Steven Baggett, left guard Travis Averill and right tackle Mario Yakoo. Those three are returning starters. And although they aren’t set in stone (Auburn transfer Will Adams, for example, could challenge), the two open positions will tell the tale. Is Archie Lewis going to be the left tackle? Is Mason Hampton going to be the center? Is redshirt freshman Jon Molchon ready for prime time? If Cunningham is right, however, this could be a big year for the Broncos. Their myriad offensive weapons could really click if they’re fortified up front.
James Webb III made his debut in the Utah NBA Summer League last night for the Philadelphia 76ers entry. The former Boise State star scored 10 points and pulled down five rebounds in less than 17 minutes of floor time in the Sixers’ 102-94 loss to the Boston Celtics squad. But Webb also fouled out in that short span and went 1-for-6 from three-point range. His numbers were similar to those of No. 1 overall draft pick Ben Simmons, who logged 10 points and eight boards and missed all six of his threes.
There are things minor league box scores don’t tell you—things you have to see for yourself. The game I attended over the weekend was Saturday night’s sloppy 8-6 Hawks loss to Hillsboro, but what I saw of Wesley Jones that night was far from sloppy. You’ll see in the box score Jones went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, which is fine. But the 20-year-old Georgia native, a 31st-round draft pick of the Rockies in 2013, is a heckuva third baseman. What an arm. He bobbled one sharp grounder and still nailed the runner by two steps with a no-hop rope to first baseman Jacob Bosiokovic. The Hawks took two of three from Hillsboro over the weekend but lost last night in Spokane, 6-3.
The former Boise Hawk generating the most fireworks over the weekend might have been Welington Castillo of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Castillo blasted a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday night to give the D-Backs a 6-5 win over San Francisco. Hawks alum and Giants starter Jeff Samardzija and Bishop Kelly grad Josh Osich had each put a man on base before Castillo’s shot off Hunter Strickland. The homer was the 10th of the season for Castillo, who’s now batting .278 with 30 runs batted in. Elsewhere, Jeimer Candelario became the third former Hawk to make his major league debut this season. Candelario, who hit .281 with six home runs and 47 RBIs for Boise in 2012, went 1-for-4 while starting at third base Sunday in the Cubbies’ 14-3 loss to the Mets.
Graham DeLaet’s return to the PGA Tour over the weekend was lukewarm, but he did finish in the upper half at the Barracuda Championship, scoring 23 points in the Modified Stableford scoring format and tying for 29th. DeLaet had been sitting out for a month dealing with anxiety issues surrounding his game. Tyler Aldridge slipped to a tie for 63rd at the Barracuda Sunday after netting -4 points and finishing with 14. And Troy Merritt’s getting used to Europe the hard way. His first-ever tournament across the pond was wildly inconsistent, as he shot an 80 Sunday and ended up tied for 58th at the 100th French Open. Merritt collected 10,500 euros. We’ll see how that affects his quest to qualify for the Scottish Open and British Open.
It was looking like Brian Scott’s best night in a long time in the Sprint Cup Series, as he had been running as high as the top 20 at the Coke Zero 400 Saturday night. Then came the incredible 22-car pileup on lap 90 at Daytona International Speedway, and out went Scott. The result was a 37th-place finish that drops him down to 31st in the NASCAR driver standings, bumped out of the No. 30 spot by Tony Stewart.
Sam Querrey’s stunning upset of Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon Saturday did bring back memories of the 2013 Davis Cup quarterfinals at Taco Bell Arena. After the Bryan brothers had been surprised by Serbia in doubles the day before, Querrey was the last hope for the U.S. It would take a singles win over Djokovic to keep the Americans going. When Djokovic turned his ankle in the third game of the opening set, the Boise crowd through it might be able to will Querrey to victory, and he won that set 5-2. But 2½ hours later, Djokovic had gutted out a win and clinched the team match for the Serbs 2-5, 7-6, 6-1, 6-0. Djokovic won over another legion of fans that day.
Hockey starts with goaltending, and the Idaho Steelheads started building their 2016-17 roster over the weekend with signing of goalie Branden Komm to an ECHL contract. This will be Komm’s second season with the Steelheads after joining the club in January in a trade from South Carolina. He was acquired to back up Jack Campbell, and later Philippe Desrosiers. In nine regular-season appearances with the Steelies, Komm was 4-4-1 with a .911 save percentage 2.87 goals-against average.
Emmett native Megan Rolland has advanced to the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene. Rolland ran a 9:37.9 and finished fifth in her heat last night at Hayward Field. The former Humboldt State standout, whose personal coach is College of Idaho track and field coach Pat McCurry, will race in the final event of the night on Thursday’s schedule. Earlier that evening, Boise State’s Allie Ostrander will compete in the first round of the women’s 5,000-meters.
This Day In Sports…July 5, 2009:
In the greatest Wimbledon men’s final ever, Roger Federer notches his record 15th Grand Slam title in a five-set classic over a courageous Andy Roddick. The deciding set went to 16-14, the most games ever for the final set in a Grand Slam tournament. Federer, who had captured the French open crown five weeks earlier, broke the mark of 14 majors won by Pete Sampras. For Roddick, a member of the Idaho Sneakers of World Team Tennis as a 17-year-old in 2000, it was his third runnerup finish at Wimbledon.
(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.)