The polls matter this year—at least as an indicator—with Boise State and UCF theoretically neck-and-neck as favorites for the Group of 5’s New Year’s Six bowl berth. Of course, a loss by either the Broncos or Knights would render them irrelevant for a while. Yesterday the rankings provided the perfect setup this week, as Boise State was No. 19 in the Coaches Poll and UCF No. 20. The two teams were flip-flopped in the same spots in the AP Poll. And as of this Saturday, the Broncos and Knights will have a common opponent. UCF racked Connecticut 56-17 last Thursday, and Boise State is a 31-point favorite over UConn on the blue turf.
Kyle Bonagura and Mitch Sherman still predict Boise State to be a New Year’s Six bowl team in ESPN’s new projections. It’s the team Bonagura matches the Broncos against that creates some intrigue. How about a Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day between the Broncos and Washington? Bryan Harsin versus Chris Petersen on the field where together they took down Oklahoma in historic fashion 12 years ago—and TCU three seasons later. Each coach would be completing his fifth season since the fork in the road in December of 2013. Also, Brett Rypien versus Jake Browning in the last career go-round for each. This is all so premature. We only talk about it because those guys are.
If Jalen Walker is indeed starting at cornerback for Boise State against UConn in place of Avery Williams, he has been there and done that. Last December it was a higher-stakes situation when Tyler Horton was unable to go against Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl. Walker, a redshirt freshman at the time, was handed the responsibility of helping slow down the Ducks, and he responded with six tackles, one for a loss. Walker had the Broncos’ third and final fumble recovery in the fourth quarter last Saturday after Williams was injured at Troy. Kekaula Kaniho, a proven ballhawk, would also seem capable of playing corner, as versatile as he’s been as a nickel. If Williams can’t play this week, the Broncos also have to fill his role as a punt returner. Look for CT Thomas in that role, although I wonder about Khalil Shakir.
Boom: record two sacks and force a fumble that results in a touchdown, and you’re on the Ted Hendricks Award watch list. That probably isn’t exactly how it works, but It’s deserving recognition for Boise State’s Durrant Miles after his performance at Troy. I place Miles first in this paragraph so he doesn’t get overshadowed—again—by Horton and Rypien. Horton, the King of Chaos, has now garnered Bronko Nagurski Trophy National Defensive Player of the Week honors for his two scoop-and-scores at Troy. Rypien has also been recognized as one of eight Manning Award “Stars of the Week” after his 305-yard, four-touchdown performance in the opener.
There’s been the expected water cooler discussion about what sapped the mojo out of the Boise State offense in the second half at Troy. But if that’s the worst thing that can happen after a 36-point road win over a team coming off an 11-2 season, well, okay. That why they created film rooms. It’s a good thing the Broncos have something to zero in on this week, actually. The Troy defense held Boise State to 112 second-half yards, with Rypien going 4-for-9 for 29 yards. The running game needs to produce in general after netting just 111 yards and 3.8 per carry for the game. But that was clearly not the focal point of the game plan against the Trojans. The Broncos did what they had to do. Now they look for 60 minutes versus UConn.
BYU has promptly added another marquee game to Boise State’s 2018 home schedule. To be fair, the November 3 matchup on the blue turf already was, but it sure looks like it’ll have more juice now. The Cougars took down Arizona 28-23 last Saturday in Tucson, and it was a complete effort on BYU’s part, starting with quarterback Tanner Mangum. The Eagle High grad erased a lot of pain from 2017—mental and physical—by throwing for 209 yards and a touchdown and going turnover-free while leading three game-turning TD drives in the third quarter. A win over Cal in Provo this Saturday would be huge. Boise State has BYU to thank for relegating the UConn game this week to ESPNU; the Cougars and Bears will get the late-night ESPN2 slot.
BYU’s sudden surge has to help Boise State season ticket sales this week, which are already above the 2017 number (and that’s saying something in this day and age). The home schedule is solid, and fans have three days left to get season tix. As of yesterday, the count was at 17,822 after a total of 17,633 last year. That’s still about 3500 below the Broncos’ 2015 number, but at least the trend has been reversed.
There are always surprises in the Mountain West. One of them this year appears to be Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors’ 59-41 win over Navy last Saturday night showed that its season-opening victory at Colorado State was no fluke. The problem for CSU is, the Rams’ 45-13 loss to Colorado also demonstrates their game against UH was no fluke. The MW went 0-5 versus the Power 5 last week, and only Utah State came close in its 38-31 loss at Michigan State. It’s another one of those seasons, it appears. The Mountain West has six games this week against the Power 5. The best chance at a victory appears to lie with Fresno State at Minnesota, although maybe Nevada could prove its 72-point night against Portland State wasn’t a mirage when the Wolf Pack visits Vanderbilt.
RayJ Dennis came all the way from the Chicago area to visit Boise State over the weekend as he was sorting through about 20 Division I basketball scholarship offers. The 6-2, 170-pound guard must have liked it, as he tweeted yesterday that he is “110% committed” to the Broncos. And there wasn’t even a game on the blue turf to add sizzle to his trip. Dennis averaged 17.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists last season for Oswego East High School in Oswego, IL. He is coach Leon Rice’s first commit of the 2019 class.
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September 5, 1983: On Monday Night Football, Redskin’ wide receiver Alvin Garrett uses a herky-jerky maneuver to get a first down against the Cowboys. On the replay, Howard Cosell remarks, “That little monkey gets loose, doesn’t he?” The apparent comparison of Garrett, an African American, to a primate got Cosell in a heap of trouble. However video evidence surfaced of Cosell using “little monkey” to describe white players as well. The incident wore on Cosell as the season progressed. By the end of the year, Cosell was so bitter with football and all sports that he resigned from the ABC booth.
(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.)