2016 predictions to the decimal point

ESPN recently released its first Football Power Index for 2016, and it projects Boise State’s record this season. ESPN recently released its first Football Power Index for 2016. How do they figure that thing up? If you really want to know, here goes: “The FPI is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance going forward for the rest of the season. FPI represents how many points above or below average a team is. Projected results are based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date, and the remaining schedule.” Ratings and projections update daily during the season. Under the formula, Boise State is projected to have the fifth-best record in the country, 10.4 wins and 2.4 losses. That would approach the unspoken goal of Bronco quarterback Brett Rypien, who said after last Saturday’s Blue Orange Game that the team’s motivation this year is “9-4, for sure” (its 2015 record).

San Diego State is next on the FPI list out of the Mountain West at 8.9-3.8, followed by Air Force at 8.4-3.8. There’s a big drop-off among MW teams after that. Good news for Idaho—the Vandals are predicted to go 5.0-7.0. If they can squeeze one more win out of the recipe, they’ll be going to a bowl game. And a bowl berth would no doubt affect the Vandals’ thoughts of FBS independence versus a move to the Big Sky when they have to leave the Sun Belt after the 2017 season.

Special teams are mostly off the radar during spring football, so let’s pay them a visit as a postscript to Boise State’s session. Any doubt who the Broncos’ first-team punter is? Sean Wale, who gained steam as the season progressed last fall, saw his first two punts of the Blue & Orange Game cover 49 and 48 yards with impressive hang time—the first one was downed at the one-yard line. Wale averaged 42.0 yards per punt each of the last two seasons, but he got much more loft on his kicks as a junior than he did as a sophomore.

Coaches allowed kicker Tyler Rausa to attempt field goals from long distance in last week’s game—he had a 49-yarder that was tipped, and a 54-yard try that was just short. We know the All-Mountain West senior and Lou Groza Award semi-finalist is capable from 50-plus, though. He connected from 51 yards out in the 56-14 rout of Virginia last September, Boise State’s longest field goal in six years. There were so many offensive and defensive superlatives flying around after the Poinsettia Bowl last December that Rausa’s accomplishments were lost in the shuffle. He broke the BSU school record last year with 25 field goals and eclipsed the Mountain West mark for points in a season by a kicker with 134.

Oregon State plays its spring game Saturday afternoon, with the quarterback position at the forefront. You could see Darell Garretson calling signals in September when Boise State faces OSU at Reser Stadium. Garretson transferred from Utah State, where he burned his redshirt year in a 34-23 loss to the Broncos in Logan in 2013. He was unveiled at the Beavers’ scrimmage in Hillsboro last Saturday and went 7-of-15 for 66 yards. Sophomore Marcus McMaryion is the only returning quarterback who took a snap for the Beavers last season. Seth Collins, who was set to transfer to Northern Illinois, now plans to return to the OSU program. But Collins is moving to wide receiver.

The Idaho Steelheads open the Kelly Cup Playoffs tonight against an old nemesis. Steve Martinson coaches the defending ECHL champion Allen Americans, just as he did the San Diego Gulls when the Steelheads played their very first game against them in Boise in 1997. The Steelies won that night, but Martinson and the Gulls often got Idaho’s gourd over eight seasons of competition. He transitioned Allen from the now-defunct Central Hockey League to the ECHL last season, and then won the Kelly Cup. As for the Steelheads, what looked like a forgettable campaign four months ago now has a lot of playoff promise. They have the longest active streak of playoff appearances in the ECHL at 13 seasons.

Graham DeLaet and Tyler Aldridge return to PGA Tour action today when the RBC Heritage tees off at Hilton Head, SC. DeLaet has made the cut in his past four tournaments, including a tie for fifth at the Valspar Championship and a tie for 11th at the Puerto Rico Open last month. His new photo is up on his profile at PGATour.com, showing his massive beard (I don’t like the look, but that’s just me). Aldridge will be playing his first event since the Puerto Rico Open three weeks ago, when he tied for 62nd.

Now-former Idaho Stampede play-by-play man Mark Snider points out that Bakersfield has something Boise doesn’t have: D-League hope. I mentioned the other day that the Jam are moving to Prescott Valley, AZ, so the Phoenix Suns have can them nearby. The difference between that and the Stampede’s departure is that Bakersfield’s former owners say they will buy a new expansion team and play in the San Joaquin Valley city next season. The D-League says it’s going to help them. Boise is toast as far as the league is concerned.

As I watched Kobe Bryant play his final game last night (and score 60 points—60— in the Lakers’ 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz), my mind rewound to the BSU Pavilion almost 20 years ago. The Lakers played an exhibition game against the Seattle Supersonics in October, 1996. I don’t even remember who won, but I do remember Bryant. He didn’t suit up, but he was there. I saw him leaning against a wall in a hallway leading to the locker room, looking all of his 18 years in a sweater and slacks. I thought to myself, “There’s that Kobe Bryant kid.” Now, 33,583 points later, it’s over. Back to the sweater and the slacks.

The 39th Race To Robie Creek unfolds Saturday, starting at noon in Fort Boise Park and winding over Aldape Summit. Looks like it’ll be great running weather—mostly sunny with a high of 67. The theme this year is “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” or, “The Soul Toad Tribute to Motown.” As the event’s website says, “The Rocky Canyon Soul toads strongly encourage all participants to wear bell-bottom pants and platform running shoes.” Dear Robie race committee: I request my favorite Motown song of all-time, “I Was Made To Love To Her” by Stevie Wonder.

This Day In Sports… April 14, 1966:

The birthday of one of the great pitchers of the past 30 years. Greg Maddux, who spent most of his career with the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves, was the first pitcher in major league history to win four consecutive Cy Young Awards (1992-95). Maddux is also the only player to win 15 games in 17 straight seasons, and the only one to log over 300 victories and 3,000 strikeouts in his career while issuing fewer than 1,000 walks. The 355-game winner was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. Greg Maddux…50 years old today.

(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.)