The always-anticipated Sports Illustrated preseason Top 25 is out, and Boise State gets in under the wire at No. 25. The SI synopsis pretty much nails a key to the season: “Under new coordinator Andy Avalos (promoted from linebackers coach this winter), the Broncos defense will field an inexperienced line and secondary. A year ago, Boise State’s defense ranked 12th in the FBS in total defense—with 31 turnovers gained, good for fifth in the FBS—but it struggled at times against the run, a weakness this year’s unit will need to shore up before facing the likes of New Mexico and Air Force, two option offenses that were able to fleece the Broncos in 2015.” Louisiana-Lafayette is Boise State’s focus now, but the Lobos and Falcons are sitting out there like kinks in the neck. The flies in the ointment.
There is one Mountain West team ranked higher than the Broncos—San Diego State checks in at No. 24. The capsule: “Make no mistake about it, SDSU will run the ball until someone stops them. The skill positions are solid, but quarterback Christian Chapman must pose a threat in the passing game if the Aztecs want to make it to a New Year’s Six bowl.” Yeah, the QB spot is kind of important. The other Group of 5 team on SI’s list is Houston, all the way up at No. 8.
SI ranks Washington State No. 18, but appears to include an asterisk. The Cougars’ offensive summary: “All-league quarterback Luke Falk has plenty of weapons surrounding him but is depending on a pair of new starters to protect his blindside, likely sophomore Andre Dillard at left tackle and Cody O’Connell at left guard. The Cougars offensive line gave up among the most sacks in the FBS last season (3.15 per game), including one that forced Falk to miss the blowout regular-season finale loss at rival Washington due to a concussion.” Will Boise State’s new defensive linemen be ready to introduce themselves a month from now? And how about Washington at No. 7? These are bloated expectations. I mean, that would be a huge leap for Coach Pete this year.
What is former Boise State quarterback Ryan Finley doing for his summer vacation? It’s no vacation. Finley, of course, landed at North Carolina State as a graduate transfer, and now he’s competing with Jalan McLendon for the Tarheels’ starting spot. He’s thriving with his knowledge of former Bronco offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz’s offense. “He’s been like an extension of Coach Drinkwitz,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said in an Andrea Adelson story at ESPN.com. “A lot of players have commented on that, how he goes in there and talks to them: ‘Here’s what this signal is, hey, here’s what we want to do here, here’s my read, here’s what I’m going to do’ so they understand, and I think there’s a comfort in that.” Finley is listed as a junior, so he hasn’t received a medical redshirt for the 2015 season yet.
Idaho fall camp continues with the season opener looming three weeks from tonight. Starting quarterback Matt Linehan has missed time due to injury in each of his first two seasons, so it’s crucial that the Vandals develop a solid backup. They thought it was going to be Jake Luton again, but he left the program two months ago. So the torch has been passed to former Coeur d’Alene standout Gunnar Amos. He has to be ready to live up to his name. While Linehan was sidelined for spring football, the lion’s share of the reps went to Luton, so Amos has to ramp up quickly. He’s a 21-year-old redshirt freshman—he graduated from Coeur d’Alene in 2014 and grayshirted that fall. Amos, who backed up one-time Idaho quarterback Chad Chalich as a sophomore with the Vikings, racked up 6,146 yards of total offense in his career.
Kristin Armstrong turns 43 years old today. It is well-documented that the Boisean is the oldest cyclist ever to win an Olympic gold medal after her victory in the women’s time trial yesterday in Rio. And there’s more history. Armstrong is America’s most decorated Olympic cyclist as the owner of three of the five U.S. gold medals in 104 years of Olympic cycling. She and Bonnie Blair are the only women in history to win the same event in three consecutive Olympics (Blair won the 500-meters speed skating event at Calgary in 1988, Albertville in 1992 and Lillehammer in 1994).
The most off-the-wall side story from yesterday: Barry Bonds, the controversial all-time home runs leader who has become a big supporter of women’s cycling since his baseball career ended, posted a photo of Armstrong crossing the finish line on Instagram with the caption, “Congratulations Kristin Armstrong 3 time gold medalist.” Is it awkward to have an association with Bonds? “I look at him as a tremendous adviser,” Armstrong told ESPN The Magazine of her relationship to Bonds. “The talks he has given to the team about upping your game have been tremendous. I know people have questions, but with what he’s given our team, I don’t find it relevant.”
Later in the day yesterday, shooter Will Brown of Twin Falls competed in the 50-meter free pistol. Brown placed 10th after finishing 12th in the 10-meter air pistol event last Saturday. Graham DeLaet begins his Olympic experience today. It’s something the former Boise State star has unabashedly looked forward to. DeLaet will be joined by David Hearn in the men’s 72-hole stroke play. This will be DeLaet’s first competitive round since his discouraging exit from the RBC Canadian Open two weeks ago. Back home on the PGA Tour, Tyler Aldridge and Troy Merritt begin play today at the John Deere Classic near Chicago.
It’s off to Costa Rica today for the Boise State men’s basketball team, its first offseason foreign venture since a Labor Day weekend trip to Canada in 2007. Bronco coach Leon Rice hopes the trip will steel his young team’s nerves and help it get through some early-season adventures in the U.S. In a two-week stretch they’ll play in the Charleston Classic, at home versus SMU, and on the road at Oregon. The Boise State group will spend its downtime diving into the culture and history of the Central American country. The final destination will be the coastal town of Playa Herradura. “Playa” means “beach.” Nice.
The Boise Hawks dug themselves an 8-0 hole last night at Memorial Stadium before showing signs of life. But Hillsboro’s lead left too big a hill for the Hawks to climb in an eventual 9-5 loss. The Hops struck for five runs in the second inning and three in the sixth. Boise answered with a four-run outburst in the bottom of the sixth, keyed by a two-run double off the bat of Wesley Jones. The rubber match of the three-game series between the Hawks and the Hops is tonight.
This Day In Sports…August 11, 1986, 30 years ago today:
In a 13-4 loss to San Francisco, the Cincinnati Reds’ 45-year-old player-manager Pete Rose, already baseball’s all-time hits leader, gets a double and four singles to break the National League record with his 10th five-hit game. Rose had been tied with Hall of Famers Max Carey and Fred Clarke, who each had nine five-hit games. Three nights later, Rose would collect his final major league hit, ending with 4,256.
(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.)