Prognostications proliferate

You’ll probably know by the time you read this how the Mountain West Preseason Polls went. You’ll probably know by the time you read this how the Mountain West Preseason Polls and all-conference teams went. I’m headed down to Las Vegas to join in on Mountain West Media Days (the column will return Friday), so I’ll lean on my Sunday Sports Extra info today. We looked at four of the major college football preseason publications, Lindy’s, Athlon, Phil Steele and ESPN The Magazine. All four had Boise State winning the Mountain West this season. Two of the magazines, Lindy’s and Athlon, had the Broncos in the Top 25 nationally (Nos. 22 and 25, respectively), while Phil Steele tabbed Boise State at No. 30 and ESPN the Mag No. 31. The holdback seems to be that the Broncos are breaking in a new quarterback. And, of course, there’s news (or non-news) on one of the candidates today. More below.

Before we move on, here’s the “what they’re saying” on the other two NCAA in-state schools. Idaho, picked to finish last in the Sun Belt preseason coaches poll, also got that designation from ESPN The Magazine. Athlon predicts a 10th-place finish for the Vandals, Phil Steele has them ninth, and Lindy’s eighth. Nationally, the prognostications range from No. 119 to No. 125. There are 128 schools in the FBS this year.

The only one of the four magazines that delves into the FCS is Athlon, and it has Idaho State at No. 18 in its preseason rankings. Athlon also predicts that ISU will make the FCS Playoffs—for the first time in 32 years. The synopsis: “After a breakthrough season for a program that has been a Big Sky cellar-dweller, the Bengals must replace record-setting quarterback Justin Arias (4,076 yards, 38 touchdowns in 2014). But Arias’ replacement will be able to rely on big-time weapons in running back Xavier Finney and wide receiver Madison Mangum.” You’ll be hearing a lot about Mangum, the Timberline High grad, between now and September 18 when ISU visits the blue turf. The whole season, for that matter.

As for that Boise State quarterback in the news, it’s obviously Ryan Finley. The sophomore’s pretrial court date was pushed back again yesterday—all the way to September 28. At look at your schedule card shows that to be the Monday after the trip to Virginia for the fourth game of the season. That will be more than five months after Finley’s April 24 arrest. What that means now is anybody’s guess. Does coach Bryan Harsin wait until the legal process plays out before deciding on a suspension for Finley? The doubters will say Finley’s situation has been manipulated to allow him to play against Washington September 4. You’d expect Harsin to dispute that notion.

There’s some Mountain West information already out there, including the preseason depth charts from the conference media guide. Finley is listed first at QB but has that big “OR” next to his name, as do the guys following him, Tommy Stuart, Alex Ogle and Brett Rypien. As much as sentiment is in Rypien’s corner, Harsin always seems to remind media and fans of Stuart and his intangibles. Stuart, the sophomore from Baltimore, is only 5-11. But he has the “it” factor, according to the staff.

The quarterback position is going to be a key storyline at Mountain West Media Days. Only four of the conference’s 12 teams have returning starters: Chuckie Keeton at Utah State, Blake Decker at UNLV, Lamar Jordan at New Mexico, and Joe Gray at San Jose State. That’s it. And Keeton has a big asterisk attached to his name—he started only the first three games last year before being lost for the season with the second serious knee injury of his career.

A followup on my column item last Friday on the erosion of ESPN due to cord-cutting. Over-the-air TV may experience a renaissance as a result. “The antenna is playing a major role, and we’re seeing it play out in the Boise DMA,” says KTVB president and general manager Doug Armstrong. “Cable penetration is now down to only 20%, satellite is flat, and antenna-only is up to 31% of the market. Boise has one of the highest ‘antenna-only’ penetrations (31%) in the USA. Many Boise area households are deciding to bundle local HD signals (via antenna-only) with Netflix to get their television. By using an antenna, you don’t lose access to local news, network television programs, major network sports, Olympics, etc.”

How I see that affecting sports is this: when viewers are forced to subscribe to sports channels as part of cable and satellite packages, they tend to surf. And they may come across a live game and stick around for awhile. That’s how MAC football , for example, gets its exposure on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. When the passive sports fan decides to cut the cord, there’s no more of that surfing. Major sports on the networks satisfy their appetites. Down goes exposure for events that aren’t appointment viewing.

Eugene kept pickin’ away at the Boise Hawks last night, pulling away for a 9-5 victory at PK Park. It was another rough outing for Hawks starter Angel Lezama, who allowed six runs (four earned) over four innings and saw his ERA jump to 7.31. Boise, which actually led 5-2 midway through the third inning, got a 3-for-5 night from leadoff hitter Carlos Herrera. The Hawks did steal three more bases, increasing their Northwest League-leading total to 86. The three-game series against the Ems and former Hawks manager Gary Van Tol wraps up tonight.

This Day In Sports…July 28, 2009:

Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox sets a major league record by retiring 45 consecutive batters over a three-game stretch. The streak started when Buehrle retired the final man he faced against the Orioles 10 days earlier. Then, he became the 18th pitcher in big league history to throw a perfect game in a 5-0 win over Tampa Bay. Buehrle finished the record on this day by setting down the first 17 Minnesota Twins batters he faced. San Francisco’s Yusmeiro Petit would break the record by retiring 46 straight last August.

(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.)