The Bronco doubters quickly surface

No sooner do the first detailed odds for the 2015 college football season come out than there is movement. No sooner do the first detailed odds for the 2015 college football season come out than there is movement, and the most significant changes involve Boise State. You may have heard that the Broncos were one of only four teams in the country to be favored in every game this season when the Golden Nugget released its early lines last week. Well, they still are, but they’ve seen four of their odds slip—three of them noticeably. Bettors have been all over the Washington, BYU and Utah State games. Boise State is now favored by 8½ points over the Huskies (originally 13), by one point over the Cougars (originally six), and by six points over the Aggies (originally 9½). The spread against Colorado State has also dropped from 12 points to 10½. The Broncos are always looking for an extra chip on the shoulder. Voila.

So what’s not to like about Boise State for the people putting the money down? The Broncos went 12-2 last year, won the Fiesta Bowl, and return 18 starters. Well, beyond the fans of opponents just voting with their hearts, there’s probably the notion that Boise State is untested at quarterback and must prove it’s worthy at that position—be it Ryan Finley or one of the other three QBs. Fair enough. Then they see that Jay Ajayi, one of the nation’s most productive running backs, is gone, and they doubt he can be replaced. That’s where a double-barreled surprise may await in the form of Jeremy McNichols and Stanford transfer Kelsey Young. The Broncos feel pretty good about the running back spot.

Tumultuous times at Utah State. While the Aggies hope for the recovery of four teammates injured in an auto accident last Friday, they’ll now be missing a huge offensive presence this season. USU coach Matt Wells has dismissed star wide receiver and return man JoJo Natson for a violation of team rules. Natson, a senior who was an All-Mountain West selection as a punt returner last year, is 11th in Aggies history with 127 career receptions. He’s had several off-field issues the past couple of years.

UNLV has a unique issue to deal with—if Sen. Harry Reid has anything to say about it. With national controversy roiling over use of the Confederate flag, Reid wants UNLV to consider what he thinks is a Confederate symbol. Reid says the Nevada Board of Regents should discuss dropping UNLV’s nickname, the Rebels. “It’s up to the Board of Regents and I believe they should take a look at it,” said Reid last week. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the UNLV nickname and its mascot “drew heavily on the Confederacy in the early days of the university. The school founded in 1957 positioned itself as the Southern counterpart of the more established University of Nevada, Reno and its Wolf Pack moniker.” The look of the UNLV mascot has changed over the years as various protests of the Confederate tie-in have taken root.

CBSSports.com’s Jon Rothstein reports that Oregon will be visiting Taco Bell Arena December 12 to face Boise State. It’s a shot in the arm for the Broncos’ home non-conference schedule, where visits by Power 5 teams are rare. It’s a two-for-one deal, with Boise State visiting the Ducks in 2016-17 and again in 2017-18. Of course, the Broncos would prefer a home-and-home, but as difficult as it is to get power conference foes to Boise, Bronco fans have to like this. A lot. BSU has played on the funky floor at Matthew Knight Arena once, falling in the semifinals of the 2011 College Basketball Invitational 79-71. Oregon has played in Taco Bell Arena once, winning 61-58 in 1996.

Boise State’s Derrick Marks hasn’t landed an NBA free agent contract yet, but the summer league is the next best thing. Marks will play for the Philadelphia 76ers, who will participate in the the biggest of the NBA’s three circuits, the Las Vegas Summer League July 10-20. Summer league provides prospects like Marks a much better opportunity than the one-day tryouts afforded undrafted free agent hopefuls in the NFL. In the summer league, players are playing games—and scouts can evaluate every little facet of a guy’s skill set. For better or for worse. There are lots of players like Marks out there bidding for roster spots. He has to separate himself.

Congrats to Idaho Steelheads play-by-play man and jack-of-all-trades Will Hoenike, who has been named the 2014-15 ECHL Broadcaster of the Year. The award has meaning, as it’s voted on by peers—league media relations directors and broadcasters. Hoenike, who’s also the Steelies’ Media Relations Director, had to add on “Voice of the Steelheads” duties midway through the 2010-11 season and learned the idiosyncrasies of hockey from the skates up. He quickly became proficient on his calls and is deserving of this honor. Other news out of the ECHL, the league is trying to shorten games this season by making sudden-death overtime a 3-on-3 format and limiting subsequent shootouts to three shooters per team. After each team has taken three shots, if the score remains tied, the shootout will proceed to sudden death.

After blowing a 4-0 lead last night, the Boise Hawks surged to a 7-5 lead last night at Everett. Then they collapsed under the weight of a five-run seventh inning by the AquaSox and lost 10-7. Alec Kenilvort yielded the first two runs and Justin Lawrence, who took the loss, gave up the final three. Before the dam burst, Boise’s offense had gotten a boost from Yonathan Daza, who smacked two doubles and a solo home run while upping his average to .385. The rubber match of the Hawks’ five-game series at Everett is tonight.

Elsewhere on the diamond, Tyler Matzek’s road to the Colorado Rockies doesn’t go through Boise anymore. The 24-year-old leftie has been sent home as he deals with control issues. Matzek began the season on the Rockies staff, where he went 2-1 with a 4.09 ERA. But he also issued 19 walks in 22 innings. He had been sent to the Hawks from Triple-A Albuquerque to try to get his rhythm back, and it wasn’t there. In his last outing with the Hawks last Wednesday in Eugene, Matzek lasted just 1/3 of an inning while allowing six runs and walking five. And speaking of Eugene, the news that old Civic Stadium has burned to the ground is sad indeed. The Hawks visited the venerable old ballpark for 23 seasons before the Emeralds played their final season there in 2009. It was like stepping back in time.

The River City Classic baseball tournament, one of the Northwest’s premier wood-bat events for American Legion-level players, returns to Boise next week with an international flavor. Four Treasure Valley teams will be joined by two squads from Australia and one from Singapore, along with eight others from surrounding Western states. One of the Aussie teams, the Perth Heat, will be making their second trip to the tourney. The Heat are coached by Steve Fish, who played for the Boise Hawks in 1997. The River City Classic, a favorite of college scouts, was started five years ago by current Boise High coach Brad Dalton.

This Day In Sports…June 30, 1998:

On an historic final day of June, all three sluggers pursuing Roger Maris’ 1961 single-season home run record blast round-trippers. As it turned out, only one of the players was legit. The Cardinals’ Mark McGwire hit his 37th homer, the most ever hit before July and equaling the 1969 record of Oakland’s Reggie Jackson for most homers by the All-Star break. The Cubs’ Sammy Sosa recorded his 33rd homer and his record 20th for one month. And in the Kingdome, Ken Griffey Jr. belted his American League-leading 33rd home run.

(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.)