It may not have been a surprise inside the Bleymaier Football Center, but it certainly was to me. B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press first reported Tuesday that CT Thomas is no longer a member of the Boise State football team. For more than four years, Thomas has seemed to bleed blue through and through, but he was used sparingly this season after being a key piece of the wideouts group since 2017. For his now-completed Broncos career, Thomas had 127 catches for 1,610 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he made only 10 grabs for 85 yards with no TDs this season. His true freshman season ended with a clutch 22-yard catch on a third-and-nine from the Broncos 15 in the fourth quarter against Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl. Thomas’ super-senior year ends with a quiet two receptions for 15 yards versus Air Force.
THE REST OF THE UNIT
The wide receivers room will be fine, but it’s just weird to think of Thomas not being there. Since the opener at UCF, he has been listed as a second-teamer on the depth chart behind Khalil Shakir. Octavius Evans, who came into the program with Thomas in 2017, has started all season and is second on the team with 26 catches for 311 yards and a touchdown. Stefan Cobbs is the one who has really taken on an increased workload this year—he has 23 grabs for 343 yards and four TDs. Davis Koetter, who was injured at BYU and missed the Air Force game, has one fewer catch than Thomas and one more TD.
THREE CONTENDERS IN THE MOUNTAIN
At 3-1, Air Force may seem like it’s in firm control of the Mountain Division race in the Mountain West. The Falcons, in effect, have a two-game lead over Boise State because they own the tiebreaker over the Broncos. But Utah State still has only one conference loss and holds the tiebreaker over Air Force, so if the Aggies win out, they’re in the Mountain West championship game. It’s Boise State’s next opponent, Colorado State, which completely controls its own destiny—CSU is actually the team on top of the division with a 2-0 record. Did you notice that the Rams allowed just 69 yards of total offense on the road at New Mexico in a 36-7 rout last Saturday? Colorado State had been given up for dead after losses to South Dakota State and Vanderbilt, but the Rams have pulled it together.
PAINFUL BOWL PROJECTIONS
Respected college football scribe Stewart Mandel at The Athletic has update his bowl predictions. Brace yourself. Mandel has eight of the 12 Mountain West teams going to bowl games this season, and Boise State is not one of them. The conference champion goes to the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, and Mandel has Fresno State tabbed for that. He has San Jose State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl, Wyoming in the Frisco Bowl, Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl, Utah State in the Hawaii Bowl, San Diego State in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, and Colorado State in the Arizona Bowl. By leaving the Broncos out, Mandel is projecting a losing season for them. Will Boise State really be home for the holidays? At the very least, the Broncos can start playing spoiler a week from Saturday.
THE AAC’S SIX-PACK
The American Athletic Conference is making its move, with Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA applying for membership. That’s a massive expansion, but it elicits a “meh” in terms of impact with Cincinnati, UCF and Houston leaving. None of them would have been good fits in the Mountain West. I know UTSA is in Texas. But the Roadrunners hardly own the San Antonio market, averaging just over 20,000 fans per game. The Mountain West appears to be standing pat, which is not a bad thing. Even with these AAC additions, the MW is still poised to be the Group of 5 leader, although It’s doubtful that schools like SMU, Memphis and Tulsa would be tempted to look west. Now, with Conference USA wounded, will it be raided by the Sun Belt?
ANOTHER RIVAL UP NEXT FOR IDAHO
How does Idaho coach Paul Petrino look back on last Saturday’s 71-21 thumping at rival Eastern Washington? “The combination of having your top four corners out and your top two quarterbacks out didn’t help,” Petrino said Tuesday on Idaho SportsTalk. But that was it for excuses as Petrino and the Vandals move on to this week’s game against Montana in the Kibbie Dome. It looks like the absences of QBs Mike Beaudry and C.J. Jordan will continue, leaving signal-calling duties to Zach Borisch and Gevani McCoy. The Vandals and Grizzlies will play for the Big Sky’s oldest rivalry trophy, the Little Brown Stein, in a series that dates back to 1903. Montana started te season 3-0 but has dropped two of its last three games and has fallen to No. 12 in the FCS rankings.
IT HAS BEEN SO, SO LONG FOR THE STEELHEADS
By my count, the Idaho Steelheads will be playing their first official game in 594 days Friday night when they open the season against the Utah Grizzlies in Idaho Central Arena. It was on March 7, 2020, that the Steelheads last took the ice for real. The South Carolina Stingrays ended Idaho’s eight-game winning streak with a 5-4 victory in Boise, and the Steelies innocently prepared for its next road trip to Rapid City. Six days later, the rest of the season was called off, and by the end of the year the Steelheads had opted out of the next season. Friday can’t get here fast enough for them.
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October 20, 2016, five years ago today: Boise State moves to 7-0 by surviving five turnovers—two of them interceptions returned for touchdowns—to edge BYU 28-27 on the blue turf. Brett Rypien offset his two pick-sixes with three touchdown passes. He threw for 442 yards as the Broncos rolled up 571 yards overall. But the giveaways would not allow them to shake the Cougars. In a span of three plays at the end of the game, BYU had a field goal blocked and a Hail Mary fall incomplete. Senior Thomas Sperbeck had nine catches for 109 yards in the game to become Boise State’s career leader in receiving yards. He’d end up with 3,601.
(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.)