At ESPN.com, one of the college football leads is, “Biggest positive spring takeaway for every top-25 team.” For Boise State, it might be simply that the Broncos are on this list at No. 24. Beyond that, here’s the narrative: “Injuries caused eight projected starters to be limited or miss spring completely, but the Broncos were able to take that negative and make the best of it. Several younger players were able to receive more reps than they would have otherwise, which should help bolster the team’s depth. Running back Ryan Wolpin, specifically, took advantage of his opportunities, as did receivers Sean Modster, A.J. Richardson and Bryan Jefferson.” That capsule was penned by Kyle Bonagura. He’s right about Wolpin. Bronco Nation hopes he’s right about Modster, Richardson and Jefferson.
A year ago we were talking about Big 12 expansion overtures—the ones that finally dried up in a mish-mash month. These days it’s back to the good ol’ preseason Top 25 rankings. Boise State’s on another post-spring list, tabbed as No. 19 by Dennis Dodd at CBSSports.com. Here’s how Dodd sees it: “The Broncos will have to outscore people to break through against the three-time defending Mountain West champs San Diego State. It can happen. (The teams haven’t met since 2014.) Although the top four tacklers (and six of the top seven) are gone, Brett Rypien threw for almost 3,700 yards last season.” Well, there go those expectations on Rypien again. South Florida continues to be the trendy pick as the Group of 5’s New Year’s Six bowl representative. Dodd has the Bulls at No. 12.
There’s a lot more preseason rankings to come. Is Boise State just living off its new century BCS-busting legend? Not necessarily. Last year the Broncos had to earn their way into the Top 25 after being unranked in the preseason. They made it into the AP Poll after improving to 3-0 with a win at Oregon State. Boise State would climb to No. 13 in both polls going into the Wyoming game. We know what happened next. But the Broncos did stay in the rankings until the defeat at Air Force. Following the loss to Baylor in the Cactus Bowl, they still received votes in both the AP and Coaches Polls at the end. San Diego State finished the season at No. 25 in both polls—but no Donnel Pumphrey equals no ranking in the post-spring rankings we’ve seen so far.
While alcohol is banned at Albertsons Stadium anywhere below the Steuckle Sky Center, Colorado State is getting its own official beer in time for the opening of its new stadium. New Belgium Brewing is based in Fort Collins and has introduced “Old Aggie Superior Lager” (the Aggies preceded the Rams as CSU’s mascot). The brewery, most famous for Fat Tire, has already contributed $4 million for the “New Belgium Porch” at the north end of the new stadium. New Belgium also sponsors the Tour de Fat in Boise, the eclectic bike festival that’s controversially going to become a ticketed event this year. Boise’s brewery scene is burgeoning—ceratinly one would create an official beer for the Broncos if that was allowed. It could be served in The Huddle before games in the Caven-Williams indoor facility.
In Wednesday’s “This Day In Sports” item talking about the 20th anniversary of Gary Stevens’ Kentucky Derby victory aboard Silver Charm, I mentioned Stevens being an alternate of sorts in Saturday’s Run For The Roses. The former Capital High wrestler, who has riden in 22 Kentucky Derbys, would be aboard Royal Mo, the first horse in if another in the 20-horse field is scratched. The deadline is tomorrow morning. Stevens keeps on ticking after turning 54 years old in March. He feels he still has the mojo he did when he embarked on his latest comeback in 2013—and won the Preakness Stakes aboard Oxbow at the age of 50.
Troy Merritt’s PGA Tour dance card is relatively full this season. He’s playing again this week in the Wells Fargo Championship in Wilmington, NC, while Graham DeLaet is off. Merritt has made the cut in four of his past five tournaments, but he hasn’t had a top 15 finish since the first two weeks of the season last fall. Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge is also in the field at the Wells Fargo. This is only Aldridge’s seventh PGA Tour event in 2016-17. His best result has been a tie for 37th six weeks ago at the Puerto Rico Open.
There’s nobody better at keeping his chin up than Boise State men’s tennis coach Greg Patton. But this was a season that would try any man’s soul. The young Broncos finished 5-24, by far (and I do mean far) the worst season in Patton’s 40-plus years as a coach. How does a guy who’s accustomed to winning championships handle it? “I loved coaching this group of freshmen and sophomores who did everything that I asked in terms of laying it all out on the courts and competing with grit. As usual, they battled with passion, belief and enthusiasm. In the simplest terms, this season was a learning experience. Handling injuries, brutal travel, and a challenging and demanding schedule against great opponents eventually were all gifts to our team to prepare us and teach us for the upcoming seasons.
“I can’t wait for the fall to arrive so that we can start gearing up for the 2018 season. We are all so grateful for the outpouring of support and encouragement from the Bronco Nation and our countless friends for both our men’s and women’s tennis teams. To sum up our season is simple, for the more challenging these conflicts were the more glorious will be the eventual triumphs. Our present situation is not our final destination. The Best is Yet to Come!” Had to throw that in today.
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May 4, 2012, five years ago today: The beginning of the end for the 50-year-old Western Athletic Conference as we knew it, as Utah State and San Jose State announce they’re departing for the Mountain West, and Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio confirm their move to Conference USA—all of it effective in 2013. That left two football-playing schools in the WAC, Idaho and New Mexico State. The Vandals athletic program faced some tough decisions. Idaho would remain in the WAC for non-football sports in 2013-14 but would play one season of independent football. In 2014, the Vandals would return to the Sun Belt in football and to the Big Sky in other sports.
(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.)