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They’re calling it Conference USA-lite

They’re calling it Conference USA-lite

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on November 28, 2012 at 8:40 AM

Wednesday, November 28, 2012.

The Big East, after losing the New York City market, has added the New Orleans market.  Okay, so Tulane doesn’t have any more impact on the Big Easy than Rutgers has on the Big Apple, but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do if you’re the Big East.  Pilfering Conference USA once again, the league will now add Tulane in all sports and East Carolina in football only beginning in 2014.  And Boise State’s new home slides further into the mid-major soup.  The saving grace would be a lucrative TV contract, and it’s difficult to see how Tulane is going to help.  It’s like the Mountain West saying it’s added the Bay Area market by taking in San Jose State.  Just not credible.

CBS reports that BYU has turned down another Big East invitation that would have been seen as a suitable fit until Rutgers bolted to the Big Ten last week.  Writes Jeremy Fowler: A source with direct knowledge says despite progressive conversations, BYU has decided not to accept the Big East's latest invite.”  Man, that would have helped the situation.  But the Cougars probably see the Big East as having taken the wrong fork in the road.  Commissioner Mike Arresco still insists the conference has a plan for the West.  Perhaps Fresno State would be the next target?  That is, if Boise State and San Diego State stay.  All this makes me consider a comment from Chris Petersen Monday on the end of the rivalry with Nevada.  “I’m sure we’ll see them (again) sooner than later,” Petersen said.

You can take Saturday’s point spread for what it’s worth.  Boise State is favored by 9½ points at Nevada on the heels of a 42-14 win over Colorado State and a 49-14 triumph at Hawaii.  Two years ago, after a 52-14 victory at Idaho and a 51-0 win over Fresno State, the Broncos were two-touchdown favorites against the Wolf Pack.  So much for that.  What unfolds on the field Saturday will have a lot to do with intangibles.  What is Boise State’s mindset with the Mountain West championship on the line?  What is Nevada’s mindset as it tries to keep the Broncos from the trophy the Wolf Pack wanted before disappointment set in?

For Joe Southwick, this is as pressurized a situation as his first start at Michigan State.  Southwick's been on kind of an inverted bell curve the past five games, and right now that's a good thing.  The ringer's coming up the other side.  Southwick was solid against UNLV and Wyoming, but then posted a pass efficiency rating of only 117 in the loss to San Diego State while averaging just 5.3 yards per attempt.  He was under 60 percent at Hawaii despite throwing three touchdown passes.  But the last time out versus Colorado State, Southwick had the sixth-best single-game completion percentage in school history at 85 percent, averaged 10.8 yards per attempt, and had an efficiency rating of 209.  He has an opportunity now to show that this is the real Joe Southwick.

The school du jour in the “Chris Petersen could be our next football coach” game is Auburn.  Petersen and TCU’s Gary Patterson are reported to be at the top of the Tigers’ list.  But of course they are.  Cal isn’t giving up hope.  Petersen’s college coach at UC Davis and his mentor, Jim Sochor, told the San Jose Mercury-News the changing landscape at Boise State might make the timing right for a jump to the Bears.  "He'd be great at Cal.  He has all the requisites that Cal would be looking for," Sochor said.  "He's a great football coach and really good person and good ambassador.  He would be one of the best people they have brought on board ever."

The year 2012 is sounding a lot like the year 2008 for Titus Young.  Just like his sophomore year at Boise State, when Petersen didn’t even want to be around Young the last two-thirds of the season, Lions coach Jim Schwartz is fine with separating himself from the emotionally unpredictable wide receiver.  Young was deactivated for the Lions’ Thanksgiving Day game against the Packers, and it looks like he’s going to stay that way for the time being.  Young is a funny, engaging guy who could rake in endorsement money down the line.  But he risks throwing it all way before it gets that far.

Lucky Boise State.  The Bronco men’s basketball team drew 11th-ranked Creighton in this year’s Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge, and they play the Bluejays tonight in Omaha.  Creighton has a 31-game winning streak on its home court, outscoring unranked non-conference opponents by an average of 17 points per game.  What if Boise State upset Creighton tonight, though?  It could change the complexion of the season, especially in the stands at Taco Bell Arena. 

Beyond All-America forward Doug McDermott, Creighton watchers tout the Bluejays’ depth.  That’s something that could wear down Boise State in the second half.  It’ll be important for the Broncos to have Derrick Marks on the court until the end.  The sophomore guard fouled out with 2½ minutes left at Michigan State last week on what coach Leon Rice characterized as a not-so-stellar decision.  Marks has been the Broncos’ go-to guy, scoring in double figures for eight consecutive games dating back to last season.

The Idaho Stampede’s season opens tonight against the L.A. D-Fenders at the Lakers’ practice facility, the Toyota Center in El Segundo.  Familiar faces such as Jason Ellis and Coby Karl are back in Stampede uniforms, and new coach Mike Peck is glad to have the one-time Boise State standouts.  Both players are approaching their 30th birthdays, but Peck sees that as an advantage, calling Ellis “a blue-collar guy that you don’t have to spell it out to.”  Karl serves as a coach on the floor.  “It doesn’t take anybody long to see he has a high basketball IQ,” said Peck.  “It’s been a great luxury to me.”

If you like those wild 7-5 hockey games, you might be in luck this week.  The two highest-scoring teams in the ECHL, the Colorado Eagles and Idaho Steelheads, face off in CenturyLink Arena tonight, Friday and Saturday.  Colorado features the top three individual scorers in the league, Chad Costello, Jack Combs, and Michael Forney.  Two things may favor the Steelheads in this series, though: the Eagles are also in the league’s bottom five in goals allowed, and they’ve only played five road games this season—and haven’t won any of them.  The Steelies’ 11-5-2 start has been marked by quick starts, as they’ve outscored opponents 21-12 in the first period, tops in the ECHL.

This Day In Sports…November 28, 1992, 20 years ago today:

One week after assembling what was then its biggest margin of victory in the Bronco-Vandal series, a 62-16 victory in Boise, Idaho falls to McNeese State 23-20 in the first round of the Division I-AA Playoffs in the Kibbie Dome.  It marked the fifth time in eight trips to the postseason that Idaho lost the week following a victory over Boise State.  John L. Smith and the Vandals would buck the trend and make the I-AA semi-finals the next season.

(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.)