Thursday, September 20, 2012.
Boise State seeks progression tonight, not regression. Get ready, though. BYU’s stingy defense, sixth in the nation against the run, is certainly capable of forcing the Broncos into the latter category. The Cougars have held opponents under 300 yards in total offense for nine consecutive games. They compare favorably with Michigan State, who smothered BSU three weeks ago. The Spartans are 13th nationally in total defense, allowing 250 yards per game. BYU is ninth, yielding just 241 yards a game. The Boise State offense is averaging 402 yards after two games, but remember how the Broncos got there. They had miniscule numbers at Michigan State and countered that with gargantuan stats against Miami (Ohio).
As for the Boise State defense, the same paradox applies. The Broncos are allowing 344 yards per game, a serviceable number. But that come from combining the 461 yards yielded at Michigan State with the 227 versus Miami (Ohio). Things could be coming together on that side of the ball, though. Are the Broncos back to their ideal two-wave defensive line rotation? Demarcus Lawrence, Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Mike Atkinson and Sam Ukwuachu are the starters (assuming Tjong-A-Tjoe plays after last week’s suspension). The second line includes Beau Martin, Greg Grimes, Darren Koontz and Tyler Horn. And you could throw true freshman Armand Nance in there somewhere.
This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship (and I use that term loosely). Boise State and BYU have played only twice, in 2003 and 2004, but tonight’s game marks the start of a 12-year home-and-home series. The last time the Broncos and Cougars played, it was intense. BSU raced out to a 16-0 lead and was still up 22-13 in the third quarter when BYU roared back with a pair of touchdowns. It was with 3:42 left in the game that Jared Zabransky hit T.J. Acree with a 44-yard touchdown pass to give BSU the lead back. Then the Broncos had to endure a 38-yard field goal attempt by the Cougars’ Matt Payne with 19 seconds remaining. Payne missed, and the Broncos won it, 28-27.
I have a different take on Chris Petersen’s thoughts on a rivalry with BYU. I don’t think Petersen really minds it. He just doesn’t want tonight’s game to be about a rivalry, he wants it to be about trying to defeat a good opponent on the blue turf on a short week. It’s like talking about BCS rankings—he won’t focus on things like that. Yes, Petersen said, “Our rivals are on the East Coast and Texas and in San Diego.” But he said it with a slight grin. “We have a lot of respect for BYU; that’s a heck of a program.”
With its real rival, Utah, on the schedule only sporatically from here on out, BYU needs the 12-year series with Boise State. As long as the Cougars remain an independent, anyway. But independence seems to be coming together for BYU. Do the Cougars really need a conference? They would tell you no. Last year was BYU’s first as an independent, and it went 10-3 and won its fifth bowl game in six years. Eleven of the Cougars’ 13 games were featured on the ESPN family of networks, something that was absent in their final five years of Mountain West membership. And BYU won’t have to worry about filling holes on the schedule with WAC teams after this season. In addition to Boise State, the Cougars have future games set with Wisconsin, West Virginia, Nebraska, Notre Dame, East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Texas, and Washington State.
Brett McMurphy, who was all over the Boise State-to-the-Big East thing last fall for CBS Sports.com, is now all over the Boise State-in-the-Big East thing after moving to ESPN.com this summer. McMurphy reports the Big East is divided over whether to pursue Air Force or BYU as its 14th football member, but it is determined to get to 14. He also writes that the conference could be considering a 16-team league if it can lure BYU, Air Force and Army. Navy is set to join the Big East in 2013 as the league’s 13th member.
BYU is sure to be watching the Big East’s new TV contract, currently being negotiated. ESPN has an exclusive negotiation window until November 1. After that, competing networks such as NBC Sports and Fox can enter the fray. A dispute over TV rights to BYU home games is what snagged a possible move of the Cougars to the Big East at the last minute last November. McMurphy reports that BYU’s eight-year deal with ESPN pays the school $4 million a year. Some media estimates peg the low end of the Big East’s new TV deal at only $3 million per.
McMurphy also reports the 14-team Big East, be it next year or the year after, would lean toward "Red" and "Blue" divisions that are non-geographic. Boise State would be in the Blue Division (appropriately enough) with Cincinnati, Central Florida, Rutgers, Houston, Temple and the 14th team. In the Red Division would be Louisville, South Florida, Connecticut, San Diego State, SMU, Navy and Memphis. The Broncos would play its six divisional mates and San Diego State every year, plus one other Red Division team.
Idaho State’s 2012 fundraising campaign of sorts wraps up at Nebraska Saturday. The Bengals are set to bring home $600,000 from Lincoln, as well as a big loss. But ISU coach Mike Kramer figures you only go around once. “We’re so frightfully young that we get fired up to play anybody,” Kramer told the Idaho State Journal. “We get fired up to play ourselves.” The Bengals will face the Cornhuskers in front of more than 85,000 fans as Nebraska sells out Memorial Stadium for the 321st consecutive time.
The NHL has cancelled all exhibition games through September 30 due to the lockout, so the matchup in CenturyLink Arena scheduled for Tuesday night between the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild will not happen. That also wipes out the Stars’ training camp that was supposed to begin this weekend in Boise. The Dallas organization says it’s “open to a training camp hosted by the Idaho Steelheads in the future.” If you bought tickets to the game, the Steelheads and CenturyLink Arena are offering either a full refund or some added-value options involving Steelheads tickets.
This Day In Sports…September 20, 2006:
Boise gets a world cycling champion, as Kristin Armstrong becomes only the third American ever to win the women's time trial world title. And it wasn’t close. In Salzburg, Austria, she beat two-time defending champion Karin Thurig of Switzerland by 25½ seconds. Armstrong had already won the U.S. road race and time trial championships earlier in the year. She would go on, of course, to win a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008 and would repeat at the London Games in 2012.
(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.)