Friday, January 8, 2010.
After Boise State’s 13-0 season three years ago, a guy in Albuquerque gave the Broncos a first place vote in the final AP Poll. That didn’t happen this season, but there had to be a slew of second-place ballots. Boise State ended up No. 4 on both the AP and Coaches lists last night, their highest finishes ever. And there was a big gap between the Broncos and fifth-ranked Rose Bowl champion Ohio State. Texas, Florida and BSU were tightly-bunched in second, third and fourth, with the Broncos only four points behind the Gators in the AP Poll. All in all, it’s a fair conclusion for a team that was about a foot-and-a-half from not even making a BCS bowl five weeks ago. A measure of the respect the Broncos have can be seen in TCU’s final ranking. I predicted yesterday the Horned Frogs would fall to No. 8 last night—they were sixth in both polls.
Here’s what will blow you away, though. The final Sagarin computer ratings are out, and Boise State is No. 5. TCU is No. 4. Now wait a minute. One team was 14-0 and beat the No. 6 and No. 11 teams in the final polls. It also beat the other team, which was 12-1 and beat the No. 12 and No. 18 teams in the final polls. And that other team is rated higher in a computer? I always thought the Sagarin ratings were somewhat credible. Time for Jeff Sagarin to check his methodology.
Have you noticed this about Boise State’s undefeated regular season? Yes, it was the fourth of the decade, but it was the first time it happened in an odd year. There’s been a lot of the even-odd phenomenon in the WAC era. The Broncos’ last two losses in conference play each came in odd years (at Fresno State in 2005 and at Hawaii in 2007). The other two also happened in an odd year—during BSU’s first season in the WAC in 2001. The theory in the early WAC seasons was that the Broncos would have an advantage in even years, since they’d have Fresno State, Hawaii and Louisiana Tech at home. And they were unbeaten in league play in each of those seasons.
Although the 2009 campaign has broken the mold in every way possible, we should point out that the 2003 Boise State team also achieved an 8-0 WAC record in an odd year. That ’03 group never gets its due for being among the great Bronco squads—13-1 overall with the only blemish a two-point loss at Oregon State. That season was capped by a three-point victory in the Fort Worth Bowl over none other than TCU.
A couple more notes on national records eclipsed by Boise State, as picked up by Rocketman 5000 of Bronco Country.com: quarterback Kellen Moore has set the all-time mark for lowest interception percentage in a season. Moore threw just three interceptions in 431 attempts this year—that’s only 69-hundredths of a percent, and it breaks the record held since 2002 by Marquel Blackwell of South Florida. No Bronco other than Kellen threw a pick this season, so Boise State has the team season record as well. The Broncos’ interception percentage of 66-hundredths shatters the old standard set by Bowling Green in 2004.
While Boise State and Idaho enjoy the positives of bowl victories, the rest of the WAC looks to put negatives behind. Nevada coach Chris Ault is giving Wolf Pack running back and leading rusher Vai Taua, in effect, a third chance by allowing him back on the team. Taua had left the Pack in the lurch when he was declared academically ineligible for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, which ended up a 45-10 loss to SMU. Ault has also hired a new defensive coordinator, former Wolf Pack football player Andy Buh, linebackers coach at Stanford the past three seasons (and co-defensive coordinator the past two). Buh replaces Nigel Burton, now the head coach at Portland State. But defensive tackles coach Jim House, a 15-year veteran of the Pack staff, has been fired by Ault—this despite the fact that Nevada led the WAC in rushing defense and sacks.
After his Monday Night Nightmare against Minnesota’s Jared Allen the first week of October, we wondered how the season would go for Green Bay’s Daryn Colledge. The former Boise State star allowed a number of Allen’s 4½ sacks while forced to fill in at left tackle—then left with an injury just before halftime. But Colledge has rebounded since settling back in at his left guard spot and carries some momentum into the NFL Playoffs Sunday. The Sporting News has praised Colledge’s role in the emergence of the Packers run game with Ryan Grant. “The line is doing a much better job of blocking on inside and outside zone plays, with Colledge making a lot of good combination blocks and creating cutback lanes,” wrote Tom Silverstein. The Packers play a Wild Card game against Arizona in Glendale, where they beat the Cardinals just last Sunday.
More often than not, it takes time for junior college transfer to be assimilated into a Division I system. Daequon Montreal has made progress, though. Boise State dropped its first two WAC games, but Montreal scored 40 points in the two contests, shooting almost 69 percent from the field. He’ll try to replicate that in Taco Bell Arena now, as BSU plays its conference home opener tomorrow night against New Mexico State. Montreal, like former Bronco star Reggie Larry a College of Southern Idaho product, “has a chance to be every bit as good as Reggie,” according to coach Greg Graham. For the season, Montreal is averaging 8.3 points and 5.4 rebounds.
The D-League Showcase is over, with all but two of the circuit’s 16 teams having scattered around the country. The host Idaho Stampede and the Austin Toros have Qwest Arena all to themselves as they face off tonight and tomorrow night. The Toros like it in Boise now, having beaten Sioux Falls by 33 points Wednesday behind a 34-point effort by former Alabama standout Alonzo Gee. On the other hand, Austin was pounded by 23 by the East Conference-leading Iowa Energy on the Qwest hardwood Tuesday. The Stampede won both of their D-League Showcase games.
The Idaho Steelheads haven’t faced much adversity this season out of the normal player movement to and from the AHL. But the Steelheads have a double-whammy challenge tomorrow night and Saturday night in Victoria. Not only have they lost four of their last five games following a sizzling start to the season, but they’re facing the hottest team in the ECHL. The Salmon Kings lost to Alaska Monday night, but they had won 12 in a row before that. Victoria did the same thing a year ago, rolling up a 15-game streak, the second-longest in league history. The Steelies will have to deal with newly-named ECHL Goaltender of the Week David Shantz, who’s won nine straight for Victoria.
Casey Kotchman is back in the Northwest. The son of former Boise Hawks manager Tom Kotchman spent summers at Memorial Stadium during the 1990’s—now he’s a first baseman for Seattle after a trade with the Red Sox yesterday. Casey was penciled in as Boston’s 2010 first baseman until the BoSox signed third baseman Adrian Beltre away from the Mariners. That allowed the Red Sox to move Kevin Youkilis to first, and it made Kotchman tradable. Casey, entering his seventh big league season, has a career fielding percentage of .998, the highest in baseball history for a first baseman with at least 3,500 innings.
This Day In Sports…January 8, 2007:
Shortly after Florida routs Ohio State 41-14 in the BCS Championship Game, the final college football rankings place Boise State no. 5 in the AP Poll and no. 6 in the Coaches Poll—the school’s highest rankings ever to that point. The nation was still abuzz a week after the Broncos’ now-legendary 43-42 overtime win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Many called for a playoff system so a team like BSU, the only undefeated school in the country, could play a team like Florida. But the Broncos were satisfied with the ending…and their place in college football lore. It was the fourth time in five years BSU finished the season in the Top 15.
(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 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)