Wednesday, November 21, 2012.
This is one of those times when you can play an old game: write down your prediction of what the conference landscape is going to be one year from now, put it in an envelope, seal it, and open it November 21, 2013, to see how close you were. Rutgers made its move yesterday, announcing it’s leaving the Big East to join the Big Ten in 2014. A departure of either Louisville or Connecticut from the Big East to replace Maryland in the ACC would seem imminent, with the Terrapins having declared for the Big Ten Monday. Boise State and San Diego State say they’re not talking with the Mountain West at the moment, declaring solidarity with the Big East. But nobody knows what’s going to happen.
As Big East TV negotiations continue with ESPN, the NBC Sports Network and Fox, the networks want to know if Louisville or UConn (or Boise State or San Diego State) are still going to be in the conference. And the Broncos and Aztecs are left to wonder how many TV dollars there will really be. Rock and a hard spot. Proponents of the move to the Big East—and there are lots of them out there—will tell you there’s still going to be a big gap in the level of competition. Based on 2013 membership, the current Sagarin computer ratings would put the average Mountain West team’s ranking at No. 95, while the Big East’s would be No. 76. Without Rutgers and, say, Louisville, the Big East average would still be No. 83.
Gotta throw real football talk in during Boise State’s bye week. Little-known fact: quarterback Joe Southwick had his first entry in the Bronco record book last Saturday in the win over Colorado State. The junior quarterback logged the sixth-best single-game completion percentage in Boise State history, going 17-of-20 for 85 percent. Southwick was delivering the ball on target, and—most importantly—on time to Bronco receivers. So after a blue turf season-high 42 points, is the offense over the hump once and for all? Boise State had only three 40-point games this season going into the home finale, and all of them had been on the road.
Fresno State has been waiting impatiently for Saturday to get here. The Bulldogs host Air Force, and with a victory they’ll claim at least a share of their first conference championship in 13 years. Fresno State players aren’t shying away from the subject. "It means the world to me that the ring is so close now," quarterback Derek Carr told the Fresno Bee during the Bulldogs’ bye week. "If you had told me I had two weeks to prepare to win a championship ring, I would have signed on the dotted line, no doubt, before the season started." San Diego State can also guarantee a slice of the title with a win Saturday at Wyoming. Boise State has to wait for the Nevada game a week from Saturday to see if it’s part of the party.
If the chips fall into place, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl will have its most attractive matchup in years. Utah State, newly ranked in the AP Poll at No. 25 with a 9-2 record, is a natural for a repeat trip to Boise (the Aggies lost to Ohio last year on the blue turf). The WAC has only one guaranteed bowl berth this season, and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is it. The conference expects to be able to place high-flying Louisiana Tech closer to Ruston, LA. USU athletic director Scott Barnes told the Salt Lake Tribune that the Potato Bowl is still a likely destination, although the Aggies are anxious to see what’s out there. Barnes knows that Utah State, which traveled a healthy fan contingent to the 2011 bowl, would significantly top that this year with all the excitement that surrounds the program. And the MAC opponent—whoever it is—will be good.
Idaho closes its season with a thankless task Saturday, going on the road to try to upset a Utah State team that’s trying to win 10 games in a season for the first time in its history. Already owners of at least a share of the WAC championship and brandishing their first national ranking in 34 years, the Aggies are expecting a raucous crowd at Romney Stadium. The challenge for the Vandals is to play this game with a purpose. It’s likely the last time this coaching staff will be together. One name that has surfaced in Moscow is that of former Idaho coach Chris Tormey, now the defensive coordinator at Wyoming. Tormey wouldn’t comment Monday when asked about the Vandal job by the Casper Star-Tribune. He coached Idaho from 1995-99, going 33-23 and leading the Vandals to their first Humanitarian Bowl win.
Former Boise State coach Dan Hawkins’ name was mentioned in conjunction with the UC Davis head coaching job last week. A Hawk return to his alma mater may have been wishful thinking by the columnist in the Davis Enterprise. Hawkins’ name was also tossed out there by Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports yesterday in relation to the UTEP job, with Mike Price having announced his retirement. Of course, now we’ll hear Chris Petersen’s name bandied about again, as Jeff Tedford has been fired at Cal. It’s a rite of late fall for Petersen.
Titus Young has apparently reverted back to the infamous 2008 behavior that caused him to be suspended from the Boise State football team for 10 games. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press was on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday and had nary a kind thing to say about the Detroit wide receiver, who’s been declared inactive for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Day clash against Houston by Lions coach Jim Schwartz. Birkett intimated that Young purposefully lined up wrong and didn’t run the right routes during last week’s loss to Green Bay and has become an impossibly disruptive force in the locker room. The sportswriter went as far as to wonder whether Young will ever play for the Lions again.
Boise State was tantalizingly close to its second road win ever over a Top 25 team last night, but Michigan State took the lead for good with four minutes left and held off the Broncos, 74-70. With a game-high 24 points, Derrick Marks had a career night, except in one area. He fouled out with 2½ minutes left and the game still very much in doubt. “We’ve got to get Derrick to figure this out—not fouling,” said coach Leon Rice on KBOI. “Derrick’s a smart kid, and he wants to be a great player. And that’s the next step.” Boise State, who led by as many as nine points in the first half, was helped by a 23-of-29 performance at the free throw line. Marks was 11-of-12. Rice said he hopes fans welcome the team home Saturday afternoon against UC Santa Barbara. “We embraced this environment,” said Rice of East Lansing. “We want Taco Bell Arena to look like this.”
Former Boise State standout Reggie Larry has been waived by the Idaho Stampede as the club whittled its roster to 11 players. The Stampede also cut Hank Thorns, with today marking the deadline to get to the number down to 10. Larry, who led the Broncos to their only WAC championship in 2008, played 45 games for the Stamps last season, averaging 7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds. The Stampede start the season on the road a week from tonight against the L.A. D-Fenders.
The Idaho Steelheads play an extremely rare (in fact, maybe the first-ever) one-game “series” against the Alaska Aces tonight in CenturyLink Arena. Usually, the Aces try to play multiple games against the same opponent in the lower 48 for cost-efficiency. At any rate, Alaska is on a roll, having surged into first place ahead of the Steelheads in the ECHL’s Mountain Division with a six-game winning streak. The Aces have been sparked by four NHL players on their roster, three of whom scored last Saturday in a 4-3 win at Colorado. The most familiar of the quartet is probably Scott Gomez, the NHL’s 2000 Calder Trophy winner as rookie of the year. Gomez, who also played for Alaska seven seasons ago, joined the team last Wednesday and promptly recorded a game-winning goal. The Steelheads host the Las Vegas Wranglers Friday and Saturday.
There’s been some Steelheads roster shuffling going into tonight’s game. Ron Meyers, the sparkplug rookie forward, has been released by the team in a numbers crunch. But rookie goalie Josh Robinson has been returned to the Steelheads from Texas of the AHL. Robinson was 5-0-1 when he was summoned by the Stars. Texas has also called up defenseman Hubert Labrie from Idaho and has sent back forward Austin Smith.
This Day In Sports…November 21, 1992, 20 years ago today:
In what would be Skip Hall’s final game as head coach at Boise State, Idaho drills BSU 62-16 in Bronco Stadium. Quarterback Doug Nussmeier and running back Sheridan May were dominant as the Vandals wrapped up a 9-2 regular season. For the Broncos, it meant a four-game losing streak to end the year—giving BSU only its second losing season ever. Hall was fired as coach that evening after six seasons and a 42-28 record.
(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.)