BOISE, Idaho — (TOM SCOTT'S COLUMN WILL RETURN TUESDAY.)

Friday, June 28, 2019. 

It’s time we looked at Boise State’s forgotten non-conference opponent this year, and we’ll do it with help from Phil Steele’s eyes.  Marshall visits the blue turf for the home opener on Friday, September 6, coming off a 9-4 record following three straight 10-win seasons.  For starters, the Thundering Herd “may have the best defense in Conference USA” and “is much more experienced with good depth” at quarterback, according to Steele.  Three different QBs played last year due to injuries, and all three are back, but none of them had particularly good numbers.  Sophomore Isaiah Green is the projected starter after throwing for 15 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.  Steele projects Marshall to finish second in the C-USA West Division behind Florida Atlantic.  The Herd is not to be overlooked.

WHAT TO MAKE OF BYU?

Prognostications on BYU this season vary wildly from publication to publication.  Steele varies wildly himself.  “Two of my nine sets of power rankings actually call for double-digit wins, but my main set calls for seven wins.”  But Steele says Zach Wilson “should be one of the top QBs in the FBS this year.”  All indications are that he’ll be 100 percent following minor offseason shoulder surgery.  Writes Steele, “If Wilson continues to improve at QB, this team does have a shot at topping last year’s seven-win total.”  The key is what effect the early-season schedule will have on the Cougars.  They open with consecutive games against Utah, Tennessee, USC and Washington.  BYU gets Boise State in Provo on October 19.

THE REST OF THE MOUNTAIN

We covered Steele’s basics on Air Force and Utah State Thursday.  Phil’s snippets on Boise State’s other three Mountain Division foes: the Wyoming Cowboys “have just 11 starters back but figure to be in the mix for the division title going into November, when they face the top three, all on the road.”  Steele likes Colorado State and New Mexico despite ranking them fifth and sixth.  On CSU: “What could go wrong, went wrong (in 2018) and they finished 3-9.  The Rams are very capable of a bounce back year.”  As for the Lobos, despite having only two returning starters on defense after back-to-back 3-9 seasons, Steele says, “I look for another solid start this year, and they will greatly inprove.”  Interesting.

SCOPING OUT THE WEST DIVISION

Here are some of Steele’s observations on Boise State’s West Division opponents this season.  Hawaii was one of those rare teams that fooled him last year, going 8-6 and making the Hawaii Bowl.  “Hawaii feels they can win any game they play, and that makes them a threat,” writes Steele.  He’s been waiting for a UNLV breakout, but the Rebels finished 4-8 in 2018.  “This year I am again optimistic (especially if QB Armani Rogers stays healthy), as they’re just two years removed from finishing third in the West,” Steele says.  And San Jose State is probably still a cellar-dweller, however, Steele writes, “You will see a much stronger team on the field.”

MERRITT DIDN’T DIG DETROIT THURSDAY

There weren’t many players over par Thursday in the first round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic on Thursday.  Unfortunately, Meridian’s Troy Merritt was one of them.  Merritt birdied two of the first four holes (as many players did), but a spat of bogeys left him at one-over 71 on the day, tied for 131st.  The former Boise State star ended by bogeying Nos. 16 and 18.  Merritt rallied big-time to make the cut last Friday at the Travelers Championship.  It’ll be a bit tougher to do that this week.

SCHUNK’S SHOT SINKS EUGENE

One swing of the bat by Aaron Schunk got it done last night for the Boise Hawks.  Schunk blasted a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning at Memorial Stadium to break a 1-1 tie and lead the Hawks past Eugene 3-1.  It was one of only five hits for Boise—and the team’s only extra base hit of the evening.  The victory completed a three game sweep of the Emeralds and pulled the Hawks to within two games of .500.  The Hawks are 6-1 at home and 0-7 on the road as they begin a three-game home series tonight versus Salem-Keizer, the team that swept them in three games to open the season two weeks ago.

A COUPLE YOTES CLIMBING THE LADDER

No former College of Idaho Coyote has played in the majors in 12 years—since Jason Simontacchi pitched for the Washington Nationals during the 2007 season.  But Riley O’Brien and Zach Draper, both in their third year in the minors, are showing signs of taking that step.  O’Brien, an eighth-round draft pick of Tampa Bay in 2017, was promoted to Double-A Montgomery this spring and is 4-4 with a 3.42 ERA, including a complete game shutout last week.   Draper, chosen in the 30th round by Cleveland in 2017, is pitching for Class-A Lake County of the Midwest League.  In 13 appearances with the Captains, the lefty has a 4-0 record with a 1.33 ERA, striking out 36 batters in 40 innings of work.

STEELHEADS’ CORE LOOKING GOOD

The Idaho Steelheads have another key player from 2018-19 coming back.  This time it’s one of their best defensemen, Jeff King.  “After the season we had last year, there’s not much more I could ask for than to play for the Steelheads again,” said King.  “It’s a great city, and the organization is run fantastically, so it’s the perfect situation for me.”  King played 66 games with Idaho last season after joining the team in an October trade, tallying six goals and 25 assists for 31 points.

This Day In Sports…June 28, 1997:

One of the most bizarre title fights in boxing history, as Mike Tyson bites off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear during their heavyweight championship bout in Las Vegas.  Tyson’s transgression happened in the third round after Holyfield had dominated the early action.  Referee Mills Lane deducted two points from Tyson but allowed the bout to continue.  Later in the round, Tyson bit Holyfield’s other ear, and Lane disqualified Tyson after the bell sounded.  Tyson, incidentally, turns 53 years old on Sunday.

(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.)