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Boise State football: Broncos hang on in Top 25

As good as Boise State’s season was, it ended with such a thud that you wondered how much poll voters would make the Broncos pay. But they are still ranked.
Credit: Steve Conner AP Images
Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin gets a Gatorade bath after winning the Mountain West Championship over Hawaii in an NCAA game for the Mountain West Championship Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won 31-10.

BOISE, Idaho — Tuesday, January 14, 2020. 

It’s hard not to rank a 12-2 team in the AP Top 25.  That had to go through the minds of voters as they submitted their ballots following LSU’s 42-25 win over Clemson Monday night in the CFP national championship game.  Boise State did not fall out of the poll after its 38-7 loss to Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl, finishing at No. 23, down six spots.  And guess who’s above the Broncos at No. 22.  It’s Air Force, which ended the season 11-2.  One of its defeats was the 30-19 decision on the blue turf in September.  But it’s a “what have you done for me lately?” world out there.  It certainly sets the table for the 2020 Mountain Division race in the Mountain West, as Boise State will have to travel to Colorado Springs next fall.  Who’s going to be picked to win it?

Boise State is actually sixth among Group of 5 schools in the AP Poll, behind No. 17 Memphis, No. 19 Appalachian State, No. 20 Navy, No. 21 Cincinnati and Air Force.  Every team above the Broncos except Memphis won its bowl game.  I was interested to see what kind of bump the Huskies would get from the Las Vegas Bowl.  Washington is third among “others receiving votes.”  UW was certainty the better team that night in Chris Petersen’s final game and commanded enough respect so as to not torpedo Boise State’s Top 25 standing.  The Huskies were not chopped liver, but they had to live with a body of work that saw them finish 8-5.

RELATED: Boise State's coaching carousel has yet to find replacements for Zak Hill and Lee Marks

BRONCOS HIT A BIG OL’ RESET BUTTON

The Broncos have reconvened for winter conditioning, where the foundation will be built for 2020.  A year ago the team was still numb from the no-contest in the First Responder Bowl.  Two years ago there was still residual euphoria from the Las Vegas Bowl win over Oregon.  After what happened in Vegas 3½ weeks ago, Boise State players seem to relish getting after it again.  Sam Whitney does, for multiple reasons.  Whitney, a STUD end-linebacker, would have been a senior this past season, but he tore an ACL during practice in spring ball and was out for the year.  He gets an extra season now.  “I NEED to play football ASAP,” tweeted Whitney recently. “Excited to get back with my brothers and get to it.”  And the STUD position needs Whitney. 

RELATED: How the new Mountain West TV deal affects Boise State and possible conference realignment

ROLO GOES FROM HONOLULU TO PULLMAN 

Nick Rolovich is in for some weather shock.  But there’s also financial shock—in a very good way.  Hawaii athletic director David Matlin confirmed late Monday night that Rolovich will be leaving UH for Washington State to replace Mike Leach, who bolted for Mississippi State last Thursday.  Rolovich was perhaps the most underpaid coach in the country this season, earning $600,000 while leading the Rainbow Warriors to a 10-5 record and a win over BYU in the Hawaii Bowl.  Last month, Leach signed a contract extension with WSU worth $4 million annually.  So the quirkiness will continue in Pullman, although in a much more fan-friendly (and media-friendly) way.

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RYP HOPES TO CONTINUE HIS DENVER REPS

One of Brett Rypien’s biggest proponents when it came time for NFL teams to sign undrafted free agents last spring was Denver offensive coordinator Rich Scangerello.  He was a key advocate in the team’s signing of the former Boise State star.  But Scangarello has been fired  and replaced by Pat Shurmur, the recently deposed New York Giants coach.  Shurmur was not popular in the Big Apple, but he’s been well-received as a guy who can get the Denver offense up off the mat.  Rypien, who was active for three games in November but didn’t take a snap, is listed as a reserve/future contract holder with the Broncos.  Hopefully he at least sticks on the practice squad again—Shurmur holds the keys. 

RAYJ’S HEYDAY MIGHT BE AT HAND 

Are we at “the future is now” point in the Boise State men’s basketball program?  True freshman RayJ Dennis made his first career start last Wednesday and went scoreless against UNLV, with Marcus Dickinson limited due to an injury.  But coach Leon Rice went right back to Dennis at San Diego State Saturday, and he recorded his first double-figures game that mattered with 10 points (he had 14 in the season-opener against NAIA Life Pacific).  Dennis seems like a guy who could get into a rhythm for the Broncos with increased playing time. 

SAN DIEGO STATE: RANKINGS & HONORS 

San Diego State wasn’t picked to win the Mountain West this season, but the Aztecs are sure the flag-bearers right now.  They remained at No. 7 in the AP rankings and jumped a spot to No. 6 in the Coaches Poll Monday.  SDSU also has the new Mountain West Player of the Week, and it’s not K.J. Feagin, who went off for 23 points against Boise State Saturday night to blow past his season-high.  It’s Aztecs forward Yanni Wetzel, the senior from Auckland, New Zealand, by way of Vanderbilt.  Wetzel put up a career-high 20 points versus the Broncos and 37 for the week in helping San Diego State improve to 16-0. 

NEW MEXICO: BRAGG IS GONE 

Carlton Bragg Jr. has a checkered past, and a checkered present.  Bragg has been “removed” from the New Mexico roster by coach Paul Weir after an arrest early Sunday for aggravated driving while intoxicated and possession of under one ounce of marijuana.  “It is unclear if he could be reinstated before the end of the season,” writes Geoff Grammar in the Albuquerque Journal.  Bragg had just played the last two Lobos games following a three-game suspension for a sexual assault allegation.  He previously had unceremonious departures from both Kansas and Arizona State.  Bragg is averaging a double-double in 15 games this season.  He had 17 points and nine rebounds in an 80-78 win over Boise State last month. 

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…January 14, 2017:

The Connecticut women’s basketball team breaks its own amazing record, winning its 91st consecutive game with an 88-48 rout of SMU in Dallas.  UConn, winner of the four previous national championships and a record 11 overall under coach Gino Auriemma, had won 90 straight from 2008-10.  Only a two-point overtime loss to Stanford in November of 2014 kept the streak from being 139 games at that point.  The run reached 126 games before ending in January of 2019.

(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.)