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Boise State football: Hoping like heck it happens

There’s a state of emergency in Florida as Hurricane Dorian strengthens. Boise State really, really hopes its game in Jacksonville Saturday isn’t on the ropes.
Credit: Richard W. Rodriguez
The First Responder Bowl between Boston College and Boise State was canceled due to weather and was designated a no contest after multiple lighting delays Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018, in Dallas.

BOISE, Idaho — Update: Officials announced Thursday morning (after this column was posted) that the game was moved to Saturday morning in Tallahassee. Kickoff will be 10 a.m. MST. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019.

We hope Mike Prater’s confident declaration yesterday is right: “This game will be played.”  Hurricane Dorian sure has us wondering.  It would be worth it to get this Boise State-Florida State contest in, even if the Broncos have to sacrifice exposure on ESPN by pushing up the kickoff time.  They need this game for their strength-of-schedule, which Phil Steele has as 103rd in the country.  What will happen to it if Saturday’s game isn’t played?  This happened to UCF in particular two years ago.  The Knights had cancel a game versus Georgia Tech due to Hurricane Irma.  And that missed opportunity against a Power 5 school, UCF figures, was why the Knights didn’t get into the College Football Playoff with their undefeated season.  (Of course, they claimed the national championship anyway.) 

Florida State spokesperson Rob Wilson released a statement late yesterday: “We continue to be in contact with the Governor’s Office, our partners in Jacksonville, and Boise State’s athletics department.  At this time there is no change in the status of the game.  We will provide an update Thursday morning.”  There’s a lot to absorb here.  If the storm hits Jacksonville full-force but doesn’t arrive until Sunday, is it appropriate to play a football game on Saturday when thousands of people are trying to evacuate?  B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press also brought this up—if there is a cancellation, would it affect FSU’s return trip to the blue turf next year?  In the contract between the two schools, Rains found that if a weather issue forces cancellation, “both parties shall be relieved of any and all obligations of this agreement.” 


It’s frustrating to be talking about weather instead of football.  On to football.  The Boise State defense has been talking about Florida State running back Cam Akers, and why wouldn’t it be?  Two years ago, Akers was the No. 1 running back recruit in the country according to the 247 Sports composite rankings.  He was the No. 2 prospect overall.  Now a junior, the Seminoles are expecting Akers to reach his massive potential.  He did top the 1,000-yard mark as a true freshman—barely.  Akers ran for just 706 yards last year, but he reportedly sprained an ankle last summer and never fully recovered.  But he says he’s “100 percent” now and that the ‘Noles “could shock a lot of people.” 


Bill Connelly of ESPN.com ran down all the FBS conferences Thursday using ESPN’s SP+ formula.  Connelly has the overall strength of the Mountain West falling more than any other league this year.  Writes Connelly, "The 2018 season was the MWC's best in a while, with Fresno State and Utah State hitting historical peaks and Boise State continuing to play like Boise State.  The Bulldogs and Aggies are both projected to fall back to the pack, however, which could make the conference weaker as a whole.”  Connelly doesn’t see a lot of drama in the Mountain Division.  “Unless Boise suffers some new-QB issues or Utah State star quarterback Jordan Love is able to thrive with an entirely new set of personnel, the Broncos are the clear and obvious favorite.”  The SP+ formula has the Broncos at No. 23 in the country. 


The Mountain West went 5-13 against Power 5 opponents last year, but it’s already 1-0 this season after Hawai’i knocked off Arizona.  The conference has five other opportunies this week beyond Boise State-Florida State.  Two of those are at home, as Nevada hosts Purdue and Wyoming gets Missouri in Laramie.  The Wolf Pack and the Cowboys are still double-digit underdogs, though—the Pack by 11 points and the Pokes by 17½.  The Broncos, incidentally, are still 4½-point underdogs against the Seminoles. 


For better or worse, BYU has been preoccupied with its season opener against bitter rival Utah.  And now it’s here—as in, tonight in Provo.  The Cougars have lost eight straight to the Utes.  And as much as BYU wants to consider the playing field level, Utah’s move to the Pac-12 in 2011 has had a crushing effect on the series.  Do the math: the Utes haven’t lost since both schools left the Mountain West.  And in the past seven NFL Drafts, Utah has had 23 picks and BYU six.  The Cougars rest their hopes of digging out of this in-state hole with sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson.  The one-time Boise State commit is coming off winter surgery, but fans are expecting (or at least wishing) him to be the next great BYU QB.


Idaho’s first depth chart of the season is out, and we’re set to see a heavy helping of Nick Romano.  The former Rocky Mountain star is listed as a co-starter at running back with fellow true freshman Kiahn Martinez and sophomore Roshaun Johnson.  Former Boise State player Kayode Rufai begins his days as a Vandal as a starter at defensive end in Saturday’s game at Penn State.  Rufai began last season with a shared sack in the Broncos’ 56-20 win at Troy.  At quarterback, there’s still an “or” between Mason Petrino and Colton Richardson, and coach Paul Petrino says there will be for the next few weeks.  The QBs shouldn’t be judged on what happens against the Nittany Lions—Idaho is a 39½-point underdog.


Here’s something we haven’t talked about much lately: a Boise Hawks victory.  Five Hawks pitchers combined on a four-hitter to beat Hillsboro 4-1, only the third win in 14 tries on the annual Western Idaho Fair road trip.  Offensively, Boise used a three-run sixth inning to get it done, keyed by a two-run single from Yorvis Torrealba.  The Hawks have two more in Hillsboro before the Hops join them in Boise for the final three games of the year. 

This Day In Sports…August 29, 2004, 15 years ago today:

Albert Pujols becomes only the fourth player in big league history to collect 100 RBIs in each of his first four seasons, joining Hall of Famers Al Simmons, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.  Pujols did it with his 40th home run of the season, a solo shot that helped St. Louis to a 4-0 victory at Pittsburgh.  There are lots of “fours” here—the Cardinals would go on to the World Series, where they’d be swept in four games by Boston as the Red Sox ended the “Curse of the Bambino.” 

(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.) 

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