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Boise State Football: Broncos to open against 'more than decent' Oregon State squad

Oregon State football was in a bit of disarray six years ago. But Boise State’s romp back in 2016 has no bearing on Labor Day weekend; the odds demonstrate that.
Credit: Timothy J. Gonzalez/AP Photo
Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols bulls his way through the Oregon State defense in an NCAA game in Corvallis, Ore., on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. Boise State won 38-24.

BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday Weekly: May 25, 2022.

Early odds are out for the 2022 college football season, and Circa Sports in Las Vegas has Boise State opening as a five-point underdog September 3 at Oregon State. A lot of rabid Broncos fans instinctively put that game in the win column when they first looked at this year’s schedule. But reality needs to set in. This isn’t the program that Boise State boat-raced the last time they met —a 38-24 win in 2016 that wasn’t as close as the score as Jeremy McNichols rushed for 208 yards. That was during the train-wreck tenure of Gary Andersen at OSU. Since then, coach Jonathan Smith, the one-time Broncos quarterbacks coach, has put the Beavs back together and got them to a bowl game last year for the first time since they beat Boise State in the 2013 Hawaii Bowl. Oregon State is more than decent.

REGARDING THE DITCHING OF DIVISIONS

Divisions will be no more in the Mountain West effective next year, allowing the league to pit its two best teams in the championship game moving forward. Last Friday’s announcement came days after the NCAA Division I Council relaxed restrictions on divisions. Unlike the Pac-12, the Mountain West will stick to division winners for this year’s title tilt. The league will deal with the future schedule format at a later date. How will the flow go? Will each team get, for example, three protected rivals and rotate the rest? It’s also possible that the Mountain West will go to nine conference games, meaning each team would miss only two league opponents each year. The loss of a non-conference game would not be popular, though.

So, how many times in the nine years of the Mountain West championship game would the title matchup have been different had there been no divisions? There are two clear-cut instances that don’t involve tiebreakers. When Boise State faced Fresno State in 2014, the Bulldogs were only 5-3 in conference play, while both Colorado State and Utah State were 6-2. The Broncos beat Fresno State, but had they been upset, the Mountain West would have been robbed of its only New Year’s Six bowl appearance. Then in 2019, Boise State, 8-0 in conference, faced 5-3 Hawaii. Air Force was sitting in second in the Mountain at 7-1 and would have gone to the title game had there been no divisions.

DON’T COUNT OUT SHAK AS A STARTER

NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter takes a look at "Day 3 rookies who could compete for starter snaps in Year 1,” pointing out that last year, 14 third-day draft selections started eight or more games in their first year in the league, three more than the average draft class over the past decade. One of his candidates is Buffalo’s fifth-round pick, Khalil Shakir of Boise State. Writes Reuter: “If No. 1 target Stefan Diggs or Gabriel Davis are banged up during the year, Shakir's strong hands and willingness to work the middle will earn him a major role. The Bills use enough three-, four- and five-receiver sets that Shakir should see the field regularly, even if he's not forced into a starting job.” I like that—except the “forced into a starting job” part. Sooner or later, Shakir will earn it.

AKOT HAS NOT EMERGED

Jon Rothstein, College Basketball Insider at CBS Sports, has an update on the transfer portal. As much frustration as it causes, maybe players will think twice before entering in the future. Rothstein cites a breakdown posted by Transfer Portal For Playing Time, and as of the end of last week, almost 55 percent of the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who entered the transfer portal didn't have a new school. Meanwhile, Boise State guard Emmanuel Akot is a senior, and he has until a week from tonight at midnight to withdraw from the NBA Draft without losing his final year of eligibility. Akot is also in the transfer portal and has not come out yet. Never say never, but the Broncos are not a landing spot for him. And Marcus Shaver Jr. is already penciled in at point guard in Akot’s place.

CATCHING UP ON THE ROSTER

We do know that Shaver has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and is staying at Boise State. It seemed likely to happen, but fingers were still crossed. Shaver has several NIL deals — most notably from Crave Delivery and Pro Image. That had to help his decision. He was second on the team in scoring last season at 13.3 points per game, and led the team with 26 games in double figures, five of them at 20-plus. He was “Big Shot Shave” — during the heart of the season, no opponent wanted to see him with the ball in his hands at the end of a game. Shaver mentioned “unfinished business.” He was second-team All-Mountain West this year; that’s part of it. But Shaver did help finish one piece of business: conference regular-season and tournament championships.

As we handicap the Boise State men’s basketball lineup next season — with Shaver returning and Texas Tech transfer Chibuzo Agbo aboard — former Burley High star Jace Whiting has been the forgotten man. Whiting, who signed with the Broncos in November, 2019, just got back from a two-year LDS mission in Finland. The natural question is: can Whiting be in basketball shape in time to contribute this season? He was able to get in some hoops in Scandinavia with help from Hanno Mottola, who played at Utah with Whiting’s dad, Trent. It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Whiting’s family. A week ago, his mom Amber went from head girls coach at Burley to head women’s coach at BYU in one fell swoop. Her daughter (and Jace’s sister) Amari, a Bobcats star and still only a junior, is committed to play at Oregon.

ANOTHER MAY START FOR THE HAWKS

We used to talk about this the third week of June, but here we go: The Boise Hawks open the 2022 season tonight at Idaho Falls. It’s the Hawks’ second year in the independent Pioneer League after 33 seasons in the Northwest League — and therefore the team’s second year with a 96-game schedule as opposed to 76. The Hawks, defending Southern Division champions in the Pioneer, will head back to Boise with the Chukars in tow on Saturday to begin the home schedule at Memorial Stadium with a three-game series (and a nine-game homestand). Manager Gary Van Tol has three local ties back to lead his pitching staff: Capital High grad Matt Dallas, former NNU Nighthawk Zach Penrod and Mitch Lines, who he had at Boise State during the Broncos’ 14-game return to the diamond in 2020.

MERRITT’S NEXT CHALLENGE: COLONIAL

Troy Merritt is right back into it after tying for 41st last week at the PGA Championship, teeing off Thursday morning at Colonial in Fort Worth. Merritt had to fight back last week on a tough-playing Southern Hills Country Club course in Tulsa to make the cut, but a clutch even-par 70 last Friday allowed him to play the weekend. The former Boise State star earned $43,839 and remained at No. 52 in FedExCup standings. It was his best result ever at a major tournament, topping his tie for 42nd at the 2016 Masters.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…May 25, 1935:

In one of the greatest one-man shows in track and field history, Jesse Owens of Ohio State ties the world record in the 100-yard dash and breaks world standards in the 220-yard dash, the 220-yard low hurdles, and the long jump—all in less than an hour at a meet in Ann Arbor, MI. Owens, of course, would win four gold medals the following year at the Summer Olympics in Berlin under the disapproving eye of Adolf Hitler.

 (Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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