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Boise State Football: Spanning the sportswriting globe

One annual question today: will Boise State be ranked by Athlon? And another far-fetched one: how good were the Broncos’ undefeated teams?
Credit: Ross D. Franklin/AP File Photo
TCU's Andy Dalton congratulates Boise State's Kellen Moore after the Broncos won 17-10 in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 4, 2010. Boise State was the first team from a non-BCS conference to receive an at-large berth in a BCS bowl.

BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, May 21, 2020.

The pandemic lockdown has allowed national sportswriters to get pretty creative, and you have to like this from Chris Vannini of The Athletic. Vannini, with the help of WhatIfSports.com, simulated games between the eight undefeated non-BCS and Group of 5 teams since 1998 to see which one was the best. Boise State has two of the qualifiers, of course, the 2006 and 2009 teams. In Vannini’s quarterfinals, the 2006 Broncos were pitted against the 2008 Utah squad that beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The Utes won 37-27. The 2009 Boise State group played those 2017 “national champions” from UCF, and the Broncos were victorious 40-38. The simulation had Kellen Moore out-throwing the Knights’ McKenzie Milton 394 yards to 383. And Kyle Brotzman kicked the game-winning field goal after missing an extra point.

Boise State’s 2009 squad advanced to the semifinals against the 1998 Tulane team. Boise State routed the Green Wave 49-7. And in the title game, the 2009 Broncos got redemption for the 2006 team by beating the 2008 Utes 32-20. The MVP of Vannini’s tournament was that guy named Moore. “Congratulations to the 2009 Boise State Broncos, the best Group of 5/non-BCS conference team since the start of the BCS era, according to this computer simulation,” writes Vannini. The irony is that the 12-1 Broncos of 2010 were even better.

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ATHLON SPEAKS, WE LISTEN

More traditional sportwriting now—the preseason magazine parade is starting to take shape. One publication that always gets buzz is Athlon Sports, and it tabs Boise State as No. 23 in its Top 25 for 2020. The main takeaways from writer Steven Lassan: “The Broncos have won two out of the last three Mountain West titles, and coach Bryan Harsin’s squad is well-positioned to do it again in 2020. However, a glaring concern remains up front. Boise State returns just one starter along the offensive line—tackle John Ojukwu—from a group that allowed 27 sacks last fall. The question marks in the trenches continue on defense. The linebacker and secondary units figure to be a strength. The Nov. 21 date at Wyoming looms large for the Mountain West title picture.” What else does Athlon have? UCF is No. 22, and Cincinnati is No. 21.

WAKE ME UP IN SEPTEMBER

Well, Wednesday was just another day in the world of sports, 2020 style. The NCAA lifted its moratorium on voluntary campus activities for football and men’s and women’s basketball players. They can return a week from Monday. And Gov. Brad Little was on KBOI and said Boise State should be able to play football this fall. “The question, is how big of a crowd can we have?” Little said.

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 Along those lines in Texas, Austin health officials said they can’t envision large-scale events with crowds of 2,500 or more through the end of year. Arrrrrgh. They do say that could change with the availability of good treatments or tests at venues when crowds enter. The one thing we know is that we don’t know.

THE FIRST CORRALING OF THE COUGS

The Bronco Throwback Classicthis week, to be shown tonight on the Boise State Football Facebook page, drums up the first-ever win over Washington State in 2016. It was a warm and lively night in Albertsons Stadium, and it ended with a 31-28 Broncos victory. Boise State burst out to a 14-0 lead, with the first touchdown coming on an electrifying 85-yard pick-six by Tyler Horton. From there, the Broncos bent but didn’t break under the pressure of Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense, with Luke Falk at the controls. Brett Rypien, playing against the team he grew up rooting for (and his uncle Mark’s alma mater) for the first time, was intercepted three times but threw for 299 yards in the victory.

DELAET AND HIS DRIVER SET TO RETURN

The PGA Tour, without galleries, returns June 11 with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth. Former Boise State star Graham DeLaet told KTVB’s Mark Johnson this week he plans to return to the tour the following week at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, SC. DeLaet is playing this season on a major medical exemption stemming from the ongoing back problems that kept him out of action for two years. He last played at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January (he had to withdraw from the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks later). DeLaet has a chance to become a PGA Tour mainstay again, but it won’t be easy. He’s 38 years old now, and his body has not been kind.

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THIS DAY IN SPORTS…May 21, 1930, 90 years ago today:

After hitting three home runs in a game against the Philadelphia A’s, the Yankees’ Babe Ruth decides to bat right-handed in his final trip to the plate. The one-time-only experiment in switch-hitting failed, as the Babe was struck out by Jack Quinn. It was a missed opportunity—only 14 players have hit four homers in a game in modern major league baseball, and Babe Ruth is not one of them.

(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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