Scott Slant Wednesday Weekly: Getting back to ‘the standard’

Today is the 12th anniversary of Boise State football’s first appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated—on the 2010 College Football Preview issue. (See “This Day In Sports” below.) It was back when SI was still a big deal. That’s where the Broncos were at the time, in the middle of their 50-3 run from 2008-11. It’s a piece of history that will not repeat itself: a non-power conference underdog becoming elite. So when the current team talks about getting back to the “Boise State standard,” what should that standard be? The mountaintop would be a New Year’s Six game, but that’s not normal. Since Kellen Moore left, the Broncos have notched six 10-win seasons, with four of them eclipsing 11 victories—and two of those reaching 12. The standard in 2022 should be 10 wins, with a goal to overachieve that.


With ESPN out of the Big Ten football and basketball business for the first time in 40 years, will what remains of the Pac-12 find its salvation? And will there be a trickle-down effect for Boise State? I’ve talked about “Pac-12 After Dark,” as much as fans in the conference hate it, giving the league an opportunity to carve out an exclusive TV window, and now ESPN has one it surely wants to fill. The network is in a position to have late-night Pac-12 games delivered on a silver platter. Taking that one step further, of course, the Broncos made a living off late night ESPN games in the 2000s, and the brand took off. Boise State (along with BYU) could also give the Big-12 an attractive late-night package to present to ESPN. But perhaps I’ve mentioned this before: it’s entirely out of the Broncos’ control.


There’s a dizzying amount of college football news out there right now. One thing that came down the pike Monday night was the revelation that SMU is striking an NIL deal that will pay its football players $36,000 per year. An organization called Boulevard Collective will pony up (pun intended) $3.5 million annually. We knew the Mustangs alumni had deep pockets, but this is ridiculous. NIL is spinning out of control, and who’s going to step in and fix it? Not the NCAA, which is all but powerless to do anything now. Boise State has done an outstanding job of managing NIL on behalf of its athletes and is operating it the way it was meant to be. But how do you compete with what’s happening at SMU?


Boise State athletic director Jeramiah Dickey will not hit the snooze button on the Broncos’ “Athletics Master Village,” unveiling some updates to the plan last week. It certainly keeps the Broncos program in front of, uh, certain people. The most tangible and pertinent details had to do with Albertsons Stadium’s north end zone, where plans include loges, field-level and premium club seating and a concourse that encircles the facility. The current price tag for the north end zone is $36.1 million. Improvements in ExtraMile Arena include the construction of loge and club seating. The arena bill would be $19.4 million. Just show them the money.


A day before fall camp, Boise State had 109 players, one under the limit. On the first morning of fall camp, the Broncos had 110, as running back Elelyon Noa, the brother of linebacker Zeke Noa, officially transferred from Utah State. And we wondered why it took so long. Considering the family ties and Boise State’s running back situation, it always seemed like a natural. Noa rushed for 597 yards last year, second among the Mountain West champion Aggies, and averaged 4.3 yards per carry with four touchdowns. Who didn’t notice him when he suited up against the Broncos for Utah State last year? Noa only had four carries in Boise State’s win in Logan in September, but he peeled off a 35-yard run on one of them. Noa also had a 100-yard game against Hawaii. The Aggies should have used him more.


Bulletin—Boise State’s season kicks off three weeks from Saturday at Oregon State. There’s been a lot of talk this week about the Broncos’ running backs and offensive line rooms, and the team’s prospects of improving on its poor rushing performance over the past two years. Exhibit No. 1: just 3.2 yards per carry. Well, that’s where the Beavers go into the season with the upper hand. OSU’s offensive line was the focal point of the team’s charge to its first bowl game in eight years. According to Pro Football Focus, Beavers rushers averaged 2.7 yards last year before they even absorbed contact, a figure that led the Pac-12 and ranked eighth in FBS. Boise State? The Broncos averaged just 1.3 yards before contact. This battle definitely starts in the trenches.


It was a clean slate at this spring for Demario Warren, Boise State’s new cornerbacks coach. Warren had no preconceived notions, although he’s gone over every frame of video from the Broncos’ 2021 season—and now every frame from spring football. He knows what he has now with fall camp rolling. Warren, an experienced guy and the former head coach at Southern Utah, has five players to choose from for his two starting spots. Markel Reed began last season as a starter—then Caleb Biggers took over when Reed was injured and played well. Same thing happened with Tyriq LeBeauf. Kaonohi Kaniho took over as a true freshman and made plays. The wild card is 2021 Utah State transfer Jared Reed, still sight-unseen on the blue turf.


The Boise State-BYU series that was supposed to last 12 years will make it through 11, and the last go-round could rival any game these two teams have played. You saw the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll Monday, with the Broncos garnering 10 points. The Cougars piled up a lot more—152, good for No. 29 if you count it down. So BYU will be favored on the blue turf in November, right? The Cougars were favored last year in Provo, too, but were famously beaten 26-17 despite being the No. 10 team in the country. Here’s what we’ll find out: which team will have the most painful memory? BYU, an upset loser on its home field last year? Or Boise State, which was boat-raced by the Cougars 51-17 during the COVID year? Either way, we’re going to miss this rivalry. What in the world is going to replace it?


It’s an interesting time at San Diego State. The Aztecs are less than four weeks from the opening of Snapdragon Stadium, the impressive 35,000-seat facility that replaces the old place most commonly known as Qualcomm. SDSU is also the overwhelming favorite to move to the Pac-12 should the conference choose to expand after losing USC and UCLA. But a rape investigation has thrown some cold water on the excitement. A 17-year-old girl alleged that she was gang-raped at an off-campus party last October and implicated San Diego State football players. But the incident wasn’t known until media reports revealed it in June. No arrests have been made. As fall camp kicked off last week, coach Brady Hoke pledged that the team will assist in the investigation any way it can.


Many among us have wondered why Avery Williams wasn’t tried at running back two years ago when, with George Holani injured, the Boise State running game was floundering. What’s happening in Atlanta right now tells us it would probably have been a good idea. Williams, the former Broncos special teams great and cornerback, has been moved to running back by the Falcons, and he’s prospering in training camp—making plays and catching the ball well out of the backfield. “I take tremendous pride (in being tough to bring down),” Williams told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m someone who’s always going to finish my run and look to get any yard I can get.” Atlanta opens the exhibition season against Detroit this Friday night, and Williams will finally get some carries when the popcorn’s poppin’.


“There’s a buzz around the course,” Troy Merritt said yesterday on KTIK’s Idaho SportsTalk. “It’s crunch time.” Golf’s FedExCup Playoffs tee off Thursday with the St. Jude Championship in Memphis on a layout that Merritt likes. “TPC Southwind has become one of my favorite courses on the tour,” he added. Of the 125 golfers in the field this week, the former Boise State star is ranked No. 64. Merritt will have to stay in the top 70 to move on to the BMW Championship next week (the top 30 after that qualify for the season finale, the Tour Championship in Atlanta). This has been as consistent a season as Merritt has produced in his career. He’s had seven top 25 finishes, led by fourth-place results at the AT&T Pebble Beach and Valero Texas Open.


It’s clear now that there’ll be no replication of the second-half magic that carried the Boise Hawks to the 2021 Pioneer League Championship Series. The Hawks can only hope to play spoilers now, as they sport the worst record in the Pioneer League at 22-45. Now they’re in a six-game home-and-home series with the Missoula Paddleheads, the team with the best record at 46-20. The first three are in Montana—the Hawks fell to the Paddleheads 7-3 last night

This Day In Sports…brought to you by VETERANS PLUMBING…eliminate your drips and drops!

August 10, 2010: Boise State football graces the cover of Sports Illustrated for the first time, on the magazine’s College Football Preview issue. The theme was defense, and Bronco seniors Ryan Winterswyk, Brandyn Thompson and Jeron Johnson were the models. Not even following the memorable Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma had Boise State made the SI cover. The 2010 team, quarterbacked by junior Kellen Moore, would prove to be arguably the best in school history, but a painful overtime loss at Nevada that November kept the Broncos from reaching the Rose Bowl, and they finished 12-1.

(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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