The football season is winding down and the basketball season is heating up. We await word on which bowl the Broncos will be invited to and I think about which one I would most like to go to...and this year the answer is simple. The Hawai'i Bowl. I don't think it is going to happen because then things will be too easy. One flight across the Pacific and both the basketball and football teams playing at the same place on different days. It couldn't be better. I could do my notes and charts sitting either by the pool or on the beach. Last year both teams played in Las Vegas on the same weekend, so why not this year too?
With so many bowls that could pick the Broncos and the varying number of teams that those teams could choose, I didn't record any games last week to save on my DVR. Last season I record three or four Pac-12 games from the last week of the season, knowing we were probably headed to Las Vegas and then erased all but the Washington/Washington State game.
To me if you are not in a BCS-type bowl game, you can sort of think of the game as the start to next season. Practice play and build for next year off of it. I knew this year that the Broncos wouldn't be as fortunate on the turnover. In 2012, they were +20. This season they hovered around even all year and were minus in the four losses. Those things seem to even out. I'd like to think that injuries even out and this year the Broncos had a ton, so next year will be better. They also return most everyone on defense. On offense they'll have to replace three senior starters in the line (Chris Strausser always finds the right group) and several at wide receiver. Grant Hedrick gained valuable experience playing these last five games at quarterback for the injured Joe Southwick and should be further ahead next year if he wins the quarterback job. If he doesn't, someone else will have to be a lot better to beat him out. The Broncos schedule will see BYU, Fresno State, San Diego State, and Utah State all come to Boise. After a lot of short road trips, two long ones pop up in non-conference, Ole Miss at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and at UConn. Looking ahead I expect better things in 2014.
As for basketball, the Broncos are one of 18 unbeaten teams. Missouri and Ole Miss play tonight. Michigan State fell from the ranks last night. The Broncos should extend their record to 8-0 over Carroll, setting up a huge game at Kentucky on Tuesday. The Wildcats under John Calipari are one of the most talented and athletic teams in the country. If you want to get an idea of what the Broncos are up against, UK plays Baylor at the Cowboys Stadium Friday at 8 MT on one of the ESPN networks. The schedule toughens up quickly for Coach Rice and his team. After Kentucky, they host St. Mary's on Saturday December 14th and then play three games in the Diamondhead Classic in Hawai'i against major teams. Then the Mountain West season starts when the calendar flips to January. Based on what I have seen, San Diego State, New Mexico, and Utah State appear to be playing the best now. The Broncos won 21 last year and went to the NCAA Tournament. From what I've seen a sequel is coming.
Boise State opens up the 2013-14 basketball season Friday night at Taco Bell Arena against Texas Arlington. Coach Leon Rice's Broncos return all but one player from last year's team that went to the NCAA Tournament and have added several new contributors.
I am looking forward to this season more than any other since I've been here. Enthusiasm is high around town and on campus. Basketball is like other sports, that it is much more exciting when it is played in front of a big crowd. Four times last season, better than 10,000 filled the place, creating a great atmosphere.
This team has two all-conference caliber players in Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic. Those guys can score against any one. I am looking for a lot of the big guys - Ryan Watkins, Edmunds Dukulis, and Nick Duncan. They all bring something different to the table. Those three will help improve this team from last year.
I think the biggest area the team needed to improve was defense. They let opponents shoot too high of a percentage. Tighten up the defense and this team can be really good.
The Mountain West games will be great and there are several non-conference games that are marquee. A road game against number one Kentucky. Home games with Utah and St. Mary's. A three game tournament at Hawai'i.
This season is shaping up to be one of the best ever. I am looking for a return trip to the NCAA's and think this time they will win at least one game.
Boise State has a football program. It was evident Saturday night in the Nevada game. You lose your starting quarterback on the first offensive play and find a way to come back after being down 17-7 at the half. The Broncos came back for a lot of reasons. Grant Hedrick's play at quarterback improved as the game moved along and he got more comfortable. Jay Ajayi, like most good running backs, gets better the more he carried the ball. The two of them will make defending the zone read even more difficult.
Other position groups came through. The offensive line opened up some big holes. The defense clamped down allowing no points and just 127 yards in the second half. DeMarcus Lawrence's 3 1/2 sacks is the most in a game in college football this season and earned him the Mountain West's defensive player of the week. Redshirt freshman linebacker Ben Weaver led the team in tackles again - this time with a career high 14.
The 34-23 win over Nevada puts the Broncos at 3-1 in the Mountain West, and more importantly leaves them controlling their own destiny in the Mountain Division. Utah State is 3-1 and Wyoming is 2-1, but the Broncos have the tie breaker over the Aggies (who didn't have near the fortune with their backup qb as BSU did), and still play the Cowboys.
The game of the year in the West Division is Saturday in San Diego. Fresno State and San Diego State are the last two unbeatens in conference play in that division. The Bulldogs have a great season going, unbeaten and 17th in the BCS. The Aztecs struggled out of conference, but appear to have righted the ship with a new quarterback. SDSU comes off a bye. The winner will be in the driver's seat in the West. I think Fresno is just too talented, especially at quarterback, but the Aztecs two running backs (Pumphrey and Muema) are pretty good. They will need a big day to pull off the upset.
Boise State's game with BYU shapes up to one that will feature two very athletic and quick quarterbacks. But in the grand scheme of things, it isn't as important as the Mountain West games to come. That being said, I think it will be a great game in Provo.
To have a great football season, you have to have depth. Programs have depth. Boise State won that game Saturday night with depth.
The baseball playoffs are just around the corner and I am hoping that the baseball fans of Boise will call the Bob and Murph Show during the post season and talk about what is going on on the diamond. For the rest of the season, Baseball with Bob a weekly feature moves to Wednesdays on Caves and Prater's Idaho Sports Talk, so look for me there.
Most of the playoff teams are set but the matchups aren't. For the teams guaranteed a spot, there is always a question do you go all out to win home field advantage. While it is nice, it isn't nearly the big deal that it is in the NFL. I think as long as you are a division winner, I would rather set up my pitching than try for that extra win to be the top seed. However, moving from the wild card to a division winner is worth spending all that extra energy on. Baseball got it right putting the wild cards in an extra playoff. In many seasons the Yankees and Red Sox both were securely in the playoffs and just coasted to October. Today, they would have competed much harder for the benefit of being division champion.
When you size up the teams and try to predict who will win the World Series...remember one thing...the best team won't always win. It is the team that has things come together for a three way period. Little known hitters get hot (Cody Ross in '10). A pitcher will throw the game of his life (Barry Zito '12).
I thought heading in to this year it would be Detroit's time in the American League. Their lineup is great and they have a couple of the best starters in baseball. Boston has had a renaissance. Oakland just seems to get it done. Right now Tampa Bay and Cleveland look like the wild cards. The National League is set except for who is the Central winner and who are the wild cards. I really like Cincinnati's lineup and can't understand why they aren't doing better. The Dodgers big three starting pitchers will be tough to beat. Atlanta had so many teams in the 90's that should have won, I think this might be there year. No one has talked about the Braves all season.
But the team I am most looking forward to watching in post season is the Pirates. I am hoping that they get to host a game. I was at the last post season game in Pittsburgh. It was game 5 of the 1992 NLCS and the Pirates beat Atlanta, 7-1, in a Sunday night game threatened by rain. Pittsburgh scored four times in the first as five of the first six batters got hits with four of those hits being doubles. Starting pitcher Bob Walk went the distance. The Pirates won game six in Atlanta and lost game seven when Sid Bream beat the throw to the plate sending Atlanta to the World Series. It also sent me to game one of the World Series, but that is another story for another time.
With the Giants out, I'd like to see the Pirates take it this year. Who do you want to see win it? Give us a call on the Bob and Murph Show.
Saturday was a beautiful day at Bronco Stadium. Chamber of Commerce weather and the home team making plays on offense, defense, and special teams. And the video board and sound system were as good as advertised.