Saturday, June 10, 2006
A REASONABLY ANTICIPATORY ASSESSMENT OF: BOISE STATE
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SMQ spins the wheel for a hastily-rendered but not too-soon look at a random school's prospects for the fall, sans inevitable academic and criminal suspensions, sudden transfers, debilitating injuries and other miscellaneous misfortunes of the long summer
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Returning talent means smooth sailing - or else? - for new captain of perennial champion
PAST FIVE SEASONS: 53-11 (37-3 WAC) - 2005: 9-4 ( 7-1 WAC)
STARTERS BACK, ROUGHLY: 18 (9 Offense, 9 Defense)
WHAT'S CHANGED: The '04 Liberty Bowl loss to Louisville and last year's opening day debacle at Georgia ended the speculation - which was, as some of us may need to be reminded, coming from more than one place - about the Broncos' prospects for national power status. Boston College in the
HumanitarianMPC Computers Bowl became the first visiting team to win on the blue turf in more than five years. Even within the WAC, Fresno State put a stop to BSU's 31-game league win streak in convincing fashion last November.
Still, the Broncos were good enough to send Dan Hawkins off to the
greenerrockier pastures of BCS league ball at Colorado after a prolific five-year run in which his team won 53 games, making it one of only five- USC, Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia being the others - to average double digit wins over that span. Whether or not you play in the WAC and have extra games (auto wins, for Boise) at Hawaii, that's pretty damn good, and it's the reason BSU stayed in-house with Hawkins' successor, Chris Petersen, coordinator of Boise's outrageously effective and consistent offense throughout Hawkins' tenure. Most of the coaching staff is new (though many are returning to the blue turf after stints elsewhere), with both coordinators - promoted QB coach Bryan Harsin on offense and and ex-BSU graduate assistant Justin Wilcox, most recently of California, on defense - are just 29 years old, older than SMQ but younger than all but three other I-A unit heads.
WHAT'S THE SAME: Fresno State loss be damned; until further notice, the WAC is Boise's punk: the Broncos have four consecutive titles - all of them outright until last year's split with Nevada, and BSU won the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Wolfpack - and wins in 33 of their last 34 conference games. Remember, Idaho and the Sorry States - Utah, San Jose and New Mexico - still make up half of this league's schedule.
But even if they didn't, Petersen should have no continuity problems with an offense that slipped a bit - all the way to third in the WAC in yardage! - but finished again in the top ten nationally in scoring and returns once-hyped quarterback Jared Zabransky, four O-line starters and a good chunk of the skill production from last year. The defense gets back nine starters, too, most notably leading tackler Korey Hall at the Mike spot.
ZABRANSKI: ALSO-RANSKY?: Zabransky was on most all-WAC teams this time last year, but wound up faring worse in every passing category compared to 2004 and looking the worst in his team's three most notably "big" games: against Georgia, Fresno State and Boston College, he threw eight interceptions to just one touchdown as the offense averaged just shy of two touchdowns in those losses (it averaged just shy of 43 points in its other ten games). To be fair, Zabransky was efficient, if not great, in the other tough games, throwing eleven scores to just two picks against Oregon State, Bowling Green, Hawaii, Nevada and Louisiana Tech - all wins except Oregon State - but his sporadic play also included inexplicably bad games against Portland State (2 INTs, no scores in BSU's mere one-TD victory over a I-AA mediocrity) and Idaho (almost as many picks - two - as completions - four - with no TD passes even as the team somehow romped to 70 points against the Vandals) and was a major reason the offense as a whole was noticeably less effective in spite of the running game's continued contributions. With three of the four backs who made significant contributions graduating, the Broncos' competitiveness against decent teams will require his arm and judgment return to at least their very competent '04 levels, if not better. Four now-senior receivers with 123 combined catches - for a 14-yard-plus average, too - last year will aid in that endeavor.
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, JUST RETURN IT: The Broncos were perpetually dangerous on special teams under Hawkins, and get a lot of touchdowns through returns of both punts and kickoffs as well as interceptions and fumbles; it had eight such non-offensive touchdowns last year. Guys responsible for seven of those are back, including Quinton Jones, who ran back three punts, and cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who returned one interception and one fumble all the way as a freshman (and had 45 tackles and 11 passes broken up in the meantime). Jones, subsquently, is getting some all-America attention, rare for a Bronco, or anyone from the WAC, for that matter.
OVERLY OPTIMISTIC POST-SPRING CHATTER: Like Purdue and its quarterback-threatening Boiler Drill, Petersen set Spring stakes involving choice cuts of meat for winners, clearly daring the NCAA to enact the precedent it set in 1994 by forcing Aberdeen College to fire first-time head coach Luther Van Damme for buying his new players dinner upon arrival at the school. Petersen's team, at least, provided some drama when the Blue Team decided to go for two after a potential tying touchdown with a minute left:
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Hey NCAA - what gives? : It was no laughing matter when Jerry Van Dyke bought dinner for his team
Less exciting were the respective offenses' red zone performances, which left the ball at the one-yard line twice without scoring. Notable: backup quarterbacks Taylor Tharpe and Nick Lomax were combined 12 of 14 in the game for 124 yards.
REASON FOR HOPE: A ton of experience is back on both sides, and Petersen should offer a relatively seamless transition. Again, this program has won four straight championships, after all, so it's the top dog until proven otherwise.
REASON TO BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID: How much did Hawkins and his enthusiasm mean to the team? Some of the mystique was knocked off this team last year, and more left with him to Colorado.
IF THIS TEAM WERE ANY POP CULTURAL, HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, LITERARY OR OTHERWISE NOTABLE FIGURE, IT WOULD BE: The Telluride Film Festival, a more low key festival compared to some of its larger competitors, but where - like better-known schools that have come calling for Houston Nutt, Dirk Koetter and now Hawkins - the big guys consistently come to suss out the innovative young talent in the obscure, far-removed hinterlands, and also where that talent, in retrospect, probably did its best work.
HONESTLY, WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE, SMQ'S THINKING... This looks like another nine or ten-game winner, and the future won't look so hot for Petersen if it's not - he's in a poor man's version of a Larry Coker situation here, where a familiar face just keeps the ship steady for a team that's talented, experienced, looks like the favorite, ought to be, and for whom anything less than a championship will seem like underachieving.
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PREVIOUS REASONABLY ANTICIPATORY ASSESSMENTS:
June 3: Boston College...June 4: Arkansas State...June 6: Hawaii...June 8: Virginia...June 10: Rice
ABSURDLY PREMATURE ASSESSMENTS:
April 3: Central Michigan...April 4: BYU...April 5: Kentucky...April 7: Bowling Green...April 8: Southern Cal...April 11: Rutgers...April 12: Marshall...April 13: Florida State...April 15: San Diego State...April 16: Alabama...April 19: Oregon State...April 20: Buffalo...April 21: N.C. State...April 23: Arizona...April 24: Memphis...April 25: Louisiana Tech...April 28: Iowa...April 30: Toledo...May 2: Ohio State...May 3: Mississippi State...May 5: Southern Miss...May 7: Louisiana-Lafayette...May 11: Akron...May 12: North Carolina...Michigan State...May 15: Air Force...May 17: Stanford...May 18: Georgia Tech...May 21: Connecticut...May 23: Purdue...May 24: Navy...May 27: UCLA...May 28: New Mexico State...May 29: Tennessee
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i'm surprised you don't have ads. if it's the principle of it, that's awesome. if it's the lack of traffic..then i don't know what to say, because this site is one of the most realistic and in-debth sources of college football analysis.[/bj]
still waiting on an explanation of the wheel, as well as a feature on a Big XII team.
If I could rig the magic giraffe, I would.