Preview 2017: Idaho Is Really Good Now?!
Just before getting booted out of the Sun Belt, the Idaho Vandals are getting really good under Paul Petrino.
NOW the Idaho is terrific?
Idaho football really, really, really sucked for a really, really, really long time – with just one winning season since the days of being a Big West power in 1999 – but Paul Petrino needed just a few years to turn it all around.
The Vandals were three wins better from 2014 to 2015, and then rocked last season, going 9-4 with a thrilling win to take the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
And now, the end is near, and so Idaho faces the final curtain.
The Sun Belt decided that Idaho’s services were no longer required, but the school figured out its future with a spot in the Big Sky of the FCS starting in 2018. While it would’ve been nice to have landed somewhere else – like the Mountain West, or tried out life as an independent – okay, whatever. Always be happy when someone wants you.
But first, before moving on, there’s a chance Idaho dropped trou and gives the Sun Belt one great big giant moon by taking the conference title on its way out. Or, just as good for the conference, the Vandals might be good enough to go bowling again – making the Sun Belt more coin before leaving.
The unloved, us-against-the-world belief kicked in last season just when the team was getting strong, and the results were terrific. This year’s team might not be quite as strong, but it might not be far off.
There are two keys. First, the Vandals have to own turnover margin again – they didn’t do that for years. Second, the defense can’t be abysmal. Bad is okay – it was bad last year. Among-worst-in-nation awful won’t get it done.
This year’s D needs to replace all the starters in the secondary, and has to come up with a few new options up front, but Aikeem Coleman might be among the best defensive ends in the league. The linebacking corps is loaded, and there’s just enough depth from last year ready to fill in some of the other gaps.
QB Matt Linehan and the offense should be fantastic again. He’s among the better quarterbacks in the conference, working behind one of the best Idaho lines in years. The running game has stunk for a long, long time, but at least the backs are there to give it a shot.
Can the special teams replace Austin Rehkow, one of the nation’s best all-around kickers? No – he’s the team’s most irreplaceable part. The kicking game can’t be a disaster.
It’s going to be a fun swan song. This is a dangerous team with a high-octane offense, a great coaching staff, and a major attitude.
Always look good in a break-up and make the other side miss you. Idaho could look gorgeous as it moves on with the rest of its football life.