By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
Boise State senior cornerback Jamar Taylor has built a case for the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year award. He’s second on the team with 39 tackles, tied for first with three forced fumbles, tied for first with two interceptions, first with four pass breakups and tied for third with two sacks.
He’s done all that as one of the leaders of the league’s best defense.
Before the season, new defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake chided Taylor over his turnover production — three interceptions and three forced fumbles in three seasons. Taylor nearly has matched that total in seven games.
“I wish I had more interceptions,” Taylor said, “but I’ll take it.”
Two of his forced fumbles have come on sacks.
“If we see the quarterback with the ball high, we’re definitely just trying to get it out,” he said.
Other top candidates include:
— Phillip Thomas, Fresno State: The senior safety is the favorite. He leads the nation with seven interceptions and is tied for 20th in the conference with 52 tackles. He has four pass breakups, too. Fresno State is second to Boise State in scoring defense, total defense, pass-efficiency defense and takeaways.
— Leon McFadden, San Diego State: The senior cornerback has three interceptions and eight pass breakups. However, the Aztecs rank seventh in the league and 102nd in the nation in pass-efficiency defense.
— Andy Jennings, Fresno State: The junior defensive tackle leads the Mountain West in tackles for loss (10), ranks fifth in sacks (4.5) and is tied for the lead in forced fumbles (four).
— Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State: The sophomore end leads the Broncos with 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
Boise State senior left guard Joe Kellogg made a simple — but lofty — preseason goal. He wanted to stay healthy.
He missed the Sept. 20 game against BYU and came off the bench the next week against New Mexico before returning to the starting lineup.
He’s expected to make his 28th start Saturday — second-most on the team.
“It was a pretty tough goal to achieve in the first place, but I try to set those goals high,” he said.
He’s part of a line that has bounced back from a rough start to produce 4.4 yards per carry while allowing four sacks.
“We continue to get better every week,” Kellogg said. “(Offensive line coach Chris Strausser) has a very high expectation for us and we have yet to reach that. If we continue to practice hard like we have the last couple weeks we’ll ... be that offensive line we know we can be.”
Kellogg was one of six players who entered 2012 with nine or more career starts. Three of them have sustained long-term injuries — center Cory Yriarte (career-ending injury in the summer), tight end Gabe Linehan (hamstring, out indefinitely) and wide receiver Mitch Burroughs (wrist, might return for Nevada game). Kellogg also was on that list. The only two guys on the list who have played every game this year: left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and Taylor.
Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco told CBSSports.com that the idea of a seventh big-money bowl game in the new playoff system remains viable, contradicting an ESPN report from Wednesday.
"The commissioners have all voiced support for this," Aresco said. "I don't know where the talk of it not happening came from, but we're pretty confident it can get done. We think it has real value."
Here is the CBS report.
Aresco also said he expects Big East expansion to stop at 14 teams.
Boise State is offering two-for-one tickets in the north end zone for the San Diego State game through dealsaver.com. You can buy them here.