Tuesday, July 19, 2005

WAC Preview

The Western Athletic Conference loses Rice, SMU, Tulsa, and UTEP, but gains New Mexico State, Utah State, and Idaho. From a basketball standpoint it makes the conference better, but the loss of a good UTEP team hurts in what could be a magical season for WAC.

Boise State has won the last three WAC titles outright, and have not lost a conference game during their run. Along with Fresno State, the WAC has two teams that finished in the top 25 last year, and are expected to be ranked to start the season. Louisiana Tech, despite the loss of Ryan Moats should finish above .500, and Hawaii always has a shot at the hometown Hawaii Bowl if they are bowl eligible. After that the WAC is very poor, Nevada and New Mexico State will be competitive, but will be lucky to win five games. Idaho, San Jose State, and Utah State should end up fighting to stay out of last place.

Who will win the WAC? Boise State or Fresno State? The Bulldogs are the more talented team, and they do host the Broncos. But, Boise State, much like OU-Texas, Miami-FSU, has Fresno State's number. The Broncos are better coached, and always more prepared for the annual showdown, and until Fresno State beats them, how could you go against them? Do not expect a matchup of top 15 undefeated teams, as I do not expect these teams to be unbeaten late in the season.

Order of Finish
1. Boise State 9-3(8-0)- Expect more of the same, an undefeated WAC season, from the Broncos. The early non-conference slate will be taxing, as these Broncos are not used to playing three tough teams in three straight weeks. Last year, Boise State could have easily been 8-3 barely escaping BYU, Tulsa, and San Jose State, and not for all the Louisville turnovers in the Liberty Bowl, the Cardinals would have won by at least three TDs. An 0-3 start might signal a down year for Boise State, but by the end of the season BSU will have it's fourth straight WAC title, bowl game, and national ranking.
t2. Fresno State 9-3(6-2)- Fresno State has lost at least two conference games since it joined the WAC in 1992. Despite having it's most talented team since 2001, the Bulldogs will far short once again. Pat Hill has built Fresno State into a "giant killer", yet he can not get his team to beat the little guys. The Bulldogs will start the season with a bang, as always, but will be upset in October. Although, the WAC title will still be in their grasp when BSU comes to town, the magic of a BCS dream season will be gone. Until, Pat Hill makes a WAC title the goal, and not the BCS, expect another 9-3 season, when so much more is possible.
t2. Louisiana Tech 7-4(6-2)- Even with the loss of it's best player, the Bulldogs are capable of winning the WAC. Tech's non-conference slate is not as difficult as last year's, and in conference play they host Hawaii and Boise State. This team is good enough to be 6-0 in WAC play before closing out with BSU and at Fresno State. If they can win one of those games, can Ruston say, "bowl game".
4. Hawaii 6-6(5-3)- Timmy Chang has finally departed after "ten" years as the starting QB, and over 17,000 passing yards. Replacing him is easier than many would expect. Chang was a product of the system, and quite frankly the Warriors played better when he was injured. If not for games against USC, Wisconsin, and at Michigan State, UH would be going to it's fourth straight Hawaii bowl.
t5. New Mexico State 4-8(4-4) Much like how Nebraska switched from the power run offense to the west coast last year, the Aggies will be doing the same this year. But, Hal Mumme will be installing a wide open passing offense that will be fun to watch. It will be rough in the beginning, but by November the Aggies will start winning.
t5. Nevada 5-6(4-4)- The Wolfpack underachieved last year with an experienced team and "new" coach Chris Ault. Nevada is more than capable of winning seven or eight games, but don't expect it. Ault's offense is past it's prime, and if changes are not made this year, expect another disappointing year for a talented Nevada squad.
t7. Utah State 3-9(1-7)- The Aggies are happy to be in the WAC. Having played as a independent and as a member of the Sun Belt conference, Utah State finally can develop some western rivalries. Unfortunately, the Aggies will be lucky to win more than one conference game their first year.
t7. San Jose State 2-9(1-7)- Dick Tomey has returned to head coaching, after serving as an assistant at Texas last year. The Spartans do have talent on the defensive side of the ball. However, Tomey's trademark "Desert Swarm" defenses should take a couple of years to be effective.
t7. Idaho 1-10(1-7)- There was a time that the Vandals used to be the dominant team in Idaho. As a member of the same conference as Boise State, the gap has closed a little bit. The Vandals are on the rise, a conference upset win would not be a shock.


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