Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Western Athletic Conference Predictions 2011

The WAC is undergoing some radical change. Boise State is gone to the MWC with Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada not far behind. The conference, should it survive on the gridiron, will be much weaker in the coming period. Perhaps weaker than the Sun Belt or even the MAC. Is Louisiana Tech looking for a new home? Is anybody even interested in them? These are some questions that will have to be answered. It is interesting that UTSA and Texas State will be joining the league on the gridiron in 2012. The WAC will need to find somebody to replace at least some of these teams that are departing. Montana has apparently decided, rightfully so in my opinion, to stay in the IAA Big Sky. It is hard to forecast what will happen in the coming years. Perhaps they should join forces with the MWC and become a "super conference" of sorts. We will see. At any rate let us take a look at the conference for the soon to be upon us season.

1. Fresno State: With Boise State gone and Nevada in rebuild mode the conference crown is the Bulldog's to lose. It will be interesting to see how Pat Hill's bunch take care of business in their non conference sked. It is, as usual, fairly daunting. A loss to the Cornhuskers is a given but they may have a chance in the remaining games. SDSU is pretty good and the Bulldog/Aztec contest will be one to watch on Dec 3. They should be able to handle North Dakota and very possibly California. We will see. Look for 2-2 and perhaps even 3-1 in their non conf play. They may have some difficulty with some teams on the WAC schedule but Pat Hill is an excellent coach who gets more out of his players than they really should be capable of.

2. Hawaii: The Warriors need to replace quite a few starters but that seems to be a pretty much the case conference wide. There non conference schedule is relatively easy but they won't win them all. This squad could end up number one in conference or fall as low as fifth. Hard to say.

3. Nevada: In rebuild mode also and probably won't be quite the team they were last year. They won't be a possible BCS buster but will field a pretty good team. They may end up in the top slot before all is said and done but will not fall any further than third. The opener at Oregon will be tough and will show a lot about what this squad may be capable of this year. They also meet Boise State on the blue field and will have a tough time there.

4. Louisiana Tech: May be a dark horse for the conference crown. They are supposed to be improved and seem to be well coached. The non conference schedule features Houston and I predict that the Coogs will be a top 20 team before all the smoke clears. They also meet USM and Mississippi State in non conference play. Another pitfall could be UCA, which is a pretty darn good IAA program. They should be able to beat Ole Miss. If they can do well with their non conference slate, then they should do well in the WAC.

5. Idaho: Akey is a good coach but must do something to replace the very good Nathan Enderle. With a little luck they may be able to avoid the bottom half of conference standings. They will need the football gods to smile on them though.

6. Utah State: They may actually be improved this year and perhaps could surprise a few folks. A fairly tough non conference schedule with an opener at Auburn being the key. If they can hang tough there then they may have some confidence to make a serious run for a bowl game or some sort.

7. New Mexico State: Either NMSU or SJSU will finish here or at the bottom. Both are probably rather interchangeable. If Walker can win his home opener against Solich's Bobcats and do well at Minnesota, then they may have at least built some confidence to stay at least out of the cellar. They do return a number of starters on defense but whether that is good or bad.......

8. San Jose State: The Spartans will either land in the last spot or get very lucky and move as high as the seventh. This is a very hard place to win and it always seems that the football program is on the verge of extinction. Perhaps with the further decimation of the WAC the powers that be in San Jose will decide to discontinue the football program. We will see. Their non conference schedule is pretty brutal with the opener at a dark horse contender for the national championship game: Stanford. It only gets marginally easier with non conference games with BYU, Navy, UCLA, and Colorado State on tap. They will likely lose them all but may have a shot against the Rams. These guys need a whole lot of luck to win more than one or two games this year.

The WAC is a league in transition and there is really no telling where it will be in the next couple of years. Time will tell.

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