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CFN 2011 WAC Preview
Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz
Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 9, 2011


Preview, predictions, and breakdown of the upcoming WAC season.


Preview 2011

WAC Preview


- Be Somebody ...  Blog About WAC Football
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- 2011 Fresno State Preview | 2011 Hawaii Preview 
- 2011 Idaho Preview | 2011 Louisiana Tech Preview
- 2011 Nevada Preview | 2011 New Mexico State Preview
- 2011 San Jose State Preview | 2011 Utah State Preview
 
- 2011 WAC Preview | 2011 WAC Unit Rankings
- 2011 WAC Schedules & Picks | 2011 WAC Thoughts
- 2011 CFN All-WAC Team & Top 30 Players 
- 2011 WAC Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2010 WAC Preview

By Pete Fiutak

Texas State? Texas-San Antonio?

It was fun while it lasted.

It might be an overreaction to assume the 2012 WAC will be the new Sun Belt, but it might not be far off unless the programs that weren't taken by the Mountain West can start to blow up.

Boise State is already gone, and Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada aren't far behind. That means that Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, and Utah State will be the holdovers, and Louisiana Tech, because of geography as much as anything else, is teetering. Considering where the conference was with Boise State as the bright shining star, Nevada's phenomenal run last year, and Hawaii's run to the BCS in 2007, it's going to take some work to get the groove back.

Alright. so now what? How can the WAC become relevant again and how can it use this season as a chance to take a step back to respectability? Again, the hope has to come from the bottom, and now is the time for a new story to emerge.

The chances are now there for the remaining WAC holdovers to make their move. Idaho can go from being an also-ran on a regular basis to the possible king of the hill next year. San Jose State has decent potential after years of struggling, and Louisiana Tech has all the makings of a strong anchor to work the conference around. It all starts with the energy of the head coaches, with SJSU's Mike MacIntyre, Idaho's Robb Akey, New Mexico State's DeWayne Walker, Louisiana Tech's Sonny Dykes, and Utah State's Gary Andersen all positive forces who really and truly seem to believe that they can be the ones to turn their respective programs back around. And as dire as things might be at the moment and going into next year, there's a little bit of history to draw on to hope for some semblance of a rally.

It might seem like ancient history, but Idaho was a Big West power in the late 1990s and showed good promise and potential with the 8-5 2009 season. .San Jose State wasn't always miserable, putting up big numbers in the old PCAA and the Big West, and showing that it was possible to be not-that-bad with a 6-6 2007. Louisiana Tech was a star as an independent, and has the upside to be terrific again. Utah State and New Mexico State ... okay, so not everyone has a decent recent past.

This year, the league should be fun without Boise State. Nevada is reloading, but it's still good enough and talented enough to challenge for the conference title and is still good enough to make a little national noise. Fresno State should finally be able to break free from the Boise shackles, and Hawaii will be Hawaii with points and yards flying around in bunches.

And on the plus side, the rest of the league does look better. San Jose State and New Mexico State can't be worse, Louisiana Tech seems to be ready to take off under Dykes, Idaho is improved, and Utah State should be far better with RB Robert Turbin back and with a decent defense back.

These might be dark times for the WAC, but 2012 isn't here yet.

Team That'll Surprise

Nevada - After losing Colin Kaepernick and so many stars from last year's 13-1 juggernaut, there might be a thought that things will fall off the map. Starting out the year with road games at Oregon, Texas Tech, and Boise State in the first four games won't be pretty, but that doesn't mean that everything can't click when the rest of the WAC schedule kicks in. There's enough talent and enough potential to come up with another double-digit win season, even if it's not the epic campaign of last year.

Team That'll Disappoint

Fresno State - Boise State is gone, so Fresno State is finally free to roll through the schedule, right? Here's the problem; the Bulldogs play 13 games, they still have to play Boise State, and they have to deal with Cal, Nebraska, and Ole Miss along with road games at Nevada and Hawaii. Fresno State might end up being far better than last year, but with a worse record. The offense might be fine, but the defense needs work.

Game of the Year

Louisiana Tech at Nevada, Nov. 19 - The Fresno State game at Nevada on October 22nd is big, and the Nevada battle with Hawaii on November 12th will be huge, but for the health of the league, Louisiana Tech's date in Reno could be the biggest game of the season. the Bulldogs get Hawaii at home but they have to go do Fresno State. Nevada is the most important late season game, and Tech has to come through. A win could mean a piece of the WAC title and it could establish the program as the anchor going forward.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight

1. DT Logan Harrell, Jr. Fresno State
2. DE Matt Broha, Sr. Louisiana Tech
3. WR/PR Rishard Matthews, Sr. Nevada
4. LB Corey Paredes, Sr. Hawaii
5. LB Keith Smith, Soph. San Jose State

Coach on the Hot Seat

DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State - With 45 lettermen returning and with a few recruiting classes to make the program like he wants it, Walker has to start to show results. 5-21 in his first two years, there has to be something positive to show that things are on the upswing. New Mexico State doesn't exactly have a ton of high expectations after a history of disastrous records, but with road games at San Jose State and New Mexico - two of the supposed layups - the Aggies might not be favored all year.

5 Non-Conference Games WAC opponents had better take very, very seriously

1. California vs. Fresno State, Sept. 3 (in San Francisco)
2. Nevada at Oregon, Sept. 10
3. Colorado at Hawaii, Sept. 3
4. Louisiana Tech at Mississippi State, Sept. 24
5. Ole Miss at Fresno State, Oct. 1

Bold Predictions …
Louisiana Tech will make a big jump up in Year Two under Sonny Dykes. The offense will start to produce like it's supposed to. ... The Fresno State offense will be better and more consistent, but the defense will be worse and more flaky. ... THe Hawaii passing game won't skip a beat despite the loss of several key receivers. The linebacking tandem of Corey Paredes and Aaron Brown will be terrific. ... Idaho QB Brian Reader will have a better season than Nathan Enderle did last year. Meanwhile, this will be the best defense in the Robb Akey era. ... Nevada will win one of the three big road games at Oregon, Texas Tech, or Boise State. ... New Mexico State will have another bad year, but the defense will start to bring the funk. Here comes the pass rush. ... The San Jose State defense will be night-and-day better with linebacker Keith Smith leading the WAC in tackles. ... Utah State RB Robert Turbin will be as good as new, and it'll show with the team's best season in years.

5 Best Pro Prospects

1. S Duke Ihenacho, Sr. San Jose State
2. WR/PR Rishard Matthews, Sr. Nevada
3. LB Adrien Cole, Sr. Louisiana Tech
4. DT Logan Harrell, Jr. Fresno State
5. LB Bobby Wagner, Sr. Utah State

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill

1. QB Tyler Lantrip for Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
2. RB Mike Ball for Vai Taua, Nevada
3. DE Matt Akers for Chris Carter, Fresno State
4. WR Royce Pollard for Greg Salas, Hawaii
5. DE Albert Rosette for Dontay Moch, Nevada

- Be Somebody ...  Blog About WAC Football
- Suggestions or something we missed? Let us know
- Follow us ... http://twitter.com/ColFootballNews

- 2011 Fresno State Preview | 2011 Hawaii Preview 
- 2011 Idaho Preview | 2011 Louisiana Tech Preview
- 2011 Nevada Preview | 2011 New Mexico State Preview
- 2011 San Jose State Preview | 2011 Utah State Preview
 
- 2011 WAC Preview | 2011 WAC Unit Rankings
- 2011 WAC Schedules & Picks | 2011 WAC Thoughts
- 2011 CFN All-WAC Team & Top 30 Players 
- 2011 WAC Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2010 WAC Preview