Preview 2012 - WAC Predicted Finishes
The early summer look at where we think each team will finish.
WAC Conference Picks
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Preview 2012 - Predicted Conference Finishes
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1. Louisiana Tech
2011 Record: 8-4, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 8-4
The defending WAC champion should have one more big season in what might be the league's swan song before taking off to Conference USA. The Bulldogs won't be as good as they were last season, but the schedule is light enough to have a great year with non-conference games against UNLV and Rice to help build up the base of wins. Utah State should be one of the WAC's most dangerous teams, but the game is in Ruston and there's no one else in the league that should be good enough to challenge the champion. The strong defense is loaded in the secondary and should be fine up front, but the O line should be the real star with four returning starters to help make the terrific receiving corps and the passing game fly.
2. Utah State
2011 Record: 7-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 7-5
If 2011 was a stunner for a program that hasn't seen much success for a long, long time, then this season should show a little bit of staying power. The problem will be the key losses with running back Robert Turbin and Michael Smith, along with tackling machine Bobby Wagner, gone. However, there's still speed in the backfield to go along with a good quarterback situation working behind center Tyler Larsen and a good line. The WAC is awful, but the Aggies still have to go to Louisiana Tech late in the year and never get two home games in a row after facing Southern Utah and Utah in the first two weeks. With road trips to Wisconsin and BYU, there will be plenty of chances to make a statement, but it'll be more important to be spotless in conference play before dealing with the Bulldogs on November 17th. Fortunately, the Aggies get two weeks off before the showdown that should determine the WAC title.
3. San Jose State
2011 Record: 5-7, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 6-6
The final season in the WAC before jumping ship to the Mountain West should be a strong one. The 5-7 step forward last year under Mike MacIntyre was mostly because of the light schedule. This year the slate is even easier, but it'll take wins on the road to get to six victories. Over the second half of the season the Spartans have to deal with a run of three road trips in four weeks, but it's an easy run with UTSA, Texas State, and New Mexico State wrapped around a home game against Idaho. Winning all four is vital to be in the hunt for a bowl game. The passing game will be good and the defense should be solid if it can reload up front. It should make for an interesting season.
4. New Mexico State
2011 Record: 4-9, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 5-7
It's time for the Aggies for finally take a big step forward. Coach DeWayne Walker has been building and rebuilding, but he has to replace most of the secondary and too many players on the D line. Even so, the talent level has improved and all the hard work should finally start to pay off a bit with winnable games against Sacramento State, New Mexico, UTSA, Idaho, and Texas State there for the taking. If the offense can play up to its potential - and that means QB Travaugh Colwell has to be ready to rock - six wins won't be out of the question.
2011 Record: 2-10, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 3-9
The offense needs to settle on a quarterback as soon as possible and the defense has to replace six starters after not stopping anyone last year. Fortunately, the schedule has become far, far easier in the new world of WAC Lite. However, there aren't any sure things early on, even though it might seem like there are some lightweights on the slate. Eastern Washington is a tough FCS game to open and going to Bowling Green - one of the MAC's better-looking teams - won't be fun. With four road games in the final six and five in the final seven, taking care of every home date is a must.
6. Texas State
2011 Record: 6-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 3-9
The problem is that the Bobcats don't have a slew of layups. Stephen F. Austin is the only FCS team on the slate, so while Dennis Franchione's club won't be awful in its first and only season in the WAC, the record won't be there to show it. The quirky spread-option attack will roll up a ton of rushing yards - it could lead the WAC in rushing by a huge margin - while the veteran defense could be terrific up front.
2011 Record: 4-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 5-7
With games against teams like Texas A&M-Commerce, NW Oklahoma State, and McNeese State, the Roadrunners shouldn't have an awful record in their first season in the FBS. Ten starters return to a decent defense that should be solid, while the offense that was really, really young last year should be far stronger. If UTSA can win at South Alabama early and beat Texas State late, a winning season might be possible.