1) The five
games that will shape the WAC race (in order)
Sept. 1 (Friday),
Nevada at Fresno State
Nevada stunned Fresno State late last year to get a share of the WAC
title. The season opener could prove to be an elimination game.
Hawai‘i at Boise State
The Warriors have lost five straight to the Broncos and have been
obliterated recently on the Blue Turf. This year's team has the talent
to reverse the trend.
Hawai‘i at Fresno State
Hawaii lost to Fresno State 70-14 the last time the two played in
Nov. 1 (Wed.),
Fresno State at Boise State
Fresno State finally got the Boise State monkey off its back last
year, but it has to prove it can win in Boise.
Boise State at Nevada
The Pack will be looking for payback after getting blasted 49-14
Five non-conference games that WAC opponents had better take very, very
Hawaii at Alabama, Sept. 2
If the Alabama offense is as impotent as it was last year, Hawaii
could make things very, very interesting in the season opener.
2. Oregon at Fresno State, Sept. 9
Everyone says they take Fresno State seriously, but no one really
does. Oregon starts off the season with a Pac 10 opener against
Stanford, gets the Bulldogs, and could be looking ahead to the showdown
3. Nevada at Arizona State, Sept. 9
The Wolf Pack has the firepower to hand punch-for-punch with the Sun
Devils. ASU might be thinking about road trips to Colorado and
4. Fresno State at LSU, Oct. 21
LSU will have little interest in getting into a dogfight with Fresno
State in the middle of the SEC season.
5. Louisiana Tech at Texas A&M, Sept. 23
The Aggies might be thinking ahead with an easy non-conference
schedule and the Texas Tech game coming up after the Bulldgos.
best WAC pro prospects
Hawaii WR Davone Bess, Soph. - 89 catches, 1,124 yds, 12.6 ypc,
UH head coach June Jones has gone as far as to call Bess the
best receiver he has ever coached. Remember, Jones coached in the
NFL. Bess spent his senior year in high school as a quarterback,
sat out the 2004 season, and then ripped it up as a
true freshman with seven 100-yard games highlighted by a two
game stretch against Fresno State and Nevada when he caught 26
passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns. He's as tough as they
come with phenomenal hands and great concentration around the
2. Fresno State C Kyle Young, Sr.
One of the best centers in America, the 6-6, 330-pound senior has
next-level potential at guard if he doesn't end up earning a ton of
money at center. He's a smart quarterback for the line who's dominant in
all phases. With his size, strength and talent, he's in a salary drive
this year and should end up with several All-America honors.
3. Fresno State CB Marcus McCauley,
Sr. - 45 tackles, 2 TFL, 1
interception, 7 broken up passes
A true shut-down corner, the 6-1, 205-pound junior will be even more
vital to the secondary now that Richard Marshall is gone. He has been a
strong starter over the last two seasons growing into an excellent open
field tackler to go along with the speed and the 6-1, 205-pound size to
get a long look from the next level scouts.
4. Fresno State WR
Paul Williams, Sr. - 43 catches, 729 yds, 17 ypc, 7 TD,
9 carries, 83 yds, 1 TD
A first-team All-WAC performer last year, the 6-2, 210-pound
playmaker led the league in yards per catch and also showed off
his explosiveness as a runner. It took a little while to get
rolling despite a 5-catch, 122-yard, one touchdown performance
against Oregon, but when the second half of the season kicked
in, so did Williams. He came up with one of the highlights of
the WAC season with a 99-yard touchdown catch against Boise
Jeff Rowe, Sr. - 241-380, 62%, 2,925 yds, 21 TD, 10 INT,
119 carries, 244 yds, 6 TD
Rowe came through with a phenomenal season able to make defenses
pay when the ground game was heating up and able to spread the
ball around well to his vast array of talented receivers. He's a
big 6-5, 225-pound passer with a live arm and great mobility; he
finished third on the team in rushing yards. His problem in the
past has been with interceptions, but he had only one major
meltdown last year throwing four against Boise State and
six against everyone else.
Five biggest WAC shoes to fill
1. Fresno State DT
Louis Leonard for Garrett McIntyre
Finally, Leonard was able to stay healthy and he blossomed as a rock in
the middle of the line. At 330 pounds, he's a huge force with a little
bit of quickness to get into the backfield. If he can avoid the nagging
injuries, he should bust through and be an All-WAC performer. With
McIntyre gone, Leonard will move from the nose to defensive
2. Utah State DE
Ben Calderwood for John Chick
It'll be Calderwood's job to be the main pass rushing force on the end
now that Chick is gone. He signed with the team back in 2001 before
going on a church mission, and now should use his athleticism and skills
to be one of the line's top new playmakers.
3. Boise State OT Ryan Clady for Daryn Colledge
One of the best offensive linemen in the WAC, the 6-6, 319-pound
sophomore is the new star now that Colledge is gone. Clady spent
last year at right tackle where he had a stellar year, and now he'll
move over to the left side. He was dominant
during stretches, and now should grow into an All-America caliber
4. Nevada RB Robert Hubbard for B.J. Mitchell
While technically a backup last year behind WAC Player of the
Year B.J. Mitchell, Hubbard was hardly a second-teamer late in
the season rushing for 146 yards and three touchdown against
Fresno State and 126 yards and a score against UCF. He missed
time this off-season with a hernia, but he'll be ready to roll
this fall as a near-certain 1,000-yard rusher with home run
hitting speed and good toughness in a wiry 5-11 frame. He can be
even more dangerous when used in the passing game.
5. Fresno State QB Tom Brandstater for Paul Pinegar
A big 6-5, 220-pound bomber, Brandstater saw a little bit of
time last season and has the inside line at taking over Pinegar's starting job coming into this year. A high school
defensive back as well as a quarterback, he has far more
mobility than Pinegar and has far more upside. He has to show he
can keep the mistakes to the minimum, and he has to be accurate
on his deep balls to properly use the speedy receivers.
Five WAC breakout players
Utah State RB
Marcus Cross, Jr.
The JUCO transfer has immediately taken over the starting duties
after rushing for 1,163 yards and 14 touchdowns for Garden City
Junior College last season. He's a speedy 210 pounds who's
always moving forward and always gaining positive yards. He'll
be a huge upgrade for the Aggie backfield.
2. Boise State DE
Mike T. Williams, Soph. - 8 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 broken up
Only used in pass rushing situations so far, the 6-4, 238-pound
sophomore will see action behind Nick Schlekeway on the left side to
provide more of a burst into the backfield. He's a fantastic athlete who
should put up big numbers with more time.
3. Idaho TE
Luke Smith-Anderson, Jr.
There's no questioning his talent, but Smith-Anderson has to
prove he can stay healthy after suffering a knee injury in 2003
and a ruptured spleen last year. He's an athletic 6-5 target who
caught 16 passes for 207 yards and four touchdowns in 2004, and
it'll be a shock if he doesn't explode in the new offense.
4. Boise State WR
Jeremy Childs, RFr.
It's only a question of time before he becomes the team's top
receiver. He was a huge recruit for the program two years ago
with the talent to have gone almost anywhere on the West Coast
after catching 85 passes for 1,258 yards and 22 scores as a high
school senior at Los Alamitos High in California.
5. Louisiana Tech
WR Josh Wheeler, Soph. - 7 catches, 163. yds, 23.3 ypc, 1
The 6-4, 200-pound sophomore showed nice promise with a 72-yard
touchdown catch against Idaho and should quickly be a top
target. He was a Louisiana state champion high jumper and should
pose a nightmare of a matchup problem once he gets more involved
in the offense.