WAC Week One Fearless Predictions, Part 2

Posted Aug 31, 2006

Preview and predictions for the week one WAC games

Boise State | Fresno State | Hawaii | Idaho | Louisiana Tech
Nevada | New Mexico St | San Jose State | Utah State

WAC Week One Fearless Predictions

Idaho at Michigan State  12 pm  GamePlan September 2, 2006 
Why to Watch:  The Dennis Erickson era meets Drew Stanton’s senior season.  Idaho’s new, and former, head coach Dennis has returned to Moscow to try to rebuild his old team into a WAC power, and he couldn’t ask for a bigger test to open the season than going to East Lansing to face star MSU QB Stanton. Michigan State is coming off a disappointing season losing six of their last seven games, and could get off to a great start with Eastern Michigan coming up next week before going on the road to face Pitt. Anything less than a blowout over the Vandals would make John L. Smith’s seat even hotter.
Why Idaho Might Win:  Erickson’s teams have been potent offensively, no matter what team’s colors he’s wearing on the sideline (NFL teams excluded), so don’t expect anything other than a Vandal offense that will try to move vertically against the suspect State defense.  Idaho QB Steve Wichman has experience and his effectiveness at keeping the chains moving and avoiding mistakes will be key. 
Why Michigan State Might Win:
  Stanton is one of the three most talented quarterbacks in the nation and is rated by some services as the nation’s top NFL quarterback prospect (ahead of Mr. Quinn). This year he has to continue to build off of the stellar, productive season that he had last season and is the type of talent who can win a game like this by himself.  RB Javon Ringer has speed and a dynamic running style that could be the perfect yin to Stanton’s yang to keep the Vandals off balance.  
Who to Watch:  MSU WR Matt Trannon has NFL talent, but he’s got to be Stanton’s go-to guy all season long.  The Vandals don’t have an answer for the 6-6 senior, but he’s got to play at an “I’m an NFL first rounder” level.  Idaho RB Jayson Bird is back this year after being injured in 2005 and is a power runner personified.  The misnomer about Erickson’s offense is that it’s throw, throw, throw, but running backs in this offense have also been features. Bird is the type of back that can ‘bruise’ a defensive front seven.

What Will Happen:
  Idaho won’t see another player of the caliber of Stanton all season long and stopping him will prove to be as difficult as it appears on paper.  MSU has a tendency to flake out during the season, but not in the opener, especially at home.  Spartan head coach John L. Smith needs to get this team to a bowl game and he won’t do that if they don’t win this opening game.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 54 ... Idaho 17 ... Line: Michigan State -29.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ...
Final Score: 

Louisiana Tech at Nebraska  3:30 pm  September 2, 2006 
Why to Watch:  Husker faithful haven’t been as excited about the opening of a season since, well, the days of former head coach Frank Solich and the option and before anything called a spread made its way to middle America. Well, the option isn’t going to be part of this Husker offense, but QB Zac Taylor will be with the pressure of having to carry the attack to an expected Big 12 North title.  The last time Louisiana Tech came to town, WR Troy Edwards caught more balls in one game, 21 for 405 yards, in a 56-27 loss.  The Bulldog receivers likely won’t combine for that output this year, but this is a good WAC program used to playing on the road.
Why Louisiana Tech Might Win: The Tech defense returns only two starters from last year, but one of them is talented FS Dez Abrams. His experience and leadership might be enough to get the right guys in the right spots against the Nebraska passing game, while the front seven is decent enough to keep the Husker ground attack from doing anything more than it was able to last season.Why Nebraska Might Win:  Mark it down. Nebraska DE Adam Carriker will be a finalist for the Lombardi Award, be a first team All-American and be a top fifteen draft pick in April.  At 6-6 and 294 pounds, Carriker is similar in size to last year’s first round pick Mario Williams with a bit more polish and a faster moving motor. The Husker defensive line will dominate making it impossible for the Tech backfield to get on track.
Who to Watch:  If Nebraska TE Matt Herian plays like he did before injuring his leg a few years ago, there might not be any stopping the passing game. Part receiver, part tight end and full force offensive threat, Herian should be a pass catching demon in 2006 seeing plenty of single coverage with attention needing to be paid to the other targets.  Louisiana Tech WRs Johnathan Holland and Eric Newman could put some pressure on the Nebraska corners, but it might be for naught if QB Zac Champion can’t get the ball off.
What Will Happen:  Taylor will spread the ball around to his plethora of pass catchers, but the key will be what the running game does on Saturday.  The closer to balanced that this offense gets, the scarier it will be when it goes off to face USC n two weeks. Champion will be visited by Carriker throughout the game and the Tech offense won’t be able to move the ball on the run against this tough, stout defense.
CFN Prediction: Nebraska 38 ... Louisiana Tech 13 ... Line: Nebraska -20.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 2.5 
Final Score: 

Utah State at Wyoming  4:30 pm  September 2, 2006 
Why to Watch:  This is the first season in a long while that a Wyoming team takes the field without a Bramlet as the starting quarterback. Coming off a wildly disappointing season, the Cowboys need to get on the right track before a tough two-game stretch at Virginia and at home against Boise State. Utah State struggled mightily in Brent Guy’s first season with too much youth and not nearly enough offense. This is still a very young team that needs more time to grow, but it should be much improved after going 3-8.
Why Utah State Might Win:  USU QB Leon Jackson can run and throw, even if he doesn’t always throw it completely effectively.  The pressure he puts on defense is more important than his lack of overall passing skills, but he can make plays when he has to and is good at making something out of nothing. His two star receivers, Tony Pennyman and Kevin Robinson, will keep the pressure on the Cowboy secondary all afternoon. 
Why Wyoming Might Win:  Wyoming RB Wynel Seldon was a pleasant surprise in a difficult season in 2005 and is poised to start to make some national noise. He’s a quick, powerful and decisive runner who should be the foundation of this offense until the passing game starts to come around. Running behind a strong and experienced offensive line led by potential All-MWC tackle Chase Johnson, Seldon should be the difference.
Who to Watch:  Wyoming safety John Wendling is the only secondary starter returning for the Cowboys, but he’s a pretty good one to have back.  He’s a physical specimen who can play the run as well as he floats in the middle of the field making plays against the pass.  Jackson’s ability to escape the pocket will put pressure on Wendling, so the winner of the battle between the two could end up deciding the outcome.  Utah State LB Jake Hutton was a freshman walk-on in 2005, but this fall, he’s the leader of this defense. He’s a run stopper who has the responsibility of stopping Seldon for a full sixty minutes.
What Will Happen:  The pressure will show in the performance of new Wyoming starting QB Jacob Doss, at least in the first half, but with Seldon’s help, he should settle in eventually against Utah State’s relatively young defense.  Playing at home, the Cowboys will start to make amends for last year
CFN Prediction: Wyoming 31 ... Utah State 17 ... Line: Wyoming -12.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 1.5
Final Score: 

Hawaii at Alabama  7 pm EST GamePlan  Saturday, September 2nd 
Why to Watch:  No game is better than one that pits two so distinctly different styles against one another.  Similar to last year’s Cotton Bowl when Bama had to face the high-powered Texas Tech attack, the Tide has to face another pass first, pass last offense, but this will be on their turf.  On their terms. And, Hawaii doesn’t play nearly as well when they jump across the pond, so it’ll be exciting to see how it responds to the trip to the deep south. The Warriors have one of the nation's most exciting offenses and should push the Tide in a fantastic battle.
Why Hawaii Might Win:  For all of the great quarterbacks in the nation, primarily those named Quinn, Smith and Leak, Hawaii's Colt Brennan throws it with the best of them.  His quick release and ability to make reads rapidly make him a perfect fit in this offense, but he also has excellent mobility and one of the best group of receivers anywhere in the nation highlighted by Ryan Grice-Mullen and Davone Bess.  If UH gets up early, does Alabama have the type of offense to come back? Not if it plays like it did last year.
Why Alabama Might Win:  Alabama RB Darby is one of the nation's most underrated, unnoticed backs could be on pace for a 1,500-yard season as the centerpiece of the offense.  He can do a little bit of everything – run with power, make people miss and catch the ball out of the backfield.  The defense suffered some graduation casualties, but it still has pressure players like DE Wallace Gilberry and OLB Juwan Simpson to keep things rolling after a phenomenal 2005.  The latter will be the key to how deep into the defensive playbook defensive coordinator Joe Kines can dig. Simpson's speed and ability to blitz off the edge and make plays in space should allow Kines the opportunity to get very creative against Brennan and crew.
Who to Watch:  Bess is an electrifying receiver who's as explosive a threat as anyone Alabama will play this season.  He had 89 catches last year, but he faces two good Bama corners in Ramzee Robinson and Simeon Castille.  Alabama WR D.J. Hall has had his moments in his first two years, but he needs to take the next step, especially with new quarterback John Parker Wilson taking snaps this season. If Wilson and Hall aren't clicking, then the Hawaii defense can tee off against the run.
What Will Happen:  Kines will throw every different look possible at Brennan not allowing him to throw in rhythm.  Either Kines will show eight at the line of scrimmage and then drop eight into coverage to try to get Brennan to throw into coverage, or he’ll bring eight and not allow the Hawaii signal caller to set his feet to throw.  Darby should get the ball 25 times, and that will be enough to keep the time of possession battle in the favor of the Crimson Tide.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 31 ... Hawaii 18 ... Line: Alabama -17
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 3
Final Score: 

WAC Week One Fearless Predictions