WAC Fearless Predictions - Week 3

Posted Sep 14, 2006

WAC Week Three Fearless Predictions, Picks and Previews

Boise State | Fresno State | Hawaii | Idaho | Louisiana Tech
Nevada | New Mexico St | San Jose State | Utah State
- Past WAC Predictions: Week One | Week Two

WAC Week Three Fearless Predictions, Part 2

WAC Game of the Week

Fresno State (1-1) at Washington (1-1), 6:30 EST, Saturday, September 16th
Why to Watch:  The battle between the Dogs is another tussle for bragging rights between the Pac-10 and the WAC.  San Jose State and Boise State represented the WAC well with big wins over Stanford and Oregon State respectively, while Washington and Oregon picked up victories over San Jose State and Fresno State.  After the win over San Jose State, Washington ran into an Oklahoma buzz saw in the second half of their loss in Norman, while Fresno State battled Oregon throughout the game, but got beat by a fake field goal in the fourth quarter.  This conference rubber match, so to speak, is a huge for both teams. Fresno State wants to reestablish that it belongs among the BCS conference teams, while Washington desperately needs a good win under head coach Ty Willingham.
Why Fresno State Might Win:  Fresno State should be able to pound it with RB Dwayne Wright, the number three rusher in the nation who’s averaging 156 yards per game.  It might sound simplistic to just turn and hand him the ball, but the senior power back has been nothing short of sensational early in the season.  One week after running over, around and through Nevada, Wright ran for 154 yards on 29 carries to help the Bulldogs maintain a nine-minute time of possession advantage against Oregon. Washington hasn’t been able to slow down the run yet, and it won’t this week. 
Why Washington Might Win:  The Huskies can also run the ball ranking ninth in the country in rushing registering 252 yards per game.  Against San Jose State’s porous D, that’s easy to understand, but the Huskies ran for 204 yards against Oklahoma with a few big dashes to make it interesting.  QB Isaiah Stanback has to get involved as a threat early on to utilize his blazing speed and decent arm. By scrambling, he keeps backside defenders from closing too quickly on running backs Louis Rankin and Kenny James.
Who to Watch:  Containing a versatile quarterback like Stanback isn’t ever easy for opposing linebackers, which makes the play of Fresno State linebackers Dwayne Andrews and Alan Goodwin incredibly important.  These two have to stay disciplined and not be over-aggressive every time Stanback is on the move.
What Will Happen:  Fresno State had the best audition it could possibly have had facing Oregon’s dynamic Dennis Dixon last week.  However, Stanback isn’t throwing the ball nearly as well as Dixon, or as often. Once the Bulldog defense slows the Washington offensive unit, FSU QB Tom Brandstater should find play action to his liking while the Huskies chase the bruising Wright.  If Brandstater completes 60% of his throws and doesn’t turn the ball over (he threw two picks last week), the Bulldogs will win.

CFN Prediction
: Fresno State 34 ... Washington 28
... Line: Fresno State -3.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Dancing with the Stars) ...

Boise State (2-0) at Wyoming (1-1) 3:30 PM EST Saturday September 16th
Why to Watch:  This will be the first game off the Smurf Turf for Boise State since November of last year.  When the Broncos come off of the blue turf, it can be interesting to say the least without much of the same magic it's able to produce at home.  However, this is a different, more complete team than in recent years, and the other ones were very good.  The talk has already started about Boise State going to the BCS and Wyoming would like nothing better than to dispel that discussion with a huge W at home on Saturday to generate a buzz about the program.  However, Wyoming is coming off of a long trip to the East coast coming off a loss to Virginia thanks to a missed extra point in overtime. 
Why Boise State Might Win:  Yes, Boise State scored 42 unanswered points against a BCS conference opponent last week, but what was more impressive was how it did it.  The Broncos ran basic power and isolation plays after Oregon State took a 14 – 0 lead and pounded OSU into submission with RB Ian Johnson.  However, it’s the ease with which the offensive line took over the game up front that should have Wyoming fans concerned.  There were a number of occasions where Johnson wasn’t even touched before he got into the secondary, and he should have room to move on the Cowboy front. 
Why Wyoming Might Win:  Whether it’s a myth or not, the Broncos do often play like a different team on the road.  Will that translate into Wyoming being able to slow down the run?  The Cowboys have given up a total of 87 rushing yards in two games, ranking tenth in the nation, meaning the pressure will likely be on Boise State QB Jared Zabransky to not turn the ball over in the passing game.  The Boise State signal caller has been better this year, but has a history of giving it away when faced with unyielding pressure in his face.
Who to Watch:  The Wyoming offensive line must do a better job than Oregon State did of getting a hat on BSU LB Korey Hall.  OSU’s Yvenson Bernard is a solid back who couldn’t escape Hall, who should be the key to slowing down anything Wyoming wants to do offensively. If he's free to roam, the Bronco defense could dominate.  Boise State’s offense hasn’t struggled one bit this year, even after losing All-American Daryn Colledge thanks to the play of tackle, Ryan Clady who's playing like a future All-American.  His ability to lock down the edge of the Wyoming defense cuts off inside pursuit and gives Johnson his choice of where to run.
What Will Happen:  Wyoming will tackle better than Oregon State did so Johnson isn’t going to be able to run like this was flag football.  However, Wyoming may have to bring safety John Wendling into the box to help stop him, opening a lot of room for the passing game in the deep middle of the field.  Zabransky has grown and matured this year and his decision making has improved tremendously, and this will be the game that he has to rely on his perimeter weapons at wide receiver.  As proven in last week’s game, Wyoming head ball coach Joe Glenn will be aggressive and even pull a few tricks out of his bag to keep the Cowboys in this one.  Now, if they can just make an extra point.  Unfortunately, it won’t matter much this week.
CFN Prediction: Boise State 33 ... Wyoming 27 ... Line: Boise State -8
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Dancing with the Stars) ...

Idaho State (1-1) at Idaho (0-2) 5:05 PM EST Saturday September 16th
Why to Watch:  Dennis Erickson’s Vandals finally get a chance to play at home against a team its own size.  The two road trips they took in games one and two were like night and day for the Vandals – competitive at East Lansing in a close battle with Michigan State, out of it from jump in Pullman against Washington State.  So, a home game against D-IAA Idaho State could smooth the rough spots.  However, the Bengals aren’t willing to be Idaho’s patsy in an in-state semi-rivalry game. The Bengals destroyed Fort Lewis 48–12, a wee after getting pasted by UNLV.
Why Idaho State Might Win:  D-IAA teams have shown throughout the 2006 non-conference season that they’re not willing to roll over and just take a check home in the process.  With former Michigan QB Matt Gutierrez at the helm, the Bengals have a bona fide QB/leader who won’t fear the Vandals or their secondary.  The Vandal back four was shredded by Washington State’s Alex Brink, who completed 12 of 15 for 231 yards and 3 touchdowns in the 56–17 Cougar win. Gutierrez should have few problems coming up with some big plays.
Why Idaho Might Win:  The drop off from Michigan State and Washington State, two BCS conference bowl contenders, to Idaho State, at best the fourth ranked team in the Big Sky, should be the perfect remedy for an 0-2 start.  After playing Brink last week, the Vandals should be prepared to face a pocket passer like Gutierrez and should be able to generate a little bit of pressure.  On the other side of the ball, the Vandal running game should be physically dominant against Idaho State’s front seven.
Who to Watch:  Idaho State LB Pago Togafau is charged with the responsibility of stopping Idaho RB Jayson Bird, who should be able to play despite his injured knee.  Togafau, the pre-season All-American, is tied for the team lead in tackles with 18 and should add to that total after locking horns with Bird throughout the game.  The Vandals have to pressure Gutierrez throughout this game, which puts the spotlight squarely on the Idaho defensive line.  The Vandals have only one sack on the season, and they must start to generate more pressure out of their base schemes.
What Will Happen:  Predictably, the Idaho offensive line should get more run game work against the undermanned Bengal front seven, but Erickson is promising to open things up for QB Stephen Wichman to help him get back on track.  Last week, Wichman completed only 11 of 31 passes in Pullman, so getting something to happen early with a big play out of the passing game is crucial to his continued development in Erickson’s offense. 
CFN Prediction: Idaho 38 ... Idaho State 13 ... Line: No Line
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Dancing with the Stars) ... 1

Nicholls State (1-1) at Louisiana Tech (0-1) 7:00 PM EST ESPN Gameplan Saturday September 16th
Why to Watch:  The state of Louisiana lights up when two of their own take the field to do battle, as these two teams will do in Shreveport on Saturday night.  The Bulldogs are coming off of a bye week which followed a 49-10 pasting by Nebraska.  Well, what do you know?  Nicholls State visits Louisiana Tech one week after suffering the same fate in Lincoln losing 56-7.  Louisiana Tech needed this to tune up for a brutal three game stretch against Texas A&M, Clemson and Boise State.
Why Nicholls State Might Win:  Playing Nebraska isn’t the best way to build confidence, but what it gave NSU the experience of playing the game at a much faster pace than normal.  That experience, combined with the fact that the players that take the field have played against each other throughout high school, shouldn’t intimidate the D-IAA Colonels, who were the Southland Conference champs in 2005.  Tech wasn't able to do much of anything outside of throwing the ball on Nebraska and is still not going to be fully sharp.
Why Louisiana Tech Might Win:  The bye week let the Bulldogs heal some physical and mental wounds they suffered in Lincoln and prepare for the pesky Colonels.  The Bulldog defense won’t be facing a facing an offensive line like Nebraska’s, so it should be able to get penetration in the backfield, which should force Nicholls State’s option attack into turnovers.  When the Bulldogs do get the ball back, the offense has two of the best receivers in the WAC – Johnathan Holland, he of the highlight reel one-hand grab against Nebraska and Eric Newman.
Who to Watch:  The Tech running game still hasn’t taken hold for the Bulldogs rushing for only 67 yards total against Nebraska.  If the Bulldog backs, Patrick Jackson and Freddie Franklin, can’t put up 175+ yards on Nicholls State, QB Zac Champion will have to carry the offense through the air, which isn’t a good option at this point.  The Colonels have two stars at safety, Toney Edison and Kareem Moore, who combined for 31 tackles against Nebraska last week.
What Will Happen:  Champion and the passing game should set the tone early by attacking downfield on Edison, Moore and company.  But, the Tech QB has to be more accurate throwing the ball, as he was only 12 of 27 in the opener, however, with a better running performance from his backs, his accuracy should improve.  On the other side of the ball, Nicholls State’s triple option attack will control the clock, but an aggressive and opportunistic Tech defense should create at least 3 turnovers. NSU will complete a pass after going 0-for-3 against the Huskers.
CFN Prediction: Louisiana Tech 28 ... Nicholls State 13 ... Line: No Line
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Dancing with the Stars) ...

WAC Week Three Fearless Predictions, Part 2