2012 NCAA Football Preview: Western Athletic Conference

August 30, 2012
By K. Becks

This is the last “real” conference preview for the 2012 season. There is one more preview, but it is for the Independent teams, which I thought would be easier to preview in one post. In addition, there will be a “Final Thoughts” preview, which will feature Around The Corn’s national championship pick.

Here is the Western Athletic Conference preview.

Overview

There was a time when the WAC was an underrated, undervalued conference that featured plenty of underdogs that would routinely give teams from the AQ-conferences trouble each season. However, in a matter of two years, Boise State, Hawaii, Nevada and Fresno State have all left the conference. Those schools made up almost the entire group of programs that were considered the upper echelon of the WAC. Now the conference is left with only a couple of contenders desperate to remain even the slightest bit relevant.

Such is life in the dog-eat-dog world of FBS division college football. When the money was offered, the coveted teams left. You can’t blame those schools, either. The conference was always viewed as inferior, and now those skeptics are probably right. Of course, it no longer matters now that none of the schools that make up the WAC in football are competing for anything other than the occasional spot in a low tier bowl game. Unfortunately for Karl Benson, he is the commissioner of the weakest conference in the FBS division.

Team(s) With the Best Shot at a National Championship Bid

None

Even the Sun Belt has a better shot at getting one of its teams into the national title game. There is absolutely no way that any team from the WAC will be considered for a national championship bid, or even a BCS bid for that matter. It would be a huge surprise if one of its teams even wins more than nine games this season.

The WAC has a couple of teams that will be interesting once bowl season rolls around, and they may even upset a team or two in the postseason. That’s about the most you’ll hear from the WAC, however. This conference is not a factor nationally.

Watch Out! (Team That Could Surprise)

Utah State

Since the WAC will almost surely be a two team race for the conference title, the team that is considered the underdog in that battle is the team that could surprise because no one else in the conference other than the Aggies and Louisiana Tech will have a winning record this season. Utah State will be without running back Robert Turbin, who was instrumental in the success of the Aggies offense and will be sorely missed. However, the Aggies do have quarterback Chuckie Keeton and three returning starters from the offensive line back, so the offense shouldn’t be in terrible shape.

If Utah State is to win the conference, it is going to need to become a better passing team. Luckily, the Aggies play-calling will be done by new offensive coordinator Matt Wells, who is a former USC quarterback. Keeton has the ability to be successful in a more pass-oriented system, so this shouldn’t be a culture shock to him or the rest of the offense. If the experiment goes well, November 17th could be a very interesting day in the Western Athletic Conference.

Hi, My Name Is… (Player To Watch)

Colby Cameron (Sr.), Louisiana Tech

Colby Cameron is the best quarterback in the WAC who will lead the league’s best offense this season, which should tell you what kind of year he is capable of having. The Bulldogs rely a lot on the passing game, so expect Cameron to have a big impact on this team because of his leadership and experience. He is an accurate passer and should be more comfortable as the opening game starter instead of a fill-in.

One thing that may make Cameron’s job easier this season is the fact that Louisiana Tech’s defense should be the best in the league as well. There will be times this year where Cameron can simply command the offense and not have to worry about the score of the game because the defense will be holding the opponent in check.

Out-Of-Conference Game To Watch

Texas A&M vs. Louisiana Tech (August 30th)

There has to be at least one game worth watching on college football’s first night of action, and this is one of them. Texas A&M must travel to Shreveport to play the Louisiana Tech in what is essentially a home game for the Bulldogs. Lots of factors make this a game that Louisiana Tech is capable of winning. Most notably is the fact that the Aggies will be without Ryan Tannehill and several other pieces of the offense that made them a threat to beat anyone on a given day.

In addition to the loss of Tannehill & Co., this is Texas A&M’s first game under head coach Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin actually coached against and beat Louisiana Tech last season with Houston, but only by one point. It is arguable that Houston was about as good last year as the Aggies are this season, at least on paper. This makes for a very interesting game, which I believe could go either way. Maybe the WAC isn’t as bad as everyone thinks if one of its teams can knock off an SEC foe.

In-Conference Game To Watch

Utah State vs. Louisiana Tech (November 17th)

As I hinted at earlier in this preview, barring some sort of collapse by either team, this game should decide who wins the WAC title. Louisiana Tech will be the favorite, but the Aggies have the talent on offense to give the Bulldogs trouble, especially considering how many pieces are being replaced on Sonny Dykes’ defense.

Last season Utah State was able to eat up a lot of clock thanks to its powerful rushing attack. Don’t expect that to be the case this time around. Neither team will have an overly imposing running game, so scoring points will be key for both teams. This game could be decided by a touchdown like last season, but expect the score to be in the high 20s at least.

Conference Predictions

1. Louisiana Tech (8-4, [6-0])

2. Utah State (7-5, [5-1])

3. New Mexico State (4-8, [3-3])

4. San Jose State (4-8, [3-3])

5. Idaho (4-8, [3-3])

6. Texas State (2-10, [1-5])

7. Texas-San Antonio (3-9, [0-6])

Questions from the Readers

There are no questions from the readers for the Sun Belt Conference. Remember, if you have a question that you want to see answered, send me it on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, by tweeting me at @KBecks_ATC or emailing me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com. The only previews left are an Independents preview and a “Final Thoughts” preview, so please submit your questions by the end of today. Thanks everyone.

- K. Becks

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