2011 NCAA Football Preview: Western Athletic Conference

August 30, 2011


With Boise State out of the picture, the battle for the WAC title gets a little bit more interesting in 2011. Of course, the Broncos only held a share of the title in 2010, but no one will deny that the Broncos had a stranglehold on the conference beginning in 2002 and lasting up until they left for greener pastures.

Unfortunately for WAC commissioner Karl Benson, the loss of Boise State also means the loss of all the national media attention that the Broncos attracted. Although it is hard to say if the Western Athletic Conference would have ever gained the respectability that the “Big Six” conferences enjoy, it is clear that they will never get it now. In fact, teams have made it clear that they want out now that the cash cow is gone. Hawaii will follow Boise State to the Mountain West Conference next season.

So, the conference will get one more year of being an eight team league. After that, the future is uncertain. The WAC will already be the smallest conference in college football in 2012, and with the possibility of more teams leaving, the WAC could become extinct by the time the super-conferences are all settled.

For now, the league will have to learn how to survive Boise-less.

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


Boise State is gone, and with that a chance that a WAC team may play in the national title game.

Last year was a great year for the conference competition wise, and the conference will be left to yearn for something that will probably never happen again. Both Boise State and Nevada were very solid teams and had the ability to compete with most teams in the country. Without the Broncos and without Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua for Nevada, there is little chance that a team in the WAC will finish the season without at least a few losses.

When Boise State was around, the WAC never had to worry about being the nation’s most ignored Division 1 college football conference. Now, they are right on par with the Sun Belt conference, informally known as college football’s most irrelevant conference in the FBS subdivision, circa 2001.

Watch Out! (Team That Could Surprise)

Utah State

The Aggies play six home games this year against some beatable opponents, so fans in Logan should have higher expectations for the team than usual.

Utah State was not good defensively, which resulted in some lost games that should have been wins. To fix the defensive issues, the Aggies hired former Utah defensive coordinator Gary Andersen who installed a 3-4 scheme and will try to improve a pass defense that ranked 100th in the nation.

On offense the Aggies’ strength is in the running game, where they welcome back junior running back Robert Turbin, a 1,000 yard rusher in 2009 who suffered an injury last season. Utah State returns almost their entire offensive line, which should give them the ability to move the ball on the ground once again. In a pass happy league, controlling the clock with a good rushing attack is a great weapon to possess.

The Aggies lost games last year that they should have won, which is inexcusable for any team regardless of the talent. If they take care of business against teams they should beat at home and can steal a win or two on the road, Utah State could become bowl eligible for the first time since 1997.

Hi, My Name Is… (Player To Watch)

Bryant Moniz (Sr.), Hawaii quarterback

Moniz led the nation in passing yards last season, throwing for a whopping 5,040 yards. Throwing for that many yards again this year will be a real challenge for Moniz, though.

Hawaii’s offensive line must be almost completely rebuilt. With that said, Moniz was sacked 37 times last season and still managed to throw for as many yards as he did. He will miss the hands of 1,000 yard receivers Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares, but quarterbacks in Hawaii’s Run and Shoot offense usually do okay with whoever is lining up at receiver.

If Moniz does not try to force throws, then he will be the best passer in the WAC and one of the best in the nation this season. In last year’s Hawaii Bowl, Tulsa picked off four Moniz passes, two of which should never have been thrown. If he can limit those types of mistakes, he should have a very good year and help Hawaii contend for the WAC title.

Out-Of-Conference Game To Watch

Nevada vs. Boise State (October 1st)

Boise State will look be looking for revenge against the team that cost them a perfect season and maybe more last year. This time around, it doesn’t look like Nevada will put up as much of a fight.

Nevada will still be able to score a lot of points, but so will Boise State. The problem for Nevada this year is that without the strong running game they had last season, the Broncos will have an easier time stopping Chris Ault’s pistol offense.

Expect this to be a high scoring game, even though both teams have a good defense. Unfortunately for the Wolf Pack, the Broncos may be just a bit too powerful on offense.

In-Conference Game To Watch

Hawaii vs. Nevada (November 12th)

This game will probably decide who wins the WAC title. Hawaii was the one blemish on Nevada’s otherwise perfect record last year, but the Wolf Pack will have the luxury of facing the Warriors at home this season.

Nevada has a couple of advantages over Hawaii in addition to playing on their home turf. The first is that the Wolf Pack has the defense to at least contain Hawaii gunslinger Bryant Moniz. The second is that Hawaii’s offense may be affected by the cold weather, something that Nevada is accustomed to in November.

Although both teams are capable of scoring in the 40s, expect this game to be similar to last year’s 27-21 that saw Hawaii victorious. Cold weather is not kind to the type of offenses that these teams like to run.

Conference Predictions

1. Nevada (9-3, [7-0])

2. Hawaii (10-3, [6-1])

3. Fresno State (7-6, [5-2])

4. Utah State (6-6, [4-3])

5. Louisiana Tech (4-8, [3-4])

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

7. San Jose State (1-11, [1-6])

8. New Mexico State (1-12, [0-7])

– K. Becks

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