Forecasting the WAC in 2011
By Paul Myerberg // Jul 14, 2011
Which WAC program is happiest to see Boise State leave for greener pastures? Can we have a three-way tie? If so, in alphabetical order, it goes Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada – one team that’s been stymied at every turn by the Broncos, another that tasted brief success in 2007 and a third that won the battle but lost the war a season ago. So who wins when Boise leaves for the Mountain West? Those three win, at least in 2011 – come 2012, it’ll be the same old days all over again, once the Bulldogs, Warriors and Wolf Pack rejoin the big, bad Broncos, recommencing the battle for second which defined the WAC over the last half-decade.
That’s a happy, optimistic little paragraph, isn’t it? And it takes an outsider, someone not associated with the three above programs, to ignore the opportunity that awaits in 2011 and look towards a tougher road a year in the future. The opportunity: an outright conference title. Imagine, if you would, a team other than Boise State taking home the WAC. It’s not so easy to picture, is it?
Most likely to succeed
Hawaii As noted in yesterday’s Hawaii preview, that the Warriors enter 2011 with more issues surrounding the offense than the defense bodes well for this team’s chances. One thing we know about U.H. is that the offense is going to roll, even an offense that needs to rebuild up front and locate at least three additional options at receiver. That’s because the system is locked in; having a great quarterback helps, but even if the Warriors were breaking in a new starter under center the offense would score points in bunches. And the defense is good enough to carry the water while the new faces break into larger roles. Hawaii might not win another 10 games, but this team is the best in the conference.
Most likely to struggle
New Mexico State Who else could it be? At least San Jose State seems to have a plan: the Spartans are going to run with the youngsters and look ahead to 2012 and 2013. The Aggies have a nice coach in DeWayne Walker, but even he doesn’t seem to have a grasp on the situation at this moribund program. New Mexico State is on its third offensive coordinator in as many years; have no offensive skill players of consequence; lost an all-WAC cornerback; have a gaping hole at nose tackle; and worse yet, get San Jose State on the road. It’s going to be another ugly season.
Most likely to start ugly, finish with style
Nevada Few non-B.C.S. conference programs start with a tougher September. Hey, at least the Wolf Pack have a bye on the first Saturday of the season. From there, however, Nevada takes on Oregon, San Jose State – well, that’s a win – Texas Tech and Boise State, all on the road. That’s 1-3, more than likely. The Wolf Pack are a lock for at least six wins the rest of the way, however, with Hawaii and Fresno State really the only teams capable of scoring with Nevada.
The WAC favorite in 2012
Louisiana Tech By default? Maybe. But the Bulldogs are definitely improving under Sonny Dykes, and even if the soon-to-be-departed threesome hung around the WAC for another year or two I wouldn’t doubt Tech’s ability to take home the conference crown in the near future. The key for the Bulldogs will be landing the sort of recruits needed to run this Air Raid system. But Tech is still growing, and should be better in 2011 before standing as the WAC’s best heading into next season. And yes, at least partially by default.
Chris Ault, Nevada It’s not just the body of work, but what Ault and Nevada have achieved over the last the six years: no outright conference titles, but 51 wins, a program-record 13 a year ago. Nor can you ignore how innovative his Pistol offense has been, nor how it has spread through the F.B.S. in a very short span of time. The offense will be put to the test this fall without Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua leading the way, but in theory, the Pistol will rack up yardage regardless of whether it’s an all-American or a fifth-year senior running the show.
Offensive player of the year
Bryant Moniz, Hawaii Now that Kellen Moore and Kaepernick have left the conference, Moniz can step into the void as the WAC’s first-team quarterback. Only the above duo could knock a 5,000-yard passer off that team, it seems. Moniz was the centerpiece of last year’s offense despite great seasons from Alex Green, Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares. We’ll see that proven in 2011, as Moniz will continue to lead the nation in passing despite a new offensive line, a new starting running back and only one leading receiver back in the fold. If Moniz isn’t the WAC’s best offensive player, it might be his new favorite target, Hawaii receiver Royce Pollard.
Defensive player of the year
Corey Paredes, Hawaii I don’t want to give the Warriors too much love at the expense of the rest of the conference, but if the pick isn’t Paredes, then who? Utah State’s Bobby Wagner is a good linebacker, but the Aggies won’t be stout enough in the first season running the 3-4 to have Wagner as the best defender in the conference. I wonder if Fresno State’s Logan Harrell will be equally productive without Chris Carter drawing attention at end. James-Michael Johnson will again pace the Nevada defense, but will he do enough statistically to warrant a vote? The clear answer is Paredes, who makes tackles, interceptions and big plays for the Warriors.
Five biggest non-conference games
Nevada at Oregon Sept. 10
Nevada at Boise State Oct. 1
Hawaii at Washington Sept. 10
Nevada at Texas Tech Sept. 24
Fresno State at Nebraska Sept. 10
Five biggest conference games
Hawaii at Nevada Nov. 12
Fresno State at Hawaii Nov. 20
Fresno State at Nevada Oct. 22
Hawaii at Louisiana Tech Oct. 1
Louisiana Tech at Nevada Nov. 19
Projected order of finish
San Jose State
New Mexico State
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Tags: Bryant Moniz, Chris Ault, Corey Paredes, Fresno State, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, Nevada, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Utah State, WAC
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