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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

WAC 2008 Preview

Last season was not a good one for the WAC. Sure, they sent a team to a BCS bowl, made tons of money, and got plenty of time on center stage. But the WAC in 2007 was not a strong conference. Four of the 9 teams spent time with negative trend-o-matic ratings and Utah St. consistently skimmed right above the surface. Even Hawaii spent most of the season below 30—the realm of the unranked and uninteresting. Only Boise St. was strong during conference play, but they too lost to Hawaii, which then allowed Hawaii to get embarrassed by Georgia. I have never seen a team realize so quickly that they could not win a football game.

Here is my big question for the WAC:

Will Boise St. return to dominance?

The Broncos have dominated the conference in years past and have proven themselves to have a legitimately good football program. But they also lost a conference game last season and lost at Washington—who, despite its PAC 10 affiliation was not a good team last year. Most frightening, though, the Broncos only beat Nevada on a metaphorical coin toss in overtime #4—at home.

The challenger this season is Fresno State. With nonconference games at Rutgers, at UCLA and Wisconsin at home, Fresno State football could be riding the divine grace bestowed on their baseball team to a top 10 ranking and BCS bowl birth. (Could someone explain why Wisconsin agreed to play Fresno State on the road?) Its not likely, but it is possible—I think it is almost as likely that Fresno State runs the table as that BYU will do the same.

Fresno State should beat Nevada at home, and if they do, the WAC could come down to a showdown of conference unbeatens on November 28 when they travel to Boise. Fresno State will then try to do the impossible—win a conference game on the Smurf turf—and they will probably fail.

But Fresno State is the future of the WAC because, if they have a decent coach, the sheer force of demographics will buoy their ship over everyone else’s. Hawaii can challenge because it has access to native, Samoan and Tongan talent and can, therefore, continue to field good teams if administered properly (BYU and Utah have been successful because of their access to this same talent base, but that is a theological, not geographic matter in these latter cases). Boise State and Nevada have limited potential and seem to be stretched to their maximum capacity now. So Boise State should return to the front of the pack this season, but their conference domination, I believe, is at an end.

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