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NCAA Football: WAC Preview

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BC Tailgate, your official home for college Blogcritics’ football news, rants, and riffs. Every conference is covered — we don't play favorites to the big boys.

ACC by Ben Miraski

Big East by Dan McGowan

Big Ten by Geeves

Big XII by Ben Miraski

Conference USA by Dan McGowan

MAC by Brian Szabelski

Pac 10 by Geeves

SEC by Josh Hathaway

WAC by Brian Szabelski

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tailgate_WAC

 Boise State

Coach: Chris Petersen
2007: 10-3 overall, 7-1 in conference (2nd)

 Head of the Class: Ian Johnson returns to the Boise State backfield, a move that will only add to the explosive offense we've come to know from the Broncos. A loaded linebacker corps makes up the heart of the Boise State defense and could shut down the middle of the field in both the pass and run games.

 Underachievers: Boise State has three strong candidates for the starting quarterback job, but they haven't figured out just who will slide into that role yet. The secondary also needs time to develop, and in the offensive-heavy WAC, that could be a major liability.

 Academic Suspension: East Carolina smacked this defense around for 322 yards in the Hawaii Bowl, and if they can't consistently stop the run this year, they are in deep trouble. Add in a tough non-conference schedule that includes Bowling Green, Oregon, and Southern Mississippi, and the road back to the BCS looks very rocky this year. 

 Fresno State

Coach: Pat Hill
2007: 9-4 overall, 6-2 in conference (3rd)

 Head of the Class: With the deepest running back core in the WAC, Fresno State looks to capitalize on their run game success from last year. Tom Brandstater leads a highly-tuned offense into battle, perhaps becoming the next great WAC quarterback in the process.

 Underachievers: Fresno State does not have an especially strong defense. They finished third from the bottom in turnovers last season and gave up 27 points per game. The Bulldogs will need to pick it up a bit, especially in the high-scoring WAC. They'll also need defense for their four out-of-conference games, but if they win all four, there may be no stopping them.

 Academic Suspension: The Bulldogs are weak on the offensive line, especially at center, and lost offensive coordinator Jim McElwain to Alabama. Whether this will impact the Bulldogs' offense or not has yet to be seen, but such transitions are not always smooth. Issues at center, though, could be a crippling blow to the Fresno State running attack. 

 Hawaii

Coach: Greg McMackin
2007:
12-1 overall, 8-0 in conference (1st)

 Head of the Class: On a team noted for their offense exploits, defense will be the key this year for Hawaii. Linebackers Adam Leonard and Solomon Elimimian (246 combined tackles, 23 for a loss last season) will lead the charge this year, while Hawaii's offensive line returns several important starters. Tyler Graunke had limited play time last year, but when he came off the bench, he proved he was capable of running Hawaii's run-and-gun offense.

 Underachievers: The defensive line has three new starters, including senior David Veikune. Veikune played well coming off the bench last season, but the big question here is whether the rest of the defensive line will be up to task.

 Academic Suspension: Colt Brennan is gone. So are the Warriors' top receivers and coach June Jones. Graunke is a capable QB, but with so many pieces gone and games on the road against Oregon State and Florida, Hawaii is going to be lucky to finish .500 this year. 

 Idaho

Coach: Robb Akey
2007: 1-11 overall, 0-8 in conference (9th)

 Head of the Class: Deonte' Jackson had a phenomenal freshman season in the backfield, averaging 98 yards a game. Second-team All-WAC center Adam Korby leads an offensive line returning all five of its starters, which can only be good news for Jackson.

 Underachievers: The defense has lost three starting linebackers, with no real replacements on the horizon. However, when you do as poor as Idaho did last season, there's really nowhere to go but up. Or at least I think that's the case here.

 Academic Suspension: A weak defense, alongside of an offense that cannot pass effectively, seems to doom Idaho from the outset: the Vandals finished dead last in passing efficiency last season. This team did not win a single WAC conference game last year, and they may repeat that performance this year. A winless season is a real possibility if Idaho can't beat Utah State. 

 Louisiana Tech

Coach: Derek Dooley
2007: 5-7 overall, 4-4 in conference (T-4th)

 Head of the Class: Louisiana Tech returns many of its offensive players from last season and gains a transfer from Georgia Tech in the talented quarterback Taylor Bennett. Add in the fact that one of Louisiana Tech's strengths is its secondary, and we could be a season or two away from the Bulldogs being a dominant force in WAC football.

 Underachievers: At wide receiver, Phillip Livas leads a corps that could be stronger. If the wide receivers produce, though, Louisiana Tech's strong run game will be free to run over the weak defenses all across the WAC. However, for as good as the secondary is, the front seven has major holes in it that will need to be filled. Can Dooley do it?

 Academic Suspension: There's a bit of a quarterback controversy in Shreveport, with everyone seeking to replace last year's starter Zac Champion. If they can get that situation sorted out, then Louisiana Tech will improve by leaps and bounds. They may even be *gasp* bowl eligible this season. 

 Nevada

Coach: Chris Ault
2007: 6-7 overall, 4-4 in conference (T-4th)

 Head of the Class: Luke Lippincott was the WAC's leading rusher last year, while wideout Marko Mitchell had a fantastic season in the "pistol" offense. With four returning linemen and incredible depth on the offensive end, Nevada may have the best offense in the entire conference. And that's including Boise State.

 Underachievers: The Wolfpack have a potential star in senior linebacker Joshua Mauga, who comes back from injury. If he can stay healthy, he will be a big help. A new defensive coordinator brings along the 4-3 defense, but can Nevada get it going in time for the regular season?

 Academic Suspension: Surprise, surprise, another WAC team with defensive worries. Nevada played host to a string of shootouts last season, something they can't afford to do if they want to contend for the WAC championship this season. They also have Grambling, Texas Tech, and Missouri for non-conference games. Ouch. 

 New Mexico State

Coach: Hal Mumme
2007: 4-9 overall, 1-7 in conference (8th)

 Head of the Class: Chase Holbrook is nothing short of a beast. The Aggies' quarterback has been a WAC leader in offensive categories for two straight years, and will probably be a solid draft pick in the middle to later rounds next year. Joe Lee Dunn has been brought in to help shore up an abysmal defense, but can he make another miracle happen?

 Underachievers: The Aggies get their wide receiving corps back, including senior Chris Williams, who has big-play potential and may become Holbrook's #1 target. A number of starters return on the offensive line and on defense, but for the latter, that might not be such a great thing…

 Academic Suspension: I know I sound like a broken record, but defense, defense, defense. The Aggies did so little with Holbrook's amazing stats because they could not stop anybody. If Dunn can turn this team around, they can compete for a WAC championship. If not, they'll be throwing another season away. 

 San Jose State

Coach: Dick Tomey
2007: 5-7 overall, 4-4 in conference (T-4th)

 Head of the Class: Kevin Jurovich, David Richmond and Jalal Beauchman return to lead a star wide receiving corps for the Spartans. Jurovich ranked in the top 10 in receiving yards per game last season. A similar performance this year will certainly help San Jose State to put more games in the win column.

 Underachievers: The San Jose State defense reportedly smoked the offense in spring practices, which is good news for a team that lost their biggest defensive star in Dwight Lowery to the NFL. Look our for senior defensive back Christopher Owens to fill Lowery's place and become the biggest threat on defense for the Spartans.

 Academic Suspension: There is no run offense at San Jose State. If the Spartans are going to contend for the WAC championship, they'll need to find one and soon. They also need their defense to pick up the pace, or they will be mired in the bottom half of the conference for another season. 

 Utah State

Coach: Brent Guy
2007: 2-10 overall, 2-6 in conference (7th)

 Head of the Class: Utah State won their final two games of the season last year, both in conference. Perhaps some of that momentum will carry over into 2008 for the Aggies. The running game for Utah State could also turn out to be a surprise if they can shore up the offensive line and work on the pass game.

 Underachievers: Nine starters return on a defense that gave up 450 yards a game last year. Utah State has signed some junior college prospects in their latest recruiting class, potentially giving them some fresh bodies in their weakest aspect, but just how much of an impact will these players have? They're hoping it'll be a big one.

 Academic Suspension: The offense is a total mess. The defense had trouble stopping anybody last season. There is no established QB on this Utah State squad, and they could easily lose all four of their non-conference games without a fight. Once again, Utah State and Idaho will battle early in the season to determine who will be the 2008 WAC cellar dweller.

* * *

 Bold Prediction: Fresno State marches out of the regular season with an undefeated record and a BCS Bowl bid. If they can win all four tough non-conference games (UCLA, Rutgers, Wisconsin and Toledo), the only thing standing between them and a January bowl game is Boise State

Brian Szabelski

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