Something is missing here. What could it be? Oh, it’s Boise State, the team that won (or shared) the league title in eight of its nine seasons in the WAC. The Broncos, looking to improve their lot in life, packed their bags and headed to the Mountain West Conference.
What remains is an eight-team WAC (for now) that has some decent programs but lacks star power at the top.
Nevada and Hawaii appear to be the best two teams in the first year A.B. (After Boise), though both Fresno State and Louisiana Tech could make things interesting.
The Wolf Pack will be without record-setting quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but Chris Ault’s Pistol offense should still churn out plenty of yards. Tyler Lantrip, a true drop-back passer, is the favorite to replace Kaepernick, though redshirt freshman Cody Fajardo could get a look if Nevada needs a running threat. The defense, which made strides under coordinator Andy Buh last season, loses some key playmakers but still should be strong enough to keep Nevada in the title race.
Hawaii has proved there is life after June Jones. The Warriors went 10–4 overall last year and 7–1 in the WAC with an offense that would have made Jones, now the boss at SMU, proud. Led by Bryant Moniz, the national leader in total offense (367.3 ypg), Hawaii led the nation in passing offense (394.3 ypg) and ranked sixth in total offense (500.6 ypg). Greg McMackin, Jones’ former defensive coordinator, has a 23–18 record in three seasons.
Fresno State returns 1,100-yard rusher Robbie Rouse, but the big story for the Bulldogs is new quarterback Derek Carr, the younger brother of former No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick David Carr. Carr has flashed a big arm during his time as Ryan Colburn’s backup; now it’s his time to prove he can get the job done on the big stage.
Louisiana Tech had little trouble moving the ball in the first year under Sonny Dykes, but the Bulldogs must improve on the defensive end if they hope to muscle their way into the WAC title chase. Tech ranked 116th in the nation in total defense, giving up an alarmingly bad 462.1 yards per game. Dykes’ offenses are usually headlined by a quarterback who slings the ball all over the field, but the main attraction for the Bulldogs in 2011 will be tailback Lennon Creer.
Idaho took a small step back in 2010, winning only six games after a breakthrough ’09 campaign that ended with an 8–5 record and a win over Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl. The Vandals must move forward without NFL Draft pick Nathan Enderle at quarterback. Senior Brain Reader is the next man up in Moscow.
Utah State also has a big hole to fill at quarterback, as Diondre Borel has moved on after throwing for 2,108 yards last season. The Aggies’ offense, however, will get a boost from the return of Robert Turbin, who rushed for 1,296 yards in 2009 but missed last season with a torn ACL.
Mike MacIntyre had a rough first season as the head coach at San Jose State. The Spartans went 1–12, with the only win coming by five points over FCS foe Southern Utah. Among the 12 defeats was a 14–13 setback vs. UC Davis. There is hope for improvement this fall, however.
New Mexico State has made little progress in the two-year DeWayne Walker era, though the Aggies have won two straight against in-state rival New Mexico. Last season, NMSU ranked 117th in the nation in scoring offense and 115th in scoring defense. Significant improvement is needed on both sides of the ball.
Athlon's 2011 WAC Previews
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