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2009 WAC Football Conference Preview and Picks
Boise State the Team to Beat - Again
In the WAC conference for football, it's pretty much Boise State and then the rest. After all, Boise State is 54-2 in Western Athletic Conference play since 2002. But this year could be different. There may be a surprise or two in 2009. Why? Well, one of the things we look for when trying to pick some upsets and or dark horses, are teams that were competitive the year before and return several key players for the current year. In the WAC, we have 4 such teams. Lousiana Tech, Nevada, Fresno State and San Jose all played some decent ball and all return lots of starters.
It's simply a common sense approach. A team plays well the previous year and maintains it's nucleus of players, no reason for that trend not to continue the following year. Of course all of those teams will have their work cut out for them as only Nevada managed to stay close to the Broncos a year ago. But it does give some hope which is what every new season is about in college football.
So let's take a look at the WAC Football Conference for the 2009 season.
Boise State Broncos - Itís hard to find
something wrong with a team that has won 6 of the last 7 WAC championships. They
finished 2008 with a record of 12-1; their only loss came in the Poinsettia Bowl
by one point against TCU. The offense returns 6 starters, including star
sophomore QB Kellen Moore. His best weapons will be WRs Titus Young and Austin
Pettis. Moore is a very accurate passer. The defense returns just 5 starters,
but has the potential to be even better than last year. They will have to
contain the run, which they failed to do in their lone loss to TCU last year.
All WAC DE Ryan Winterswyk will play a pivotal role. The expectations for the
year will be set in the Broncos home opener against Oregon. If they win it could
mean big things for this hot program.
Fresno State Bulldogs - Last year resulted in a record of 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the WAC. Needless to say, that was a huge disappointment for fans. Coach Pat Hill will work to improve the defense which gave up 410.9 total yards per game in 2008. That will begin with a more experienced and better defensive line. The offense has three guys competing for the starting QB job. Some like to see the competition, but not having a clear standout could spell trouble. Winning 8 games isnít out of the question, but it certainly wonít be easy.
Nevada Wolfpack - Coach Chris Ault led this team to a record of 7-6 and a loss in the Humanitarian Bowl last year. The offense has always been deadly and that will not change this year. QB Colin Kaepernick was the WAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2008 and should have another big year. WR Chris Wellington will take the spotlight from top WRs Mike McCoy and Mark Mitchell who have graduated. The defense is still adjusting to the 4-3 alignment and will continue to give up big points. If they can improve even slightly it could mean big things for the Wolfpack.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs - Derek Dooley did a great job last season in his second year as head Coach. He led the Bulldogs to a record of 8-5 and a win over Northern Illinois in the Independence Bowl. The passing game was mediocre at best, but the defense made up for that. This year will see an improved air attack. The offensive line is a bright spot with All WAC candidate Rob McGill. The defense as previously noted will carry this team. They are very tough against the run, but canít seem to defend the pass very well. DT Mason Hitt will help to anchor the line. If the defense can improve against the pass things will be looking up for the Bulldogs.
Hawaii Warriors - Last year was forgettable for a Hawaii team that played near perfect football in 2007. They finished with a record of 7-7 and got rocked by a lackluster Notre Dame team in the Hawaii Bowl. This year will see more hard times for the Warriors. They have lost 9 defense starters, and their top two kickers. QB Greg Alexander will lead an offense that will move forward from last season. He is a good passer and will get points on the board. However, this wonít be enough to make up for the loss of starters on the defense. Hawaii is up against it in terms of finishing in the top tier of the WAC.
San Jose State Spartans - Coach Dick Tomey took this bunch to a Bowl game three years ago but has since been met with two consecutive 6-6 seasons. QB Kyle Reed should help this team get some points on the board. They were last in the WAC in scoring in 2008. He has great weapons in WRs Kevin Jurovich and Terrence Williams. The defense will move forward. Duke Ihenacho will move from LB to SS. He was first team All-WAC last season. While they have a strong team, it wonít be easy for them to compete with the likes of Boise State, Louisiana Tech, and Nevada. They should make strides forward but in the end they cannot compete for the WAC title.
Idaho Vandals - It doesnít take much to improve when you only went 2-10 in the previous season. The Vandals open the year against three opponents that went 5-31 last year. If they can do well to start the season things wonít be a complete disaster. Nathan Enderle won the QB job over Brian Reader. If he doesnít play well the job will go to Reader who is a junior college transfer and former Arkansas Razorback. The defense is bad to say the least, but does have a somewhat good secondary. Shiloh Keo will lead the charge for the secondary at SS. If they can win 4 games the season would be considered a relative success.
New Mexico State Aggies -DeWayne Walker will take over for a team that went 3-9 in 2008. He will change the offense that focused on a flashy passing style to a more traditional one. Junior Jeff Fleming will be taking over the Quarterback duties. Tonny Glynn will help to improve a dismal running game. The defense played good against the pass in 2008 and should be good this season. CB Davon House will help to get turnovers for the Aggies. This team will play their home opener against Idaho. That would be a great chance for them to get a win. The installment of DeWayne Walker as Head Coach is a step in the right direction, but donít expect instant results.
Utah State Aggies - After going 3-9, the last thing you want to see is a schedule loaded with teams who played in Bowl games last year. Second year Coach Gary Andersen has the program headed in the right direction, but everything takes time. QB Diondre Borel is very mobile and will keep defenses guessing. The Aggies defense is speedy. Senior LB Paul Igboeli was All WAC second team last year and will help to stop the run. The Utah State Aggies will continue to rebuild.
Check out all of our 2009 College Football Conference Previews!