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2011 WAC Football Preview with Predictions
The Western Athletic Conference will have a new feel without Boise State in the mix. Due to their absence this season could take on added meaning as the lasting members try to take the top spot left vacant by the Broncos. Nevada figures to be the favorite after winning the conference last year. Let's take a quick look at how each team looks heading into the 2011 season.
Nevada Wolf Pack - Last year's conference winner finished the year 13-1 after an incredible regular season ending win over Boise State. They followed that up with a win against Boston College in the Kraft Fighting Hunger Bowl. Things will not be as easy in 2011. They return only 5 starters on offense and 7 on defense. The schedule gives them 4 away games to start the season and against the likes of Oregon, Texas Tech and Boise State. They will be rewarded for starting out so tough because the rest of the schedule is pie. They play the weakest teams in the conference in their conference road games and get Hawaii, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech at home. HC Chris Ault is in his 27th year with Nevada and could lead his team to back to back conference titles.
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Fresno State Bulldogs - Pat Hill has got to love the new look WAC. His Bulldogs now have a chance to stake their claim for the top. He has 5 starters back on each side of the ball. RB Robbie Rouse is back to power the offense after gaining 1,128 yards and 8 TDs a year ago. They open the year against California at Candlestick Park and then travel to face Nebraska. In the conference they host Louisiana Tech and travel to play Hawaii and Nevada. The defensive line will be lacking due to a loss of both DEs. Pat Hill tends to overachieve and has enough talent with sophomore QB Derek Carr to win the conference.
Hawaii Warriors - HC Greg McMackin gets back 3 offensive starters and 6 defensive starters for this team which overachieved to be 10-4 in 2010. The return of Bryant Moniz at QB is the biggest and most important thing for the offense. They will be much better than they look on paper. The offensive line has an entire new group of starters, but three of them are seniors that have had extensive playing time. On the other side of the ball the defensive line will be stronger and the LB's look tough with Corey Paredes leading the way. The 1st Team All WAC selection had 151 tackles and 4 INTs a year ago. Getting back to 10 wins is asking a lot, but in a weak WAC conference they can win it all.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs - Think the Bulldogs are going to win it all in the WAC? No, not those Bulldogs! L-Tech is set to stake their claim in the WAC as top dog. They get back 6 and 7 starters and will play Hawaii at home, but must travel to face Nevada and Fresno State. Senior Lennon Creer leads the offensive charge after picking up 1,181 yards and 10 TDs a year ago. The offense as a whole should improve leaps and bounds in their second year under HC Sonny Dykes. The defense looks better in all areas and gets back their top 5 tacklers. The schedule sends them to play Nevada and Fresno State on the road. They will need to pull some key upsets, but L-Tech has a great shot at winning the WAC in 2011.
Idaho Vandals - This team will ride their defense which returns 8 starters as far as they can go. They have back 5 of the top 6 tacklers. WLB Robert Siavii had 91 tackles a year ago as well as 10 for a loss. The offense will work with perhaps the WACs best group of RBs thanks to transfer Ryan Bass who is in from Arizona State. This Vandals team is a dark horse contender to win the WAC.
San Jose State Spartans - With just a single win a year ago it shouldn't be hard to improve this year. They get back 7 on offense and 11 on defense. The defense will be a strength and the Spartans should at least win 3 or 4 games in 2011.
Utah State Aggies - Gary Andersen's team was 4-8 a year ago and will get back 9 offensive starters, but the defense looks to be in shambles with only 5 starters back. A tough schedule sends them to play against Auburn, BYU, Fresno State, Hawaii and Idaho; all on the road. This is going to be a rebuilding season.
New Mexico State Aggies - HC DeWayne Walker returns 9 on offense and 7 on defense. Plenty of JUCO additions means they should improve on last year's number of 2-10.
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