Preview the WAC

Aug. 11, 2006

By Adam Caparell



Adam is's football editor and national football writer.
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Boise State


Dan Hawkins will no longer be roaming the blue sidelines of Boise State's Bronco Stadium, but that doesn't mean the team will miss a beat.


Chris Petersen takes over for Hawkins - who left for Colorado - after serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Hawkins for the past five seasons and essentially calling all the plays. So the Broncos' offense, which finished ninth in the nation in scoring last season, should pick up right where they left off with quarterback Jared Zabransky and six other starters returning.


The Broncos will also benefit from a pretty favorable schedule, with their most difficult non-conference test coming at Utah. Getting Hawai'i and Fresno State at home will make the drive for a fifth-straight WAC title that much easier.


2006 Boise State Schedule




With Jeff Rowe back behind center for his senior season, Nevada should return to the postseason and win the WAC outright after sharing the title with Boise State last year.


Rowe had a breakout season, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns last year under coach Chris Ault's "Pistol" offense. It was a success, as the Wolf Pack finished 15th in the nation in scoring.


The defense had issues last season, especially in the secondary during the first year under the new 3-4 scheme. But Nevada's linebacking unit could be one of the best in the conference and will look lead the improvement over last year's squad that gave up almost 32 points per game.


Playing four bowl teams on the schedule will be a challenge for the Wolf Pack, but if Rowe lives up to his potential, an outright WAC title is well within the realm of possibility.


2006 Nevada Schedule




With nine starters returning, including quarterback Colt Brennan, it's safe to say the Warriors' offense is in pretty good shape.


Brennan will once again flood the field with an aerial assault in June Jones' run-and-shoot offense. The junior threw for over 4,000 yards last season and 35 touchdowns and could very easily top those numbers. Four receivers are back and with another year under his belt grasping the offense, scoring more than 30.7 points per game shouldn't be a problem for the Warriors as it was at times last year.


The coaching staff isn't without the big names. Jones and defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville, two former NFL head coaches, are bent on getting the Warriors back to a bowl game after a 5-7 2005 campaign.


2006 Hawai'i Schedule


Fresno State


Coach Pat Hill has molded Fresno State into one of the perennial top teams in the WAC and a team that will play anyone, anywhere. Case in point: this year's non-conference slate includes games against Oregon, at Washington and at LSU.


But the big question for this team is at the quarterback position, where Hill will have to replace Paul Pinegar with a candidate who has yet to distinguish himself from the pack. The race is said to be down to Tom Brandstater and Sean Norton.


How the defense rebounds from some shaky performances late last season will bear watching. The Bulldogs allowed 39.7 points per game over their final four games. That's in stark contrast to the 14.7 points per game they were giving up in their first nine games. Losing WAC Defensive Player of the Year Garrett McIntyre doesn't help matters much.


Despite those issues, the Bulldogs should make their eighth straight bowl appearance, the longest streak in the WAC. Enough talent is present to compete for the league title, but winning it would be a surprise.


2006 Fresno State Schedule


Louisiana Tech


Another team with quarterback issues, the conference's other Bulldogs will struggle to find a replacement for Matt Kubik. With the return of two of last year's leading receivers, whoever is throwing the ball won't have to worry about who's catching it. Junior Freddie Franklin is firmly planted in the backfield and will run behind an offensive line with three starters returning.


The biggest problem for Tech will be replacing three starters on the defensive line on a defense that employs the 3-4 scheme.


A repeat of their 7-4 record and a third place finish in the WAC last season will be a tough task for coach Jack Bicknell. They have a brutal early schedule facing Nebraska, Texas A&M and Clemson on the road in September.


2006 Louisiana Tech Schedule  


Utah State


Brent Guy has a quarterback who can run and throw in Leon Jackson III, giving the Aggies a dynamic threat with fellow talented receivers in Tony Pennyman and Kevin Robinson.


More questions than answers surround the team. The offensive line has lost three starters from last year and the rushing attack was so anemic in 2005 that it only led the team in rushing twice. The offense scored just 18.9 points per game and was last in the WAC in total offense last season, on top of the fact that the defense is young and the Aggies will play seven games on the road.


2006 Utah State Schedule


San Jose State


Year One of the Dick Tomey era got off to a rough start as the Spartans lost eight in a row after their season-opening win.


Things won't be easy to begin this year, with games against Washington and Stanford slated to kick off their season, but San Jose State can take solace in knowing things shouldn't be as bad as last year.


The Spartans' running attack returns after a respectable 2005 campaign where they rushed for 144.6 yards per game. Second team All-WAC selection Yonus Davis returns, along with lead blocker James Callier.


The quarterback position is up in the air, despite the fact that Adam Tafralis, who played in 11 games last season, is back.


With only two starters back, the defense could be the downfall of the Spartans, but seven home games are on the schedule.


2006 San Jose State Schedule




Dennis Erickson is back where it all started for him in 1982, coaching the Vandals and an offense that returns nine starters, including quarterback Steve Wichman.


Wichman will be protected by an offensive line that gained a lot of experience last year thanks to a plethora of injuries. But improving a running game that finished 115th in the nation last year is just one area where Erickson will focus on. The Vandals' passing attack finished 28th in the nation last season, so creating some offensive stability will be crucial to surpassing last season's two wins.


But for a program that hasn't won more than three games since 2000, things should start to pick up very soon.


2006 Idaho Schedule


New Mexico State


Hal Mumme and the Aggies have to improve on their 2005 campaign. That's because it can't get any worse than going winless.


Chase Holbrook should supplant himself as the starting quarterback. The 6-foot-6 transfer, who came with Mumme from Southeastern Louisiana, will have four returning receivers to throw to.


But it'll really be up to the defense, which was just awful last year, to bring them out of the WAC cellar. The unit finished 116th in total defense and let up an average of 38.8 points per game.


Another 0-12 season would mean the Aggies just fell flat on their faces. A few wins should be in order. But more than three could be pushing it.


2006 New Mexico State Schedule



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