The 2012 version of the WAC Conference looks vastly different this year with the departures of Hawaii, Nevada and Fresno St. This leaves the door open for some teams to step and take the title. The WAC is has a couple new members this year with Texas St and Texas San-Antonio. Who will take the title in 2012? Our predictions are listed below.
1- Louisiana Tech – This is definitely a team on the rise as HC Sonny Dykes has the Bulldogs going in the right direction. Even with the departures of Hawaii, Nevada and Fresno St, this team would have had a great chance anyways to win the WAC. Now this is their title for the taking with ‘Big 3’ gone. Dykes has his best team yet with 14 returning starters including seven on offense. They avg 30.1-ppg last year but only 5.2-ypp (yards per play). The benefitted from a +11 turnover margin and it will be difficult to be +11 again this year. The defense is solid and opportunistic and we expect big things from the Bulldogs this year. We will be surprised if this team doesn’t roll the table in the WAC this year.
2 – Utah St – The Aggies made some positive strides last year as they finished winning their last five games of the season and getting to a bowl game before losing to Ohio U. With 12 returning starters back including Soph QB Chickie Keaton and 1st All-WAC offensive lineman Jr Tyler Larsen. This is an explosive Utah St offense as last year they avg 33.6-ppg (ranked #23 nationally) and will equal or improve that number in a conference that is not known for defense. The Aggies have a tough non-conference schedule as they have road games at Wisconsin, Colorado St and BYU. This team could have been better last year if it were not for a -9 turnover margin so look for that number to improve this year. The WAC title will come down to a showdown at La Tech on Nov 17. If they pull that upset they will win the WAC but we will call for a 2nd place finish in 2012.
3 – San Jose St – The Spartans come into 2012 with one of the most improved teams in the conference. The offense is lead by 2nd team All-WAC WR JR Noel Grigsby. They have some talented skill players and will need some quick development from new starting QB David Fales. The Spartans struggles on offense last year avg only 24.5-ppg and 5.4-ypp. The defense is the key as they are very solid up front led by 1st team All-WAC DE Travis Johnson and 2nd Team All-WAC OLB Keith Smith. The Spartans have the best defense in the WAC and with a solid defense you can stay in a lot of games. With a few breaks this team could win the WAC as they have the talent to do so.
4 – New Mexico St – NMSU only has seven starters returning from a team that went 2-5 in conference play and 4-9 overall. This team really struggles on the offensive side of the ball as they only avg 24.5-ppg but were a respectable 5.8-ypp. The turnovers killed this team all year as they were -3 in TO Margin (ranked 80th). The Aggies have a solid HC in DeWayne Walker and he will get this team to play hard every game. QB Andrew Manley has all the skills to lead this team to a quality season but he will need some help from an inexperienced offensive line and skill players. The defense really needs to improve as last year they allowed 36.8-ppg. We just don’t see this team competing for a title this year but don’t real out 2013 and beyond as Walker has this team in the right mind-set to prepare for each game and to compete in each game.
5 – Idaho – There us now where to go but for the Vandals this year after a horrific 2-10 season last year. This was a team that was ranked #111 in total offense and #101 in total defense. To add more insult to injury they were -7 in TO Margin. They are introducing a new offensive coordinator this season and it will take time for them to adjust. With only 10 returning starts back it looks like another long season in Vandal land. The good news is that they will start 11 seniors and 8 juniors. They will compete better this year but it just won’t be enough to get in the top four of this conference.
6 – Texas St – The Bobcats enter their first year in FCS off a 6-6 record last year. Good news is that they have HC Dennis Franchione leading a team to FCS. They have 16 returning starters back and will compete with UTSA to see who finishes at the bottom of the league. Texas St loves to pound the football and will do so heavily this year and play possession football.
7 – UTSA – Another team entering their first year in FCS and are lead by HC Larry Coker. You all remember him don’t you? He led Miami to the BCS Championship in 2001 over Ohio State. They do have 24 returning starters back and that does help a team in transition to FCS. Their non-conference schedule is soft so they could win 3-4 games this year. We don’t expect anything in conference this year.
Bowl Eligible Teams: Louisiana Tech, Utah State and San Jose St