Analyzing The WAC Schedules

In the annual battle that is the Western Athletic Conference, often it is the team with the most favorable home and away schedule which captures the league title. How do the schedules look for this coming season?

By now, the media and sports fans from around the nation are relizing that it is difficult to defeat quality WAC teams on their home turf. In recent years, we've seen teams like Oregon State, Iowa State, Washington and Alabama fall to WAC teams. And, Top 25 teams Boise State and Fresno State have stumbled against fellow league members when the game is on the road. Hawai'i certainly has trouble playing on the road in the WAC. In this article, we analyze the schedules of the WAC teams for the upcoming 2006 season.

Boise State:

QB: B-

RB: A

Rec: A

OL: A

DL: A-

LB: A+

DB: A-

Special: A

The Broncos host Louisiana Tech, Fresno State, Hawai'i and Utah State. In the past, the even years have proven to be a huge advantage for Boise State (going undefeated in the WAC in both 2002 and 2004) and this year is no exception. The current power structure of the league is such that in those even years, the top teams came to Bronco Stadium. Of course with the reemergence of Nevada, that changes things a bit.

Quarterback is really the only weakness on this team. Those teams with experienced, quick defensive backs, a strong pass rush and a defense good against the run will be the only teams that can beat them. Looking at the other WAC teams, Fresno and Nevada are the only two that on paper fit that description although Hawai'i's offense against Boise State's defense will be something to see.

Louisiana Tech has played Boise State tough until last year. With a young team, they will find the Broncos a much more difficult opponent this year. Fresno State provides the Broncos with something of a grudge match this season after ending the Broncos' winning streak in the WAC last year in Fresno. Hawai'i has a solid team this season and if the game were on the islands, would probably be favored. Utah State is trying to fit in in the WAC and has talent.

As far as the road schedule goes, the Broncos do travel to last year's co-league champion, Nevada, while also visiting New Mexico State, Idaho and San Jose State. None of these can be taken for granted.

Fresno State:

QB: B-

RB: A

Rec: A-

OL: A

DL: B+

LB: B

DB: B+

Special: A-

The Bulldogs have a crucial home date against Nevada right out of the gate that could dictate the seasons for both of those schools. Fresno also hosts Hawai'i, New Mexico State and Idaho. Pat Hill's group travels to play Boise State, Utah State, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State. The Bulldogs always have trouble on the road against both the Broncos and Tech. This presents a tall order.--expect that this year's Fresno team will go through the WAC schedule with at least one loss.

The team has a potential weakness at quarterback with an inexperienced starter, but if he performs, Fresno will again challenge for the title. A strong running game and a solid defense are what are needed to beat the Bulldogs this year. Hawai'i presents problems because the only Rainbow Warrior weakness (DB's) may not be exploited by a brand new quarterback. Fresno may also have a tough time at Louisiana Tech and Boise State, and Nevada is also a fierce first taste for an unproven quarterback.

Hawai'i

QB: A

RB: C+

Rec: A+

OL: B+

DL: B+

LB: B

DB: C+

Special: C+

Coach June Jones' team hosts Nevada, Idaho, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State. The Rainbow Warriors should win all of those. Unfortunately, Hawai'i must play "the road game", one they have all kinds of trouble with. The team must travel great distances by air, then hop on a bus and ride some more to places like Moscow, Ruston, Las Cruces and Logan. This season, Hawai'i has games on the road against Boise State, Fresno State, New Mexico State and Utah State. This year's team will fare better away from the islands. There isn't a game that they cannot win. A victory at Fresno or Boise will put them in contention for the title.

This team has weakness at defensive back. Idaho and Nevada will give that group the most problems. However, the Vandal secondary is weak as well, so that one could be the first to score 50 points. Utah State, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech are the other teams that will provide ample scoring opportunities for the high-flying Hawai'i "O". The Rainbow Warriors special teams could cause them to lose close games. The Fresno and Nevada games are essentially toss-ups. Hawai'i will need to win both of these games for the game in Boise to matter.

Idaho

QB: B+

RB: B

Rec: C+

OL: B-

DL: C+

LB: B

DB: C

Special: C

Idaho got two WAC wins last year and could improve upon that. The Vandals host New Mexico State, Boise State, Nevada and San Jose State. The Aggies were one victim in a tight game. While they are a much better group this season, the change in venue to Moscow provides another opportunity. The San Jose State game could also end up in the win column this year. It's a rugged road schedule, however, with games at Utah State, Louisiana Tech, Hawai'i and Fresno State.

This team has weakness on the defensive line and in the secondary and its receivers. They do have a strong quarterback but as Coach Dennis Erickson said, "If we can't catch the ball, we can't be successful." Those teams that have strong offensive lines and quarterbacks, plus teams good at stopping the run will give Idaho problems. Hawai'i fits all three of those. Fresno and Boise State also present huge matchup problems.

Louisiana Tech

QB: B

RB: B

Rec: B

OL: B

DL: B-

LB: B-

DB: C+

Special: B-

Louisiana Tech is in a rebuilding year, a crucial one to determine their place in the WAC. The Bulldogs host Idaho, Utah State, Nevada and Fresno State. While they are young, this slate of home games provides them an opportunity to win all of them. If they're still in one piece after playing Nebraska, Texas A & M and Clemson, Tech could pull an upset or two at home. Meanwhile, Jack Bicknell's team must play at Boise State, Hawai'i, San Jose State and New Mexico State. Beating San Jose and New Mexico State is crucial to maintaining their conference position in the upper half.

The Bulldogs have weakness at defensive back. Idaho, Hawai'i and Nevada will most be able to exploit that vulnerability. Boise State's line proved it could run on La Tech all day long last year and with four of five starters back, that should continue.

Nevada

QB: A

RB: B+

Rec: B+

OL: B-

DL: B-

LB: A

DB: B

Special: B

Nevada will challenge for the WAC title once again this season with home games against San Jose State, New Mexico State, Utah State and Boise State (four of their last six games). To get to that stretch, Nevada will have to beat both Fresno State and Hawai'i on the road to remain in contention. Hawai'i will be a strong team this year and that game more than any other could be their downfall. The Pack also plays at Idaho and Louisiana Tech, two other places that may be tough for them.

New Mexico State

QB: B-

RB: B

Rec: B

OL: B-

DL: C

LB: C

DB: C

Special: C

To compete in the WAC, Hal Mumme's team will have to improve a good deal. They have taken a couple of steps to put them in position to win as many as three games in conference. The Aggies host Boise State, Hawai'i, San Jose State and Louisiana Tech and travel to Idaho, Nevada, Fresno State and Utah State. The games against Idaho, San Jose and Utah State in particular are pivotal games for this team.

San Jose State

QB: C

RB: B

Rec: B

OL: B+

DL: C+

LB: C+

DB: B-

Special: A-

San Jose State has not cracked the top half of the league in years. The Spartans host Utah State, Louisiana Tech, Boise State and Fresno State. Those are all tough for this group still trying to find themselves. On the road, Dick Tomey's team heads to Nevada, New Mexico State, Hawai'i and Idaho. EAch of these games presents its own travel problems.

Utah State

QB: B

RB: B-

Rec: B

OL: C

DL: C

LB: C-

DB: C+

Special: C

Utah State is an improving team but a difficult schedule will make it tough to make headway. The best chances for a league win are home games against Idaho and New Mexico State. USU also hosts Fresno State and Hawai'i. The Aggies must venture on the road to Boise State, Louisiana Tech, Nevada and San Jose State. The Spartans have work to do on defense, and an opposing offense that is effecient will make it tough for Utah State to win. Idaho has a strong quarterback and running game and could control the clock. New Mexico State also has a strong running game and above average line. Frankly, the Aggies do not match up well against any of the WAC teams.

Boise State, San Jose State and New Mexico State have the most favorable league schedules. Idaho and Utah State are next with Louisiana Tech in the middle. Fresno State, Nevada and Hawai'i have the toughest league schedules this season.


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