WAC Football Pre Season Preview (Part Two)

This week, SpartanThunder breaks down the football programs at Nevada, Rice, SMU, Tulsa, and UTEP! And two weeks before kick-off at Arkansas State, we break down your SJSU Spartans!

Hola Spartan Fans!

Part two of this seasons WAC football season is here, and two weeks ahead of schedule! This week we review the programs at Nevada, Rice, SMU, Tulsa, and UTEP!

Here's how SpartanThunder.com see's these WAC foes shaking out this football season.

NEVADA:

2002 Schedule:

Aug 31 Washington State (@ Seattle)

Sept 14 BYU

Sept 21 Rice

Sept 28 Colorado State

Oct 5 @ UNLV

Oct 12 @ Hawaii

Oct 19 San Jose State

Oct 26 @ Louisiana Tech

Nov 2 @ SMU

Nov 9 UTEP

Nov 16 @ Fresno State

Nov 23 Boise State

DNP—Tulsa

Head Coach--Chris Tormey

2001 Record: 3-8

Offense Starters Returning--6

Defense Starters Returning--10

Special Teams--2

Analysis--Best thing going in Reno besides loose slots at the casinos may be the rushing attack of the Wolfpack led by Chance Kretschmer.

You probably didn't know it, but Chance led the nation in rushing in 2001 when he gained 1732 yards on 302 attempts. The all-important Offensive Line returns 3 starters and should be able to open holes once again for young Mr. Kretschmer.

The Defensive Line should be another strength of Nevada-Reno as they return all 4 starters.

Prediction--Nevada has the type of hard-nose football team that could upset a few in the WAC, but they don't have a lot of depth. Nevada-Reno also averaged only 17,573 fans in attendance last year in a town with lots to do.

It may be difficult for the program to win on a consistent basis. Since Chance Kresschmer is only a sophomore, it may happen over the next few years, but not in 2002. 5-7

RICE:

2002 Schedule:

Aug 31 Houston

Sept 7 @ Michigan State

Sept 21 @ Nevada

Sept 28 Fresno State

Oct 5 Louisiana Tech

Oct 12 @ Navy

Oct 19 @ UTEP

Oct 26 SMU

Nov 2 @ Tulsa

Nov 9 @ Boise State

Nov 16 Hawaii

DNP—San Jose State

Head Coach--Ken Hatfield

2001: Record 8-4

Offense Starters Returning—4

Defense Starters Returning--4

Special Teams--2

Analysis--If you want to know how big football is in Texas, check out this fact.

Rice University has an undergraduate enrollment of just under 3,000 students and they play in a stadium (Rice Stadium) that seats 70,000. Oh, and cross-town Houston University plays in ANOTHER stadium that seats over 32,000.

Rice has played some good football recently. In 2001, they ended up 8-4 losing only to 3 bowl teams (Nebraska, Louisiana Tech, and Fresno State) as well as SMU.

Meanwhile, at a school where the term "student athlete" really emphasizes the STUDENT part of the equation, it's difficult to win every year. This year, the Owls must replace 7 starters on both offense and defense.

Leading Rusher in the Owl Wishbone Attack, QB Kyle Herm, returns and should supply a big chunk of the offense as 4 of the 5 Offensive Line Starters get accustomed to Division I-A college football.

Prediction--I think Rice will start out very slow before coming on at the end of the year. 3-8

SMU:

2002 Schedule:

Aug 31 Navy

Sept 7 Texas Tech

Sept 14 @ TCU

Sept 21 @ Oklahoma State

Sept 28 @ Hawaii

Oct 5 San Jose State

Oct 12 @ Fresno State

Oct 19 Louisiana Tech

Oct 26 @ Rice

Nov 2 Nevada

Nov 16 @ UTEP

Nov 23 Tulsa

DNP—Boise State

Head Coach--Phil Bennett

2001 Record: 4-7

Offense Starters Returning--6

Defense Starters Returning--7

Special Teams--0

Analysis-- SMU is the most difficult team for me to analyze because of their "unpredictability".

A team like SMU can spark the imagination. As everyone knows, SMU survived many challenges in the late 1980s with not only the elimination of the SWC but also the placing of Southern Methodist on the "death penalty."

Meanwhile, the program was resurrected and has started to build itself up without major recruiting violations.

It's not the Pony Express, but they have started to out-recruit some other North and Central Texas schools for Dallas/Fort Worth high school football studs.

Prediction-- Sophomore ShanDerrick Charles looks like a good RB for the Mustangs after rushing for 860 yards as a true freshman.

Defense should be strong, especially in the Secondary. Jonas Rutledge (2001 1st Team All WAC) and Kevin Garrett (2001 2nd Team All WAC) return at Defensive Back. SMU will be close to a bowl game this year, but may be one year away from reaching the goal. 6-6

TULSA:

2002 Schedule:

Aug 30 Oklahoma

Sept 7 @ Arkansas State

Sept 14 @ Louisiana Tech

Sept 21 @ Baylor

Sept 28 Kansas

Oct 12 Boise State

Oct 19 @ Hawaii

Oct 26 UTEP

Nov 2 Rice

Nov 9 @ Fresno State

Nov 16 San Jose State

Nov 23 @ SMU

DNP—Nevada

Head Coach--Keith Burns

2001 Record: 1-10

Offense Starters Returning--8

Defense Starters Returning--8

Special Teams--0

Analysis-- Tulsa is expecting big things from Sophomore Tyler Gooch from Tulsa, Oklahoma after his spring game performance (Gooch completed 12-of-16 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 28 yards and one TD.).

On defense, the Golden Hurricanes return all their LBs including transfer Michael Dunleavy, originally from the Oklahoma Sooners.

Prediction--Tulsa has too many freshman and sophomores in the line-up to contend for an upper-division finish this season. As those players develop, especially at the skill positions, the Golden Hurricanes should start to see better results in the future. 2-10.

UTEP:

2002 Schedule:

Aug 31 Sacramento State

Sept 7 @ Kentucky

Sept 14 @ Oklahoma

Sept 21 Hawaii

Sept 28 @ San Jose State

Oct 12 @ New Mexico State

Oct 19 Rice

Oct 26 @ Tulsa

Nov 2 Boise State

Nov 9 @ Nevada

Nov 16 SMU

Nov 23 @ Louisiana Tech

DNP—Fresno State

Head Coach-- Gary Nord

2001 Record: 2-9 Offense Starters Returning--6

Defense Starters Returning--10

Special Teams--2

Analysis-- The El Paso/Jaurez area is one that many football fans in general are familiar with, if for no other reason than their Sun Bowl appearances in 1995(vs. Washington) and 1997 (vs. Arizona State).

For those not as familiar, El Paso is a step back to a different era, one in which cowboys rode the range and tumbleweed blew across the vast countryside.

Driving along I-20 is an experience that few will ever undergo, but for those of us that have, it's one we'll never forget. The El Paso area is the heritage of J. Hayden Fry, who grew up in Eastland, TX just to the north and east of El Paso.

UTEP may have more recognition for its basketball accomplishments, but like any university in Texas, they also have talent on the football field.

Prediction-- After winning the school's first WAC championship in 2000, the UTEP football team endured some tough times last season. The Miners finished 2-9 and ended the year on a seven-game losing streak.

A big reason for the Miners' struggles was a glaring lack of experience on both sides of the ball. By season's end, UTEP had 25 freshmen and sophomores in the two-deep.

Only one senior started on defense for the Miners -- cornerback Crance Clemons -- as UTEP yielded 37.6 points and 415.6 yards of offense per game.

The Miners struggled offensively as well. UTEP averaged 10.9 fewer points and 78.3 fewer yards per contest than it did in 2000. The Miners also committed 31 turnovers, compared to 20 the previous season.

The experience factor has shifted for 2002.

The Miners return 18 starters, including 10 on defense, and have 17 seniors. "And of those 17, twelve were scholarship players when they came in," Nord said. "Last year, we only had three seniors who were on scholarship when they got here." 3-9.

And now, get ready for the review of the 2002 football season for your San Jose State Spartans!

Two weeks before kick-off, check back here to see what SpartanThunder.com thinks about this years football squad led by hard charging Coach Fitz Hill!


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