WAC league play commenced last week with the Utags spanking the Vandals. With the non league games' winding down it is time to start looking at the games in the WAC each week. Specifically we look into how each game may shape the chase for the league title and bowl berths.
First and foremost the WAC has three automatic bowl berths if the teams have at least six wins. These bowls are the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque and the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu. I suspect that the WAC will be a bridesmaid in the hunt for the BCS berth this year.
Why no BCS bowl for the WAC this year?
Fresno St. was effectively eliminated with the close loss to Wisconsin. Boise St. was not ranked high enough to start the year. Boise St. will probably need to have almost all other teams that are currently undefeated to lose a game for the Broncos to have a shot at the BCS. The Non-BCS teams that are currently undefeated are BYU, UTAH and TCU from the Mountain West Conference, Ball St. from the MAC, Boise St. from the WAC and Tulsa from CUSA. To put it bluntly Tulsa and Ball St. have very easy non conference schedules, maybe even worse than Hawaii's last year. Thus they will get no love from the human polls and even less from the computers. Additionally, both Ball St. and Tulsa play in conferences where one loss tends to be expected. In other words they beat the crap out of each other in conference play, every year.
So that leaves BYU, TCU, Utah and Boise St. to contend for the one slot. Currently BYU is ranked highest at #10-11 in various polls but, their strength of schedule (SOS) is a paltry 86 out of 120. In comparison Boise St is ranked #19-20 and has a SOS of 6 and Utah is ranked #17-18 and has an SOS of 16. TCU is ranked #23-24 and has an SOS of 76. If BYU slips up down the road, then even though they are ranked lower I believe Utah gets the love. It will take both Utah and BYU slipping up for BSU to get in the drivers seat. Upcoming games play a factor in the race also, especially TCU which has a date with Oklahoma in Norman this Saturday. I figure if TCU keeps it within 14 points it will be an accomplishment but, do not count on it. So look for TCU to get eliminated this Saturday. Also Boise St. has a date in two weeks at Southern Mississippi, a road game at SJSU in 4 weeks and a home date with Fresno St. to close out the season. Utah still has a dangerous Oregon St. at home and closes the season with BYU at home. BYU really has clear sailing left on their schedule. The key game of the season could be the BYU vs. Utah match up in Salt Lake City at the end of the year. Anyway if I had to pick a team today, I am going with Utah for the lone BCS slot.
Why the WAC should be concerned with the Pac-10?
Simply put an extra bowl game slot. The Pac-10 has seven bowl game slots and they have three teams already looking like they are not going to get to a 6-6 record (UCLA, Washington and Washington St.). This year Pac-10 looks to be a weaker conference then in the past. If UCLA loses this weekend to Fresno St. and Oregon St. loses next weekend @ Utah it could be very good for the WAC. Stanford and OSU look to be next weakest teams, Oregon has big time QB issues and Arizona has melted the past few years after strong starts. We will also need the Pac-10 to beat it self up a bit. I really think the Pac-10 will get 5 eligible teams but getting 6 or 7 may be a bit of a task. Teams that will get a bowl game in the Pac-10 will be USC, ASU, Oregon, Cal, Arizona, teams on the bubble are Stanford and OSU. We will continue to monitor the situation over the next few weeks.
The WAC title chase so far…..
Looking good is Boise St. undefeated with a big win at Eugene.
Looking pretty good is Fresno St. tough loss against Wisconsin and an ugly win against Toledo.
Looking for wins to get in the race are SJSU, La Tech, Nevada and Hawaii.
Looking for really big wins and some luck are Utah St. and New Mexico State.
Looking out of contention is Idaho.
Onto the analysis of this week's WAC games:
Teams with a bye this week are La Tech., Boise St. and Utah St.
Best Game of the Week - Fresno St. @ UCLA
I think every team in the WAC will really get a better feel for Fresno St. after this game. UCLA has been pathetic since the big win over Tennessee. Frankly the Tennessee win is one of those weird wins a very poor team gets once in while. This could be a warm up/ tune up game for the conference slate for Fresno St. UCLA simply has no talent on defense or offense. On the other side Fresno St. gave up nearly 600 yards of offense to Toledo last week. All the WAC brothers need to be rooting for Fresno St to win so it effectively eliminates another Pac-10 team from a bowl slot and maybe open up a fourth bowl slot the WAC. In the end I think Fresno pulls out a narrow victory on the road. I also think this game could go down to a very late score so it should be exciting to watch.
Ugly Game of the Week - Idaho @ San Diego State
Not a whole lot to write up about these two teams considering both are near the bottom of FBS football. Looking at the total defense and offense reveals two teams with nearly identical stats. The only significant difference is on defense with Idaho giving up about 10% more total yards. I actually think with SDSU at home and having a decent QB they will prevail over Idaho. I sort have the feeling that SDSU might just bury Idaho big. If you have weeds to pull or a car to wash do that and don't waste your time watching this game.
Critical Games of the Week – New Mexico @ New Mexico St., Nevada @ UNLV and SJSU @ Hawaii
Nevada @ UNLV
Bragging rights for the State of Nevada, the Fremont Cannon and a bowl berth are at stake in this game. This is a key game for Nevada to win to get bowl eligible. If Nevada wins they are 2-2 and will need to go 5-3 in league to get to a bowl. If Nevada loses then they are 1-3 and need to go 6-2 in league. They have road games against La Tech, Hawaii and Fresno St. and tough home games against SJSU and Boise St. So a win is very important for Nevada to have some breathing room in league play. I figure this game to be close mainly because these two teams hate each other. UNLV has a couple of good wins against Iowa St. and Arizona St. under its belt and Nevada has been a whipping boy for Texas Tech and Missouri. The last ten years in this game the teams have 5-5 with a few blowouts on both sides. Only four times in the last ten years has the game been decided by two touchdowns or more. UNLV has a very balanced offensive attack with 208 yds./gm by air and 150 yds./gm on the ground. However, UNLV has a less than stellar running defense. Nevada has lost one of its best tailbacks (Luke Lippincott) for the season. A good ground game is a key for a Nevada win, so far they are averaging 277 yds./gm on the ground. However, the key will be for UNLV to shut down what ever running game Nevada has left and force the attack through the air. Considering Nevada's loss of Lippincott, throw in the game is at UNLV and the fact UNLV seems to have figured out how to win, I give an edge to UNLV.
New Mexico @ New Mexico State
This game is another bragging rights game and NMSU is looking for its first win in this series since 2002. The fact is neither one of these teams has proven much this season. NMSU has a win over an embarrassingly bad and inept UTEP and lost bad to a Nebraska team. UNM has lost a close one to Texas A&M, lost bad to conference rival TCU, lost bad to an improving Tulsa from CUSA and beat an improving Arizona squad. Looking at the stats reveals that UNM has been burned for 380 yards/game and only generated 302 yards/game. Meanwhile the Aggies have been allowing nearly 500 yards/game and are generating only 352 yards/game. Also add in that UNM lost some key players to injury during the tilt against Tulsa including the starting QB. However, UNM has played a much tougher schedule to date and has had a better defense. If UNM can get Rodney Ferguson going with a controlled ground attack then NMSU will not have enough time for its high flying aerial assault. Also playing into this game is a bowl slot for both teams; both need the win to get to at least 6 wins. UNM is currently is 0-1 in league and 1-3 overall, if they win this one they will then need to go 4-3 in the remaining league games, possible but not likely with @BYU, @Air Force, @UNLV and Utah at home. On the NMSU side they had to cancel the game with Nicholls St. so they have 12 games on the slate this year. They are currently 1-1, if they win this game then NMSU must still beat Alcorn St. next week (highly probable) and then go at least 4-4 in conference play. Looking at the conference schedule they have tough road games at Nevada and Fresno St. By the way NMSU is 2-17 on the road since joining the WAC. They also have tough home games against La Tech, Hawaii, SJSU and Boise St. I give UNM the edge in this game and predict that NMSU does not get to a bowl berth.
SJSU @ Hawaii
There is so much on line in this game that both teams need this win to have a shot at a bowl game. Hawaii is 1-2 and has a typical 13 game schedule, so they need 7 wins to get to a bowl under NCAA rules. Hawaii has non conference games late in the season against Cincinnati and Washington St.. I figure they beat WSU and lose to Cincy thus they will most likely have a 2-3 non conference record. With a 2-3 non conference record that will mean they need to go 5-3 in the WAC to get to the 7 win mark and a berth in the Hawaii Bowl. Looking ahead in the conference for Hawaii they have tough road games at Boise St. and Fresno St. and have what look to be tough home games against SJSU, La Tech and Nevada. SJSU likewise needs this win to help the Spartans get to what will be a minimum of 7 and most likely 8 wins for a bowl shot. Thus the Spartans need to go at a minimum of 5-3 or most likely 6-2 in the WAC. SJSU is 2-2 in non conference games and has tough road games against Hawaii and Nevada and tough home games against Boise St. and Fresno St. Winning on the road against Hawaii and Nevada are the key because Boise St. and Fresno are going to be mighty tough games to win anywhere. SJSU has a great defense and very good running backs. These are a quarterback's two best friends in the game of football. A good to great defense is essential to winning on the road. SJSU has an advantage in the running game and on the defensive side of the football. Hawaii has sputtered on offense so far this season even against Weber St an FCS team. They also gave up huge chunks, on the ground against Oregon St. (217 yards). On top of that Hawaii's once high flying offensive attack is only getting a paltry 213 yards per game. However, SJSU has no wins against Hawaii in the last seven tries. The last win against Hawaii was the 2000 season and it was at Hawaii. In the Spartans dry spell they have lost by combined score of 86-174 at Hawaii in four games. Also of note is that the Spartans are 4-17 on the road during Coach Tomey's tenure. The Spartans have not been road warriors the last few years. What does all this add up to, who knows until they play the game. I really think we will see the offense go with the ground attack, try to control the clock and play keep away from Hawaii's quick strike aerial assault. I also believe Hawaii will have a tough time throwing against the SJSU defense. I give a razor thin win to the Spartans on the rock.
Next Week's Games – SJSU has a bye, BYU @ USU, Hawaii @ Fresno St., La Tech @ Boise St. and Nevada @ Idaho, Alcorn St. @ NMSU
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