2012 Western Athletic Conference Preview, Prediction
The WAC will continue its affiliation with the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl this year, facing an opponent from the Mid-American Conference. It has done so every year since 2000.
As a conference champion, a team from the WAC is an automatic bid for one of the five BCS bowl games if ranked in the top 12 of the BCS Standings, or if ranked in the top 16 of the BCS Standings and its ranking is higher than that if a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls.
That said, here's a preview for the 2012 WAC season with predictions.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs: 9-3 (6-0)
With the majority of the starting roster returning, including the entire coaching staff, Louisiana Tech is the favorite to win the WAC for the second year in a row. Utah State is really the only thing standing in its way, and the game that will likely determine the conference title will take place at home. If coach Sonny Dykes and the Bulldogs take home the title, don't be surprised to see them bolt to the C-USA or Mountain West in 2013.
Utah State Aggies: 7-5 (4-2)
Returning for the Aggies is sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who provided the offense with a huge spark during the first half of the season. He'll be forced to do more of the dirty work with tnearly he entire backfield gone to the NFL, which should be no problem for the dual-threat. Utah State is riding some momentum into 2012 after a bowl appearance and could contest for the conference championship.
San Jose State Spartans: 6-6 (4-2)
The Spartans took part in 10 games that decided in 10 points or less last year, most of which contributed to their seven losses. They have improved in each of coach Mike McIntyre's seasons, and if they can replace some valuable players on the offense that graduated, they'll reach the postseason for the second time since 1990.
New Mexico State Aggies: 4-8 (2-4)
Coach DeWayne Walker took over a program in 2009 that had won just 19 games over the course of six seasons (3.2 wins per season). He hasn't changed much, although the Aggies did win four games in 2011 and were a mere four points away from their first five-win season since 2004. New Mexico State loses many of its playmakers, but should be able to handle newcomers Texas State and UTSA in the WAC.
Texas State Bobcats: 4-8 (2-4)
With a very young team, coach Dennis Franchione's Bobcats struggled down the stretch, losing four of their final five games and ended with a 6-6 record in the FCS. Other than losing its best pass rusher, TSU brings back almost the entire team in its first season as a Division-1A member. Still, the defense lacked consistency and gave up far too many big plays, leading me to believe the first-year transition won't be a good one.
Idaho Vandals: 3-9 (1-5)
Idaho has lost 14 of its last 18 games and coach Robb Akey is on the hot seat in 2012. The Vandals will be without much of their starting skill positions and defensive front seven from a year ago, but it's difficult to tell whether that's a good or bad thing at this point. Still, it's not likely that the inexperience will play as a positive factor, even in a weak WAC.
Texas San-Antonio Roadrunners: 3-9 (0-6)
In just its second year of existence, the UTSA football program makes the leap from FCS to FBS. It signed its first recruiting class just 29 months ago, playing in its first game just 10 months ago. Former Miami (Fla.) coach Larry Coker led the Roadrunners to just four wins against D-1AA opponents last season, and other than a few gimme's on this year's schedule, it doesn't seem likely he'll surpass that number (or even match it) in 2012.