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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, July 6, 2012 at 9:05 PM

As promised we begin our summer series of college football conference previews with the WAC. We’ll be back on Sunday to do the same thing with the Sun Belt. We’ll work our way through the mid majors every Saturday and Sunday through July…then cover the major BCS conferences every weekend through August.

The WAC isn’t what it used to be. And, what it used to be was overrated to begin with as undersized teams were riding on the coattails of what Boise State was able to accomplish. Boise State is long gone. And, now teams like Hawaii and Nevada have departed for the greener pastures of the Mountain West as well. What’s left is a group that’s on life support…with a future so dim that individual programs are just trying to figure out what they can do to survive.

But, these teams ARE on the board! That means you should know their strengths, weaknesses, and outloooks as you prepare to pick winners in the 2012 football season.

 

LOUISIANA TECH

Athlon Ranking: 63rd

2011 Total Offense: 51st

2011 Total Defense: 57th

Strength: Run Defense (29th)

Weakness: Pass Defense (91st)

Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 4 on defense

Head Coach: Sonny Dykes

Notebook: This may be the only decent team in the WAC, unless Utah State is able to make some waves. The Bulldogs return their starting quarterback and a slew of receivers on a team that ranked in the top 50 passing-wise nationally. And, they will be battle-tested early with a schedule that includes Texas A&M, Houston, Illinois, and Virginia. Even if you decide to ignore the WAC this season, you’ll have trouble ignoring Louisiana Tech in the first half of the season! We’ll be looking for live dog situations with this group early, then affordable favorite situations once league play begins. You’ll see in a bit that Tech is far and away the class of the conference regulars in terms of returning talent. Two small college newcomers have experience, but are big question marks stepping up in class. Don’t sleep on Tech! They might offer serious Vegas value on multiple occasions this year.

 

UTAH STATE

Athlon Ranking: 90th

2011 Total Offense: 20th

2011 Total Defense: 50th

Strength: Rush Offense (6th)

Weakness: Pass Offense (97th)

Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 6 on defense

Head Coach: Gary Anderson

Notebook: Last year’s team made headlines early in the season as a feisty underdog against Auburn and BYU, but then looked awful later when it came time to produce as favorites vs. lesser teams. The Aggies were a classic “play to the level of your opposition” type team…which isn’t very good in a bad conference! They do return experience at quarterback, and are the clear runner-up right now to Louisiana Tech in terms of best expectations in the conference. The next three teams on the list have question marks at quarterback. Look for an inspired effort vs. Utah on September 7th this year, which might lead into an unfortunate slaughter at the hands of Wisconsin the next week. Will be tough to steal the conference crown because the matchup with Louisiana Tech is on the road in mid November.

 

SAN JOSE STATE

Athlon Ranking: 98th

2011 Total Offense: 69th

2011 Total Defense: 93rd

Strength: Pass Offense (23rd)

Weakness: Rush Offense (110th)

Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 4 on defense

Head Coach: Mike McIntyre

Notebook: This situation here tells you how bad the WAC is. San Jose State doesn’t have any good QB options entering the season, yet they rank 3rd in the preseason projections! Oh, the defense was horrible last year vs. a soft schedule and now has to rebuild with lesser experienced players. The market won’t give you any bargains if you want to fade this team vs. quality. But things might be so bleak against the likes of Stanford, San Diego State, and Navy that you’ll want to do that anyway. Vegas has been known to underestimate the disasters that arise when a team with no quarterbacks and a bad defense goes to battle against decent opposition.

 

NEW MEXICO STATE

Athlon Ranking: 116th

2011 Total Offense: 47th

2011 Total Defense: 112th

Strength: Pass Offense (26th)

Weakness: Rush Defense (107th)

Returning Starters:  3 on offense, 1 on defense

Head Coach: DeWayne Walker

Notebook: The only good news here is that one of the few returning starters is the quarterback. That at least gives NMSU a chance to get up to speed quickly if new starters are able to handle their responsibilities. We don’t expect that in September meetings at Ohio or UTEP (yes, even those opponents represent tough challenges!).  And, things could get really ugly in a November game at Auburn even if the starters surprise. There will be some wins available in league play though given the lack of quality and general confusion  in the middle of the pack.  Assume the worst because of the tiny number of returning starters…but remember that overhauling a roster isn’t always a bad thing at the bottom of the barrel programs.

 

IDAHO

Athlon Ranking: 118th

2011 Total Offense: 111th

2011 Total Defense: 101st

Strength: Rush Defense (65th)

Weakness: Pass Defense (111th)

Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 3 on defense

Head Coach: Robb Akey

Notebook: If you’ve only been casually been paying attention to WAC-type teams in recent years, you may have a misread on the Vandals. Yes, they played in an exciting bowl game not too long ago. But, it’s long enough ago to be irrelevant to the current team! Idaho was 2-10 last year, and they now join the list of bad WAC teams who hardly return any talent. The quarterback position is a question mark. And, an offseason overhaul of the assistant coaching staff might just muck things up even worse. Let’s see if the market recognizes how bad things are in road meetings against LSU and North Carolina.

 

TEXAS STATE

Athlon Ranking: 121st

2011 Total Offense: not eligible for rankings

2011 Total Defense: not eligible for rankings

Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 9 on defense

Head Coach: Dennis Franchione

Notebook: Frankly, everyone’s just kind of guessing about Texas State (located in San Marcos, Texas just outside of Austin) and the UTSA program you’ll read about in a second. The Bobcats went 6-6 last year with losses to teams like Central Arkansas, SE Louisiana, and Lamar. When stepping up in class they lost to Texas Tech 50-10 and Wyoming 45-10. Returning a lot of starters should help the transition to the semi-big time. Houston, Texas Tech, and Nevada are on the September schedule. Better to evaluate those games before taking any flyers on this team. At least the head coach is used to major college football.

 

TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO

Athlon Ranking: 124th

2011 Total Offense: not eligible for rankings

2011 Total Defense: not eligible for rankings

Returning Starters: 9 on offense, 9 on defense

Head Coach:  Larry Coker

Notebook: Same story here…known coach but an unknown quantity otherwise. Hey, at least the nickname Roadrunners is now part of the sport’s lexicon. The team scheduled very small early on, so we may not get any sort of real read until they face New Mexico State and Rice in late September and mid-October.

Don’t forget that early-bird football is now available from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK. Complete details are available in the office at 1-800-323-4453. You can sign up for the the annual “Dollars of August” preseason package right here at the website with your credit card if you prefer to take care of business online. Every dollar you win in exhibition football will multiply itself over several times before the Super Bowl.

We won’t be talking about baseball on July weekends because of our conference preview series. But, JIM HURLEY will still be providing BIG JUICY WINNERS! Be sure you check the home page of this website for advertising bulletins, and the “buy picks” pulldown for further breakdowns on what’s available. Selections always go up a few hours before first pitch.

Back with you Sunday to preview the Sun Belt. We strongly encourage you to print out ALL of our conference breakdowns this summer so you can refer to the data when the season begins. Be well prepared so you’ll GET THE MONEY!

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