1. Boise State
3. San Jose State
4. New Mexico State
5. Fresno State
8. Utah State
9. Louisiana Tech
-->TOP FIVE STORYLINES IN THE WAC
5. Fresno State won't do that again, will they? Seemed like everything went wrong last year for the usually-strong Bulldogs. Fresno won their opener, but proceeded to drop four straight (three by a combined nine points) before a humiliating 68-37 home loss to Hawai'i. Fresno would lose two more in a row before finally breaking the skid. The 3-1 finish left some promise for 2007, but Pat Hill has to replace a lot of bodies on defense before the Bulldogs can contend again in the WAC. QB Tom Brandstater had an up-and-down season last year, but USC transfer Michael Stuart should give him a big target in the middle of the field, and Hill has a solid core on the offensive line to work with. The usually tough non-conference schedule shows roadies to Texas A&M and Oregon, along with a home game against Kansas State. Late trips to Hawai'i and New Mexico State will be horribly difficult if Fresno doesn't shore up a leaky pass defense.
4. Will San Jose State continue to improve? The challenge now for Dick Tomey, in his third year as head coach, is to keep this team from flatlining or regressing. A number of key contributors return, especially on defense, where All-WAC LB Matt Castelo and All-American CB Dwight Lowery lead the way. QB Adam Tafralis' favorite target from last year, James Jones, is now a Green Bay Packer, but JUCO transfer David Richmond expects to see plenty of action at WR. 1,000-yard rusher Yonus Davis returns, and the interior of the offensive line should be strong. SJSU plays four straight on the road to start the season, including trips to Arizona State and Kansas State. The Spartans also draw Fresno State and Boise State on the road in WAC play, so getting back to nine wins again this year won't be easy.
3. Is any WAC defense capable of slowing down Hal Mumme's Air Raid? On the surface, only Boise State appears to have much of a shot. Mumme's offense could be more potent than ever this year, with 70-percent passer Chase Holbrook returning, along wit hall his primary receivers. In fact, the top seven pass-catchers return, having combined for 353 catches and 33 touchdowns last year. Junior Chris Williams led the country with 1,415 yards, and he scored 12 times. With no serious improvement in sight for NMSU's defense, the Aggies will try to win more than last year's four games by topping their 31 PPG average. Cutting back on a staggering total of 22 lost fumbles last year is a good first step.
2. Can Boise State avoid slipping up before their showdown at Hawai'i? If they do, the Broncos will have a shot at returning to the BCS picture one year after the Oklahoma upset. Boise has trips to Washington and Fresno State, along with potentially tough home games with Southern Mississippi and San Jose State before the November 23 trip to the islands. Junior RB Ian Johnson, who accounted for 25 scores last year, leads an offense that lost three-year starting QB Jared Zabransky. Center-field safety Marty Tadman led the team in picks last year, and both starting cornerbacks also return from last year. With all the tough games at home, it looks like Boise will again threaten to go unbeaten through the regular season. Imagine a Thanksgiving Friday night game in Hawai'i with two unbeatens. Could there be a better scene?
1. What can Colt Brennan do for an encore? The Hawai'i star hit an incredible 72.6 percent of his throws, totaled 63 touchdowns (58 passing to set an all-time record for a single-season), and threw for over 5,500 yards. The somewhat lanky Brennan returned to school despite information from scouts that he would be a mid-first round pick in the NFL Draft. He gives himself a shot at the H*i*m*n Trophy, but he also wants to lead Hawai'i to a perfect season and a shot at a BCS bowl. The schedule, featuring two I-AA teams, might not be good enough to merit that BCS opportunity, but Brennan sure does have a shot at some serious individual hardware, and he looks like the best NFL prospect June Jones has tutored in the run-and-shoot.
CISKIE BLOG PRESEASON WAC AWARDS AND NOTABLES
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Colt Brennan, QB, Hawai'i
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Marty Tadman, S, Boise State
Preseason Coach of the Year: Hal Mumme, New Mexico State
Coach on the Hot Seat: Brent Guy, Utah State
Bowl Bound: Boise State, Hawai'i
Bowl Bubble: San Jose State, New Mexico State, Fresno State
Best Non-Conference Game:
Worst Non-Conference Game: