WAC Media and Coaches Preseason Polls
The WAC capped 2007 with a second straight entry in the BCS bonanza. Hawaii was the only team in the country to go undefeated through the regular season and climbed to No. 10 in the BCS Standings. But a blowout 41-10 loss to Georgia was far different than the 2006 upset loss that Boise State hung on Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Just six days after the stinging Sugar Bowl defeat, Hawaii lost the architect of its' success when head coach June Jones surprisingly bolted for SMU. The athletic director was canned the day after Jones accepetd the SMU post.
In a less than a week, the Warrior football program went from riding an unprecedented high to free-falling into the throes of despair.
Nine days after Jones' departure, Hawaii promoted Greg McMackin to head coach. The move put a team that built its reputation on offense in the hands of Jones' defensive coordinator.
Hawaii also bid farewell to QB Colt Brennan who set 31 NCAA records, including 58 TD passes in a single season (2006).
Hawaii's rise, and subsequent fall, hasn't helped the WAC's national perception as a weak conference undeserving of representation in back-to-back BCS bowl games.
It's not unfair criticism to point out that two-thirds of the WAC membership won 6 or fewer games last year, and only three schools posted a winning record. Hawaii's 12 victories accounted for more than 1/5th of the win total in a 9-team league.
The four WAC teams who made it to the postseason won just one bowl game. In addition to Hawaii's embarrassment, Nevada was shellacked 23-0 by New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl, and Boise State was upset 41-38 by East Carolina in the Hawai'i Bowl. Fresno State was the WAC's only bowl victor with a 40-28 defeat of the ACC's 8th-seeded team, Georgia Tech, in the Humanitarian Bowl.
So now what?
According to the computer (about the computer), the conference won't look a whole lot different from last year. Boise State is expected to return to the top this year, challenged closely by resurgent Fresno State. Then comes Hawaii and Nevada to round the list of usual suspects.
Expected Top 25 finishes by Boise State and Fresno State would help the conference regain some credibility, especially if the Bulldogs do as well as the computer predicts in their games against Rutgers, Wisconsin and UCLA. In those high-profile affairs, Fresno State is a narrow 1.28-point favorite at the Scarlet Knights, a microscopic 0.15-point home underdog to the Badgers, and a 5.69-point pick at the Bruins.
The schedule provides a Fresno State-Boise State showdown in the regular season finale for each school on November 28, with home field advantage giving the Broncos the upper hand by a mere 2-1/2 points.
Boise State's schedule is not nearly as tough as Fresno State's. The Broncos' only prominent OOC game is September 20 at Oregon where they are an 8.91-point underdog. The October 11 trip to Southern Miss would be more intriguing if the Golden Eagles had not switched coaches in the offseason.
Hawaii is still given a respectable 8-5 projection, despite playing a much stronger non-conference schedule. The slate begins with visits to Florida and Oregon State, and ends with home dates against Washington State and Cincinnati. Throw in some win-able conference road trips to Idaho and New Mexico State at the end of the year, and three home games against beatable league foes (San Jose State, Louisiana Tech and Nevada), and it's not too difficult to believe that Hawaii won't be diving off a cliff anytime soon.
There's not much to fear from the rest of the membership as the other five schools are expected to end the season ranked among the bottom 42 of 120 FBS teams - San Jose State (79), Louisiana Tech (92), New Mexico State (99), Utah State (107), and Idaho (113). Those schools have produced a combined total of two winning season in the past five years - San Jose State (2006) and Louisiana Tech (2005).