Boise State still the team to beat in WAC
August 16, 2009
Tuning out preseason buzz should be getting easier for Boise State.
The Broncos are set to open another season as the Western Athletic Conference favorite and defending champion, again a potential BCS buster.
Boise State has won six of the last seven WAC titles, a run interrupted only by Hawaii’s championship in 2007. Having gone 8-0 in the league again last year, the Broncos are the pick to win it again in 2009.
“I think you can bring a lot of undue pressure onto yourself. We just try to not hear all the noise that’s out there,” said coach Chris Petersen, who is 35-4 in three years at Boise State. “We have a lot of expectations for ourselves regardless of what other people say.”
This is Boise State’s ninth season in the conference. The Broncos have finished first six times and second twice.
As for reaching the Bowl Championship Series again, the Broncos’ hopes for another shot at the big time could be dashed in the season opener when Boise State hosts Oregon on Sept. 3.
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“You win enough they’re going to pay attention to you,” Petersen said. “You step out of your conference and play teams like that and you can get something done, you’ll make more of a statement, without question.”
The Broncos went 12-0 in the regular season last year, but it wasn’t enough to earn a trip to the big-money postseason games.
“With the BCS and all those type of things, we’ve just taken the approach that we do with a lot of things. We don’t have any control over that,” Petersen said. “A few years ago they tweaked the system and it worked out good for us. I believe if we take care of our business it will still work out good for us.”
A capsule look at the teams in predicted order of finish:
BOISE STATE – Key players: QB Kellen Moore, CB Kyle Wilson, DE Ryan Winterswyk, Jr. Returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense.
Notes: Moore was a freshman last season but played like a veteran, passing for 3,486 yards and 25 touchdowns. … Wilson was the preseason pick for WAC defensive player of the year after intercepting five passes as a junior, when he also returned three punts for touchdowns.
NEVADA – Key players: QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Vai Taua, RB Luke Lippincott, DE Kevin Basped. Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense.
Notes: The Wolf Pack set school records for offense and rushing last season and have the headliners back in Kaepernick and Taua. Lippincott is also returning after receiving a medical hardship for last season, when he tore knee ligaments in the second game. … Nevada’s 41-34 loss to Boise State was the closest any WAC team came to beating the Broncos last year. The Wolf Pack close out the regular season in Boise on Nov. 27 in a game that could decide the conference race.
LOUISIANA TECH – Key players: QB Ross Jenkins, RB Daniel Porter, DT D’Anthony Smith, Sr. Returning starters: 9 offense, 7 defense.
Notes: The Bulldogs went 5-3 in the WAC last year – one more conference win than in the previous two seasons combined. Tech completed its best season in nine years with a win over Northern Illinois in the Independence Bowl. … Jenkins went 6-2 after taking over the starting job. … Porter is 1,122 yards short of Jason Cooper’s school rushing record.
FRESNO STATE – Key players: WR Seyi Ajirotutu, RB Lonyae Miller, SS Moses Harris, LB Ben Jacobs.
Notes: Junior Ryan Colburn and freshmen Ebahn Feathers and Derek Carr – younger brother of former Bulldog David Carr – will compete for starting QB job. Carr enrolled in school early so he could participate in spring practice and completed 11 of 13 passes in the spring game. … The Bulldogs’ defense needs to improve. Fresno State allowed 410.85 yards per game – including 210 rushing.
HAWAII – Key players: QB Greg Alexander, DL John Fonoti, LB Brashton Satele. Returning starters: 7 offense, 2 defense.
Notes: The Warriors’ 2009 season got off to a bad start when second-year coach Greg McMackin was suspended without pay for 30 days after using a gay slur during a briefing with reporters at the WAC preseason media days. McMackin has asked to be able to continue coaching on a volunteer basis during his suspension so his players are not affected by his ill-fated choice of words. … McMackin took over last season for June Jones and Hawaii followed its BCS-busting season of 2007 by going 7-7.
SAN JOSE STATE – Key players: DE Carl Ihenacho, S Duke Ihenacho, LB Justin Cole. Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense.
Notes: The Spartans seemed on the verge of a winning season, but ended it by losing four of five and finished 6-6. … The Spartans open this season at Southern California, then host Utah, which carries the nation’s longest winning streak into the season.
UTAH STATE – Key players: QB Diondre Borel, TE Jeremy Mitchell, LB Paul Igobeli. Returning starters: 10 offense, 7 defense.
Notes: New coach Gary Andersen left the security he had as defensive coordinator at Utah to take over the Aggies, who haven’t had a winning season in 13 years. … Andersen brought in offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin from New Mexico to install spread offense after the Aggies averaged 324 yards last year.
IDAHO – Key players: QB Nathan Enderle, RB Deonte Jackson, SS Shiloh Keo. Returning starters: 7 offense, 9 defense.
Notes: The Vandals have a returning starter in Enderle, but junior college transfer Brian Reader, who originally went to Arkansas, could challenge for the job. … The Vandals allowed more than 40 points in nine of their 10 losses.
NEW MEXICO STATE – Key players: QB Jeff Fleming, WR Marcus Anderson, DB Davon House. Returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense.
The Aggies lost their last seven games, leading to the firing of coach Hal Mumme and the hiring of UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker as his replacement. … The Aggies scored just 22 points per game and allowed an average 34. Junior college transfer Fleming is slated to take over at quarterback for Chase Holbrook, who passed for 25 touchdowns and 3,361 yards as a senior last year.