Now that the Boise State Broncos have officially departed the Western Athletic Conference, there is room at the top to grow. In almost every WAC team circle you can see visions of a vacated WAC crown waiting for someone to pick it up. If you ask the teams within the league you get a number of biased answers, with each team claiming they can grab the crown. According to oddsmakers, some of the short odds to win the title outright are Hawaii (5/2), Nevada (5/2), and Louisiana Tech (4/1).
Athlon Sports likes those odds. They predict that Nevada will carry the trophy. Phil Steele and others also agree that Hawaii will win the championship going away.
The Univerty of Hawaii Warriors could be a good bet. Hawaii won a share of its fourth WAC title last season and went 10-4 overall and 7-1 in conference play. Head coach Greg McMackin is coming off his third year at Hawaii and would like nothing better than to take the conference by storm. He has an improved defense on one side and a good offense on the other. His returning quarterback, Bryant Moniz, threw for 5,040 yards and 39 touchdowns in 2010. Last year the Warriors showed they could run the ball as well.
The University of Nevada Wolf Pack could certainly go the distance. At least head coach Chris Ault thinks so. He would like to continue his quest for the outright WAC title. Nevada earned a share of it last season going 13-1 in 2010 with a 7-1 conference record. The Wolf Pack has some work to do in replacing its quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but Ault is confident his signature Pistol offense will continue to dominate the remaining WAC teams even as they transition to a new passer.
Most condider the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs a long shot to retake the WAC title, except for the Bulldogs themselves. They won the title back in 2001. Sure, last season the Bulldogs went 5-7 last season and 3-5 in conference, but Louisiana Tech brings back Tennessee transfer tailback, Lennon Creer. This cat ran for 1,181 yards and 10 scores. The Bulldogs also field a bunch of high quality junior college recruits that will be used to shore up their offensive line. The question is if that will make an immediate difference.
So who is going to be the 2011 WAC champion?According to the oddsmakers, future MWC member Fresno State is favored to win the WAC football championship.
Yes, you heard me right---the Fresno State Bulldogs. I know what you are going to say: sure they have won three conference titles in their program history, but the last title came back in 1999. And last season, Fresno State went 8-5 overall (5-3 in conference play). Not exactly a stellar season to base this year's predictions on.But head coach Pat Hill has his gameplan---and it is a lot different than in previous years: he plans to unleash a big Dog, sophomore quarterback Derek Carr. More passing is in the works. Carr is expected to start behind a retooled offensive line. Carr has a whole Dog kennel full of WR's to pitch the pigskin to: Rashed Evans, Jalen Saunders, Victor Dean, Isaiah Burse, Devon Willie...and a solid backfield with leading Tennessee transfer RB Robbie Rouse. Rouse rushed for 1,129 yards and eight touchdowns last season. And UCLA RB transfer Milton Knox is ready to roll after sitting out last season and is there to help with the running game.
Here is the way the oddsmakers have it right now:
The 2011 Western Athletic Conference Championship Odds:
Fresno State 7/4
Louisiana Tech 4/1
San Jose State 10/1
Utah State 10/1
New Mexico State 30/1
I hope they are right. I will be heading down to Nevada next month to lay a few bets down.