Boise State closing out WAC tenure

Boise State’s reign in the Western Athletic Conference can only

last one more season.

The league’s other eight members would like to end it sooner,

sending the Broncos off without another league title before Boise

State joins the Mountain West Conference next year. Now, can any of

them do it?

With 10 starters back on both sides of the ball from last year’s

unbeaten Fiesta Bowl winner, Boise State is easily the favorite to

win the WAC again and close out a remarkable 10 seasons in the

conference. Since joining the WAC in 2001, the Broncos have won

seven titles and finished second twice.

So with just one more shot at the Broncos before they ride off

to the MWC, every other team in the WAC is hoping to spoil the

send-off.

”We know what we’ve got coming down the gauntlet this year and

that’s just been our complete and total focus,” Boise State coach

Chris Petersen said. ”We have not had a team meeting that has

spoken about the next season. I have had no conversations about

anybody on our team player-wise about next season.”

The Broncos are hardly the first marquee member to leave the

league, which has survived decades of reformation since New Mexico

won the first WAC title in 1962. Other former members include

Arizona, Arizona State, BYU and Utah – the school Boise State will

essentially replace in the MWC when the Utes join the Pac-10.

”We’re going to be fine,” Fresno State coach Pat Hill said.

”The WAC is a survivor – obviously.”

The Broncos have gone 8-0 in the league the last two seasons and

have never lost a WAC game at home.

For seniors like safety Jeron Johnson, streaks like that are

much more important to the 2010 team than the one what will take

the field next fall in the MWC.

”We just want to win the WAC title,” Johnson said. ”Coach

Pete will have those guys ready for the Mountain West when it’s

time.”

BOISE STATE – Key players: QB Kellen Moore, RB Jeremy Avery, S

Jeron Johnson. Returning starters: 10 offense, 10 defense.

Notes: In two seasons as the starter, QB Kellen Moore has

already passed for 64 touchdowns and more than 7,000 yards. … The

Broncos’ hopes of busting the BCS for a third time will be at risk

right away when they open the season against Virginia Tech on Sept.

6 in Washington, D.C.

NEVADA – Key players: QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Vai Taua, DE

Dontay Moch. Returning starters: 9 offense, 6 defense

Notes: Nevada had three players rush for more than 1,000 yards

last year and two of them are returning. … Nevada’s only

conference loss was to Boise State and the Wolf Pack will be

hosting the Broncos this year on Nov. 26. … QB Colin Kaepernick

has 19 wins as a starter and had 36 touchdowns last season as a

junior – 20 throwing the ball and 16 rushing. … The Wolf Pack

play their first three at home.

FRESNO STATE – Key Players: QB Ryan Colburn, RB Robbie Rouse, DE

Chris Carter, K Kevin Goessling. Returning starters: 8 offense, 8

defense.

Notes: The Bulldogs stumbled to a 1-3 start last season, losing

three straight to Wisconsin, Boise State and Cincinnati, but

recovered well enough to finish 8-5. … The offense needs to

replace RB Ryan Matthews, whose 1,808 rushing yards last year were

a school record and the defense must improve after allowing more

than 400 yards per game for the third straight year.

IDAHO – Key players: QB Nathan Enderle, S Shiloh Keo, DE Aaron

Lavarias. Returning starters: 8 offense, 10 defense.

Notes: After winning three games total in coach Rob Akey’s first

three seasons, the Vandals were one of the top surprises nationally

last year when they went 8-5, beating Bowling Green 43-42 in the

Humanitarian Bowl on a touchdown and 2-point conversion with 4

seconds remaining. … Idaho lost four starters on the offensive

line, but has 10 starters returning on defense.

UTAH STATE – Key players: QB Diondre Borel, RB Michael Smith, LB

Bobby Wagner. Returning starters: 8 offense, 9 defense.

Notes: Utah State’s four wins last season under first-year coach

Gary Andersen were the Aggies’ most since 2002. … QB Diondre

Borel helped Utah State to a school record 5,272 yards of offense.

… The defense – Andersen’s forte – is stocked with much more

experience than he had last fall.

LOUSIANA TECH – Key players: QB Ross Jenkins, WR/KR Phillip

Livas, LB Tank Calais. Returning starters: 8 offense, 6

defense.

Notes: Former Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes takes

over as coach of a team that was second in the WAC two years ago

but slipped to 3-5 in league play last fall in a season full of

injuries. … The Bulldogs lost five straight down the stretch, but

only one of the losses – 45-35 to WAC champion Boise State – was by

more than a touchdown. Tech also kept it close against LSU, losing

24-16. If the Bulldogs can stay healthy and win a few of the close

games they lost a year ago, Tech could leap back into the top half

of the standings.

HAWAII – Key players: QB Bryant Moniz, WR Greg Salas, DB Mana

Silva. Returning starters: 4 offense, 7 defense.

Notes: The Warriors are the WAC’s senior member, entering their

32nd season in the league. … Hawaii closed last year by winning

four of five, but has to rebuild an offense that lost seven

starters. … Moniz started eight of the last nine games and passed

for 2,396 yards and 14 touchdowns.

NEW MEXICO STATE – Key players: RB Seth Smith, CB Davon House,

DE Pierre Fils. Returning starters: 9 offensive, 7 defense.

Notes: The Aggies are trying to break free of No. 8 in the

league standings after going 1-7 in the WAC three straight years.

… Coach DeWayne Walker got a nice surprise in his first season

when walk-on running back Seth Smith took over the starting job two

games into the season and ended up with 1,016 rushing yards. …

New offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar was hired to help revive the

offense, which scored just 16 touchdowns in 2009.

SAN JOSE STATE – Key players: QB Jordan La Secla, S Duke

Ihenacho, DE Mohamed Marah. Returning starters: 8 offense, 6

defense.

Notes: Coach Dick Tomey’s final season before retirement was

plagued by injuries as the Spartans struggled to a 2-10 finish,

winning just one WAC game. … Duke defensive coordinator Mike

MacIntyre was hired to replace Tomey and has a daunting challenge

in the first two weeks. The Spartans open at defending national

champion Alabama on Sept. 4, followed by a trip to Wisconsin.