This is a very tense time in the executive offices of the Western Athletic Conference. Commissioner Karl Benson now knows that in 2011, he won't have Boise State in the fold. The league won't be able to make a January bowl game and haul in a huge stack of cash. This is the last season in which the WAC can dramatically increase revenue through football, the nation's top revenue-producing sport. It's terrible for the league that Boise's heading to the Mountain West Conference, but Benson and Co. need the Broncos to reach a BCS bowl this season.
It might very well happen. NCAA football betting pundits are acknowledging as much.
It's not an exaggeration or an insult to say that in 2010, everyone in the Western Athletic Conference will be fighting for second place, because the best team in this league is obvious. Boise State has claimed the WAC in three of the past four seasons, with only Hawaii spoiling the party in 2007. Coach Chris Petersen has a juggernaut on his hands in the state of Idaho, as the Broncos have not only subdued the WAC but have beaten elite teams in BCS bowl games. The 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma put Boise on the map, but last season's Fiesta Bowl triumph over TCU put the Broncos in position to contend for the 2010 national championship. The only question is who will finish behind Boise State this season (and in what order).
Team On The Rise:
Looking for a surprise in the WAC? Try Idaho, even though the Vandals already made a name for themselves last season. After the breakthrough season of 2009, which ended with a thrilling 43-42 win over Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl, the Vandals will be the target instead of being the little engine that could. The schedule early on doesn't do many favors with the supposedly easy non-conference games against Colorado State and Western Michigan coming on the road. Quarterback Nathan Enderle leads a veteran offense that gets most of the skill players back but loses most of the line. The defense can't help but be better with 10 starters returning led by Shiloh Keo, the best safety you probably haven't seen. The Vandals won't win the WAC, and their low APR (academic progress report) ranking will cost them some scholarships, but they'll get back to a bowl and win more admirers. They won't fall off the map, and they might just finish second. That would be something.
Team On The Decline:
If you want to identify a ballclub that might fall short of where it ought to finish, go to the inland Valley of California. The team that should be better in the WAC, but simply isn't fulfilling its potential, is Fresno State, a team that has regularly perplexed sports betting junkies of all ages. Coach Pat Hill's team wowed the country in its epic 50-42 loss to USC in 2005. Fresno didn't win the game, but it played at a very high level against one of the best teams of the past decade. This is a program which should be doing what Boise State is doing. Yet, Fresno has an awful penchant for playing down to inferior opponents and losing games it simply shouldn't. The New Mexico Bowl loss to Wyoming last December was a classic case in point. Until further review, don't trust Fresno to come good in the clutch. Nevada should bump off FSU for second place in the WAC.
Best Player In The Conference:
Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick will give Moore a run for his money if the two players enter the 2011 NFL Draft together, but Moore has more stature in the pocket, a better arm, and the height that enables him to survey defenses with more fluidity and smoothness. Moore is a great student of the game, and while he doesn't quite own a laser for an arm, he knows how and when to get the ball to his receivers.
Who Will Win The WAC?
The champion of the 2010 WAC? This isn't even a debate for online betting commentators. Boise State is playing for a national title in 2010, with games against Virginia Tech and Oregon State being the big tests for the Broncos. If BSU doesn't win the WAC, a federal investigation will need to take place. Only a road game at Nevada should even remotely test the Broncos inside the conference.