This is it, everyone. Say goodbye to the WAC. It’s not going to be here much longer.
After this year, only Idaho and New Mexico State will remain, and both have been told to go to Plan B by the Mountain West. Football independence? FCS status? It’s an agonizing game of wait and see for the Vandals and Aggies. For everyone else, it’s just one more year before moving on up.
Looking ahead to the 2012 season, here’s how the WAC should shake out:
(Let it be known that I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice.)
1. Louisiana Tech (last season: 8-5; lost Poinsettia Bowl)
Sonny Dykes has Louisiana Tech playing at a high level after finishing 2011 with seven straight regular season wins. Only five teams are eligible for the WAC title this season. The Bulldogs are the clear favorite before heading to Conference USA.
2. Utah State (last season: 7-6; lost Famous Idaho Potato Bowl)
Not too long ago, Utah State was one of the worst football programs in 1-A (FBS), but Gary Anderson has turned things around for the Aggies. Like Louisiana Tech, USU finished the 2011 regular season on a winning streak. There are lots of players to replace on offense, though.
3. San Jose State (last season: 5-7)
Things drop off considerably for the WAC after Louisiana Tech and Utat State. San Jose State may not have a win against a 1-A (FBS) opponent until late October. Still, the Spartans are better than Idaho and New Mexico State — and certainly better than the league’s new members. Linebacker Keith Smith returns as one of the nation’s best.
4. Idaho (last season: 2-10)
Coach Robb Akey hasn’t taken Idaho bowling since 2009. He may need to change that if he’s going to keep his job. 2011 was horrific for the Vandals and 2012 doesn’t look like it’ll be much better. To top it off, Idaho’s future conference identity looks bleak.
5. New Mexico State (last season: 4-8)
Like Idaho, New Mexico State looks to be headed for conference no man’s land. The Aggies may squeak out three or four wins, but one of the worst defenses in the country last season won’t be any better with just three returning starters.
6. Texas State (last season: 6-6 in FCS)
Don’t let the 6-6 record fool you, though I know it won’t. The Bobcats were taken to the woodshed by Texas Tech and Wyoming last year. Dennis Franchione knows his way around Texas, so having some success at Texas State shouldn’t be an issue. 2012 will be a rude awakening, though.
7. UT-San Antonio (last season 4-6 in FCS)
Like any new football program, UT-San Antonio has experienced growing pains. But, all things considered, the Roadrunners have done alright for themselves in one season. Granted, UTSA didn’t beat anybody on their level, but have to get wins somewhere, right? Former Miami coach Larry Coker will win there in time.
Interested in our other 10 conference projections along with Division 1-A (FBS) Independents? View ‘em all below by clicking the individual links or our projections landing page HERE. And don’t forget to check out CFT’s preseason Top 25.