POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 26, 2011
Some of the keenest minds of our time — the Western Athletic Conference football coaches and the intrepid media who cover them — have weighed in, and Thursday at the WAC Football Media Preview in Las Vegas, the conference office will reveal that annual summer conversation piece — the preseason polls.
Even for the University of Hawaii, the WAC's longest active member, it will be an exercise of more-than-passing interest. For the Warriors it will be the 33rd — and last — one as WAC members.
And, maybe, the most curious.
Consider that the Warriors have been picked to win the conference just twice (2003 and '07) before in the previous quarter-century despite some largely intact, proven teams. But now, even with a wholesale restocking of the offensive unit — and we're talking as many as nine starters — the Warriors could find themselves as the team to beat for the WAC title. They should be no worse than the No. 2 pick.
Most years the kind of attrition they face would drop the Warriors well into the middle of the pack, if not lower.
But the WAC has rarely had a campaign that shapes up like this.
No Boise State or, as was the case in much of the 1980s and '90s, no Brigham Young to automatically anoint.
Instead, with everybody lacking something or someone significant, this could be one of the WAC's closer, more interesting races.
With that in mind, here's how one WAC ballot looked:
While the Warriors have plenty of openings to fill on offense, they are the only team in the WAC with a proven quarterback returning. Bryant Moniz has started more games (22) than all the rest of the conference QBs combined. And while UH's offense gets a lot of the headlines, the defense is a difference-maker.
2. Fresno State
The Bulldogs have the most talent in the conference, and this will be their last chance to make it mean something in the WAC, where they have not won or shared a title since the turn of the century (1999).
3. Louisiana Tech
These Bulldogs took most of last season to finally sort out their quarterback picture. If they can do it in September this year, they might be on to something.
The Wolf Pack lost their galaxy of stars (Colin Kaepernick, Vai Taua, Virgil Green, Dontay Moch, etc.) but still signed up to play four consecutive road games (Oregon, San Jose State, Texas Tech and Boise State) to start the season. Not a good combination, even if UH, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech have to go to Reno, Nev., later on.
5. Utah State
Among all the teams that will remain in the WAC after 2011, the Aggies have the most to kick about. It will be interesting to see if that helps motivate them to their first winning season in 15 years.
6. San Jose State
The Spartans have the most returnees of anybody — 18 — in the WAC from a 1-12 team, and by their Oct. 15 game with UH on ESPN we'll know if that is good or bad.
The Vandals lost so many big-play performers that UH's last trip to Moscow should be small potatoes.
8. New Mexico State
The Aggies have not won more than two conference games in any of their six seasons in the WAC and will look to quarterback Andrew Manley to change that.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.