Each Western Athletic Conference football championship the University of Hawaii has won has been followed by a thud.
But not this year, according to a selection of the early preseason football magazines.
Among four annuals scheduled to hit the newsstands this month, one (Lindy’s) has the Warriors winning the WAC and three others see them no worse than a tie for second place in the conference.
If that holds up, coming off a 10-4 tri-WAC title, it would be a far cry from 1993, 2000 and 2008, when UH followed up titles with 6-6, 3-9 and 7-7 finishes, respectively.
In fact, Athlon picks UH to finish the regular season at 10-3, with its only conference loss to Nevada.
"Nevada and Hawaii appear to be the best two teams in the first year A.B. (After Boise), though Fresno State and Louisiana Tech could make things interesting," Athlon said.
2. Fresno State
4. Louisiana Tech
5. Utah State
7. New Mexico State
8. San Jose State
Hawaii has never won at least a share of the title in back-to-back seasons, and this year’s predictions rival the Warriors’ 2007 Sugar Bowl season for the highest across-the-board forecast in two decades.
One reason is that Boise State, which had won or shared eight of the previous nine conference crowns, has departed for the Mountain West Conference. As a result, the early magazines are forecasting a tight race. The Sporting News headlines it "Without Boise, opportunity abounds in special season for remaining WAC members."
Hawaii, Fresno State and Nevada are each picked first by at least one magazine. And Phil Steele’s College Football Preview predicts a three-way tie for second place (UH, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech) behind Nevada.
Hawaii and Nevada shared the title with Boise State in 2010, each going 7-1 in conference and Steele, who remarkably nailed UH’s resurgence in 1999, notes, "Nevada and Hawaii were both co-champs with Boise and figure to be the favorites in ’11."
The optimism about UH in 2011 is especially notable in the wake of the Warriors being without any of their offensive linemen who started the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl five months ago, lacking their three top receivers and losing a record-setting running back, Alex Green.
But for all that — including three NFL draft picks — the Warriors, unlike the other challengers, at least return the most important piece, their starting quarterback, Bryant Moniz.
"With most of the league’s teams starting from scratch, Hawaii is the one to beat," predicts Lindy’s.
Steele notes, "Hawaii returns Bryant Moniz and probably has the most explosive offense in the league."
Of course, on the flip side, Lindy’s suggests UH’s downfall will be "if the offensive line is a collection of fifth-year castoffs not ready for prime time."