BYU's 1984 national title was considered a fluke, mainly because
few outside the WAC take the league seriously. Mention the
conference and somebody is sure to kiss it off as a video-game
league in which a 38-35 score is considered a defensive
struggle. But as the trend toward superconferences continues,
the WAC appears to be on track for greater national respect.
In 1996 the addition of Southwest Conference refugees Rice, SMU
and TCU will make the WAC harder to ignore. But the conference
is also better balanced this year, with Colorado State (page
104) surpassing traditional league powerhouse BYU (page 113).
One of the up-and-comers is Fresno State, where coach Jim
Sweeney needs six wins to reach 200 for his career. To get
those--and more this season--Sweeney has brought in 20 junior
college transfers to provide a quick fix for a team that went
5-7-1 last year.
Three juco players--Lumumba Neal, Lee Pakola and Joe
Barnes--should help a Bulldog defense that allowed an average of
33 points and 464 yards per game in '94. Another transfer, Jim
Arellanes, will challenge incumbent quarterback Richie Donati,
who presided over the league's eighth-ranked total offense and
didn't make anyone forget Trent Dilfer. Whoever is doing the
throwing will enjoy the WAC's best pair of receivers, senior
Charlie Jones and junior Brian Roberson.
At Utah, sixth-year coach Ron McBride has been the architect of
one of the nation's most impressive rebuilding jobs. Last
season's Utes vaulted to a 10-2 record and the first Top 10
ranking in school history. While it will be difficult to match
that feat in '95, McBride nevertheless will have the advantages
of seven home games and a deep pool of talented athletes. At
quarterback, for example, the Utes have three solid candidates
to succeed WAC passing leader Mike McCoy. One of them, redshirt
junior Mike Fouts, is a nephew of Dan Fouts, the former star
quarterback of the San Diego Chargers.
August 4, 1995
Utah will at least lead the nation in brother acts. The Lusk
brothers, Henry and Harold, are expected to be big-play guys at
slotback and free safety, respectively. The Kaufusi boys, Jeff
and Henry, will start on the defensive line.
After years of decline, Air Force returned to prominence last
season, winning eight of its last nine games. The streak was due
in large part to the high-tech flexbone offense, which averaged
435 yards per game. Junior quarterback Beau Morgan returns, as
do backs Jake Campbell and Nakia Addison, who combined to gain
The Air Force offense will need to put plenty of points on the
board to compensate for a shaky defense that must replace seven
starters. But the Falcons still have senior safety LeRon
Hudgins, one of the WAC's most feared hitters. The team's fate
will be largely determined by how it fares in its first three
games: against BYU, Wyoming and Colorado State.
Although Ted Tollner--the former USC coach who's beginning his
second season at San Diego State--hasn't found another Marshall
Faulk yet, he has made enormous strides in recruiting. Tollner,
whose team had a 4-7 record last year, has signed 16 freshmen
from the Aztecs' talent-rich home area.
Despite opening against Cal, Oklahoma and BYU, the Aztecs have
an excellent chance for a winning record. Junior quarterback
Billy Blanton, who showed flashes of brilliance last season, has
a pair of big-time receivers in sophomore Will Blackwell and
senior DeAndre Maxwell. Much will depend on whether the defense,
which allowed an average of 443 yards per game in '94, can
improve. Senior defensive tackle La'Roi Glover is a candidate
for the All-America team, not to mention the All-Name team.
Without an established quarterback or running back, Wyoming will
most likely hang around the middle of the WAC pack. Under coach
Joe Tiller, however, the Cowboys could have the league's best
pass defense: Three starting defensive backs return from a team
that yielded only 189 yards per game through the air, third best
in the WAC. On offense, four starting linemen will be back,
including all-league junior tackle Steve Scifres. The Cowboys
suffer from a lack of speed, though that's not the case with
junior wide receiver Marcus Harris, who averaged 20.3 yards per
catch last season.
New Mexico can be the league's surprise team if--and this is a
big if--senior quarterback Scott Peterson can adequately replace
Stoney Casey, who finished his career fifth on the NCAA's
alltime total-offense list. Pro scouts will be watching two Lobo
prospects: Calvin (the Eclipse) Allen, a 6'7", 385-pound senior
offensive tackle, and senior running back Winslow Oliver, who
had 706 yards in '94.
After UTEP went 3-7-1 in coach Charlie Bailey's second full
season, the team's sixth straight losing season, an emergency
fund-raising campaign was started to keep the athletic program
alive. The drive was a success, raising $750,000. If only the
football team were as prosperous. Although the Miners were
competitive in most games, they still finished last in the
league in three categories (total offense, scoring offense and
rushing defense) and next to last in three others (passing
offense, total defense and scoring defense). For the Miners to
improve, Bailey needs to recruit more players like senior
running back Toraino Singleton (1,277 yards rushing and 11
touchdowns) and junior linebacker Michael Comer.
Only two years after winning a WAC title and the Holiday Bowl,
Hawaii fell to 0-8 in the conference, largely because it
finished first in turnovers. How did the Rainbow program fall
apart so quickly? Since the 1992 success, six assistants have
left coach Bob Wagner's staff, recruiting has fallen off
sharply, and frustration is setting in among the fans. Wagner
could be gone if the team doesn't show improvement, but that's
going to be difficult against a schedule that opens with Texas
at home and Wyoming on the road.
--William F. Reed
1. Colorado State
3. Fresno State
5. Air Force
6. San Diego State
8. New Mexico