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Western Athletic Conference Preview: Boise State is unstoppable.

Elliott Pohnl

Elliott Pohnl

Elliott Pohnl writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

The WAC will once again be a two-team league in 2010 with Boise State and Nevada poised to dominate conference play.

Boise State returns 20 starters from last seasonís powerful team, including quarterback and Heisman hopeful Kellen Moore. The junior struggled mightily in spring, especially with his accuracy. It will be surprising if his inconsistency carries over to the start of the regular season, but there is no question his play will be under the microscope with the Broncos hovering near the top-five in the polls.

Boise Stateís high preseason ranking and a tough non-conference schedule make an appearance in the National Championship game a distinct possibility. The Broncos meet Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 at Fed Ex Field, travel to Wyoming the following week in what could be a dangerous trap game and play host to Oregon State later in September. Boise State likely will be favored in the non-conference matchups against the Hokies and Beavers, giving the nation a chance to see how it performs under pressure. The only possible hiccup in WAC play comes late in November with a trip to Nevada.

The Wolfpack feature one of the best running quarterbacks in college football history. Lanky signal caller Colin Kaepernick runs through defenses like Vince Young ó he doesnít look that fast but nobody can catch him. Kaepernick has rushed for nearly 3,000 yards in his three-year career and thrown for more than 7,000 yards and 61 touchdowns. He has improved as a passer and has a host of weapons at his disposal, led by sophomore receiver Brandon Wimberly and senior running back Vai Taua.

Nevada could sneak into the BCS picture if it handles Boise State in Reno. A strong non-conference schedule features tough but winnable games against California at home and Brigham Young on the road. Boise State and Nevada could be undefeated when they meet on November 26, setting up a game for the ages.

There is a significant drop in talent after the top two programs in the WAC.

Fresno State has the conference's best secondary and should improve against the run. The Bulldogs look to replace first-round pick Ryan Mathews with Robbie Rouse, who could push 1,000 yards in 2010.

Idaho put up big numbers last season to earn a trip to the postseason for the first time in more than ten years. The Vandals return four solid receivers but lose four starters from last yearís reliable offensive line.

Hawaii got inconsistent quarterback play at times last season from Bryant Moniz but still lit up the scoreboard. Greg Salas figures to be one of the more prolific receivers in college football and a valuable fantasy asset. The Warriors arenít likely to win more than seven games but certainly have the ability to pull upsets during conference play.

Utah State is also capable of pulling an upset, especially if running back Michael Smith can replace the injured Robert Turbin, who scored 18 times for the Aggies last year. Diondre Borel is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country and, as long as he and Smith are on the field, Utah State can put up points against almost anyone.

Despite the overall lack of quality depth, the WAC boasts an impressive collection of fantasy prospects.

Players to Target


Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada

After scoring 39 touchdowns in 2008, Kaepernick's stats took a bit of a step back last year. The 6-6 senior increased his completion percentage from 54.3 to 58.9 but passed for nearly 800 fewer yards than in 2008. He attempted 101 fewer passes, in part thanks to three consecutive late-season blowout victories in which he threw just 37 passes total. Kaepernick can be counted on for another 1,000-plus rushing yards this season, but forecasting his passing numbers is a bit more difficult. His abilities as a runner make him arguably the best fantasy prospect in the WAC heading into the 2010 season.

Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State

Moore had a 16-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio last season. Yes, you read that correctly. Although his completion percentage fell from his freshman season (69.4), he still completed a healthy 64.3 percent of his passes, piloting the Broncos to an undefeated season. A 3,000-yard, 30-touchdown season is probable in 2010 despite what was by all accounts a very poor performance in spring practice.

Diondre Borel, QB, Utah State

Borel entered 2009 known more for his legs than his arm, but that changed quickly as he posted five 300-yard games en route to finishing the season with 2,885 yards and 17 scores through the air. He saw his rushing yards slip slightly (632 in 2008 to 465 in 2009) but is still capable of producing big numbers on the ground. The loss of his best receiver, Stanley Morrison, could prove to be a bit of a problem, but you still have to like Borel given his skills and his master-like grasp of the teamís system.

Michael Smith, RB, Utah State

Robert Turbin will miss the 2010 season due to an ACL tear suffered in the winter, and Smith is in line to pick up the all-starís workload. Turbin totaled 18 touchdowns last year in Utah State's high-flying offense, and Smith's skill set is an excellent fit to pick up where Turbin left off. As a role player in 2009, Smith produced 510 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns despite averaging just five touches per game. Smith should be in line for a huge season.

Vai Taua, RB, Nevada

Taua sat out three games last season yet still rushed for 1,345 yards and ten touchdowns. He also added another two scores as a receiver. Nevada has a crowded backfield, which could cost Taua carries, but with 1,000-yard rusher Luke Lippincott gone, there should be enough carries left for Taua to dominate. Mike Ball and Lampford Mark are a threat to steal carries, but Tauaís proven himself enough to keep the top running spot for Nevada.

Doug Martin, RB, Boise State

The Boise State backfield had a bevy of backs to choose from last season, but it was Martin who stole the show with 15 touchdowns. The 5-9 powder keg averaged 5.9 yards per carry, as well. Although he'll likely have to share the load with speedster Jeremy Avery (1,150 yards last season) and ACL-recovering D.J. Harper, Martin remains the Boise State ball carrier with the best nose for the goal line and the most upside.

Jeremy Avery, RB, Boise State

The shifty Avery led the Broncos in rushing in 2009 and remains their big-play threat. Avery had 1,150 yards on the ground, 257 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns last year. Doug Martin may snipe the short-range carries in the red zone, but Avery is a threat to take it the distance each time he gets his hands on the ball.

Titus Young, WR, Boise State

Young brings big-play ability to Boiseís short-passing attack, topping 1,000 yards last season on 79 catches with ten touchdowns. He averaged only 13 yards per catch last season but has impressive speed to separate from defenders. He has Austin Pettis (63-885-14) to contend with at receiver, but quarterback Kellen Moore had no problems feeding both in 2009. Itís also worth noting that Young will probably score at least once on kickoff returns.

Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State

Pettis lacks top-line speed but caught 63 passes for 855 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. Pettis will compete for targets with Titus Young (79-1,041-10 last season), but with Kellen Moore at quarterback, both should prosper just fine once again this season. The only thing that slowed Pettis last year was a late-season foot injury that limited him to just five receptions and no touchdowns in the last four games. Prior to that, he scored in every game, including multiple touchdowns twice. He's expected to be healthy for 2010, so expect another strong season.

Greg Salas, WR, Hawaii

Salas posted 1,590 receiving yards last season, the second most in school history and the most in the nation among returning receivers this season. He caught 106 passes, including eight touchdowns in Hawaii's version of the run-and-shoot. Salas lost his offensive coordinator this offseason, and the Hawaii quarterback situation is a bit muddled heading into training camp. Once those questions shake out, the Hawaii system should ensure that he sees plenty of targets. Hawaii used three quarterbacks last season, and that didn't stop Salas. Just donít expect Salas to quite reach last yearís numbers, as the return of fellow star wideout Rodney Bradley means there might be fewer catches to go around.

Brandon Wimberly, WR, Nevada

Colin Kaepernickís primary target was one of the best receivers in the WAC as a freshman. The Wolfpack should throw the ball more in 2010, giving Wimberly the opportunity to build on his 733-yard, six-touchdown freshman season. At 6-3, he is a nice target in the red zone and could be used in a multitude ways this year.

Philip Livas, WR, Louisiana Tech

Although he went through a slump last year, Livas is one of the country's absolute best big-play threats. He has scored six times as a returner in the past three years, and his ability to double as a runner and receiver makes him something like a Dexter McCluster/Percy Harvin-type. With the new spread system of new coach Sonny Dykes, Livas will be in position for a career year in 2010. Look for his numbers to be more like his 2008 season, when he totaled 944 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns.

Top Sleepers


Robbie Rouse, RB, Fresno State

The Bulldogs must replace Ryan Mathews and will likely turn to Rouse, who showed upside in 2009 and had a great spring. The 5-7 back rushed for 479 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman and figures to get the vast majority of the carries in 2010.

Lennon Creer, RB, Louisiana Tech

The Tennessee transfer will be Techís go-to runner in 2010. First-year coach Sonny Dykes is installing a new spread system and the offensive line is unproven, so Creerís production could fluctuate, but odds are that heís too talented for the WAC to stop him. He might not be enough of a receiving threat to stay in on third-downs, but he should put up nice numbers in 2010.

Biggest Bust


Ryan Colburn, QB, Fresno State

Colburn did reasonably well for Fresno State in 2009 and will head into this year as the starter, but we think he might not look nearly as good without Ryan Mathews forcing defenses to play strictly against the run. Considering how dominant Mathews was, Colburn's 19 touchdowns to 11 interceptions isn't a particularly impressive total. Moreover, he didn't look at all good against decent defenses, throwing a total of six touchdowns and six interceptions against Wisconsin, Boise State and Cincinnati. Don't be surprised if Colburn falters at some point and Fresno State turns to Derek Carr, the younger brother of David Carr.

Top Newcomers


Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada

The speedster led the JUCO ranks in punt returns last season and could be a big contributor to the Wolfpack offense in 2010. Brandon Wimberly will certainly face double-teams throughout next season, creating plenty opportunities for Matthews.

Matt Miller, WR, Boise State

The Broncos appear set at receiver but could use Miller as a freshman. The Montana native put up huge numbers in high school and has the size and ability to make an immediate impact.

Xavier Martin, WR, Utah State

Martin was considered one of the best wide receiver prospects coming out of the JUCO ranks and has a chance to be a starter next season. Utah Stateís aerial attack could produce impressive fantasy numbers across the board at wide receiver, and Martin reportedly is the best candidate to fill the role of the injured Stanley Morrison.
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