Alright folks. Just filled out my pre-season WAC football poll and faxed it to the conference office. For those who don't know, there are two preseason polls, one the media votes on and another that the coaches vote on. This is how I think it will line up:
1. Boise State
2. Louisiana Tech
4. Fresno State
5. San Jose State
7. New Mexico State
8. Utah State
Offensive player of the year: Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State
Defensive player of the year: D'Anthony Smith, DT, Louisiana Tech
A few thoughts
1. Lets start with the Aggies, who I expect to be selected last by both the media and coaches when both polls are sorted out. Why? Well, the team is virtually starting over from scratch, with a new coaching staff and new personnel at key positions — QB, WR, middle linebacker, safety. Expectations around the conference aren't very high for NMSU. There are always surprises during the year, however, and I think that the Aggies finishing in seventh place constitutes as such. Here's my opinion: I think that the Aggies will beat Idaho in Week 1 and Utah State in Week 6. Really, the Aggies finishing in seventh is contingent upon them beating the UtAgs, as many have USU being a much improved team in 2010, possibly contending for a top-5 position in the conference. The only way NMSU finishes above them in the league standings is if they beat them at Aggie Memorial. I also have NMSU upsetting either Fresno State or Nevada at home. The pick here is Nevada, as the game is later in the season with the possibility that the Wolf Pack will be overlooking NMSU. We shall see.
2. The second "surprise" in my poll is Louisiana Tech finishing in second place, although I am a believer in this team. I think defensively they will be strong and offensively they have some weapons. Look out for running back Daniel Porter and wide receivers Phillip Livas and Cruz Williams. The Bulldogs will be more explosive than people realize in 2010. All four conference road games will be key for La. Tech; They go to both Utah State and Idaho, which isn't easy — just ask NMSU fans last year about those two road trips. They also visit Nevada and Fresno State. I don't know if they have to win both, but if they are to finish above both of these teams, winning here is preferred. I do see a major upset on the horizon here though — Nov. 6, hosting Boise State on ESPN. Very interesting.
3. Boise State does not move anywhere from their perch at No. 1. Why would they? The Broncos remain the class of the WAC and will roll through the competition again.
4. Nevada, Fresno State and San Jose State will remain solid teams and be in the postseason bowl hunt.
5. Hawaii slips out of the top-5.
6. Moore, Smith, POY: Moore is an easy choice. Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick will put up eye-popping numbers this season, but the Wolf Pack won't overtake Boise. And I do question Kaepernick's durability this season — he is involved in a ton of plays offensively, both throwing and running the ball. Moore, on the other hand, won't put up the same gaudy numbers, but his stats will be big none-the-less. And Boise's domination in the conference is tough to ignore.
As for Smith, just ask the Aggie offensive line how tough he is on the interior. Polo Gutierrez specifically mentioned Smith after last season's game between the two teams as being one of the toughest defensive tackles he's ever gone against. Smith led all La. Tech lineman last year in tackles with 65 and sacks with 5. And at 6-foot-2, 300 pounds, he effects the game well beyond the stat sheet. Behind any good defense is a strong defensive tackle as its backbone. My pick is Smith.