The Front Row with MARK NELKE August 26, 2012 - Coeur d'Alene Press: Sports

The Front Row with MARK NELKE August 26, 2012

Bowls for Vandals and Cougars?

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Posted: Sunday, August 26, 2012 12:00 am

Forgive the optimism, but here's one person's take on how the four area college football teams might fare this fall:

Idaho: If ever there was a year for the Vandals to win the Western Athletic Conference, it's this year - and not just because the conference will most likely become extinct in football following this season.

Gone are most of the teams with the established programs in recent years - Boise State, Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii. The best of what's left, based on recent results, is Louisiana Tech and Utah State.

And the Vandals have been competitive with both those schools in recent years.

The key game for Idaho might be the season opener, Thursday at home vs. Eastern Washington. A victory would be a shot in the arm for the Vandals, while a loss could send them toward the same 2-10 campaign they suffered through a year ago.

Idaho's defense is solid, so the offense will have to be better than last year for the Vandals to make a run at the WAC title. I think it will be, but how much better?

Idaho's two toughest WAC games are on the road - at La. Tech and at Utah State. Plus, the Vandals have three "money" games - at LSU, North Carolina and BYU.

Even if they lose those games - and fall at La. Tech and Utah State - the other seven games (vs. EWU, at Bowling Green, vs. Wyoming, vs. New Mexico State, at Texas State, vs. San Jose State, vs. Texas-San Antonio) are there for the taking.

That would mean a 7-5 season, and bowl eligibility - they would then just need a bowl that would take them. Maybe the one in Boise?

Washington State: With most of their key players back, the Cougars were headed toward a better season this year anyway - whether their coach was Paul Wulff, Mike Leach or whoever.

WSU would have been bowl eligible last year with wins in its final two games, but losses to Utah and Washington meant a 4-8 finish and a coaching change.

If the Cougs can beat the other Cougars in the season opener Thursday at BYU, they’re looking at a 3-0 start heading into Pac-12 play, with a home game vs. EWU and a trip to UNLV to round out the nonconference slate.

They play Oregon in a quasi-home/road game (depending on how many seats are filled by Ducks fans) at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, but the rest of the Pac-12 slate is favorable. They’ve got USC right where they want them — off the schedule — and they play the Apple Cup at home, and are also home vs. Colorado, Cal and UCLA. Road games are at Oregon State, Stanford, Utah and Arizona State.

Optimistically, WSU could finish as high as 11-1 — with the lone loss to Oregon. Realistically, let’s figure they might stumble in a couple of conference road games, and go 9-3.

Boise State: Even the most diehard of Bronco fans — and that bandwagon is packed to the gills these days — has to wonder where this year’s stumble will be.

Last year it was against TCU. The year before, at Nevada.

This year you have to think there will be a drop in play at quarterback, after four seasons of the near-perfect Kellen Moore. But what the Broncos might show this year is they have plenty of other good players as well.

Maybe the stumble happens Friday in the season opener at Michigan State — though the Spartans will be breaking in a new QB of their own. If that doesn’t happen, it might be up to Hawaii in the 10th game or Nevada in the regular season finale. Both get Boise State at their place.

I’ll say the Broncos have one hiccup along the way, and finish 11-1.

Eastern Washington: The Eagles probably should have won last year’s opener against the Huskies in Seattle. As it was, the narrow loss got them going on an 0-4 start and an eventual 6-5 finish, and the defending FCS champions failed to make the playoffs.

Coming off their near-miss at Montlake last year, the Eagles have to come into Thursday’s test in Moscow thinking that’s a very winnable game. Playing at Washington State the following week might be another story.

This year, Eastern gets Montana at home, where the Eags beat the Griz two years ago in the first game on the red carpet at Roos Field.

EWU also breaks in a new quarterback this year, though he’s another SMU transfer and if he’s anywhere near as good as the last one ...

Let’s say EWU falls twice in the Palouse, and maybe loses at Big Sky favorite Montana State in their sixth game, and drops one other game it probably should win, but wins the rest and goes 7-4 and returns to the FCS playoffs.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at Follow him on Twitter at CdAPressSports.

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  • Adamsfly posted at 8:14 am on Sun, Aug 26, 2012.

    Adamsfly Posts: 46

    This had to be tongue in cheek...right?
    Realistic records will be:
    Idaho: 4-8
    WSU: 4-8
    BSU: 9-3
    EWU: 8-4

  • Talkjoc posted at 7:59 am on Sun, Aug 26, 2012.

    Talkjoc Posts: 40

    Mark my friend, what kool-aid are you drinking? The Cougs could go 11-1. Really. Granted their offense will be much better but they better score 50 a game because their defense will give up at least that much. 6-6 is more likely, 7-5 tops. Can't wait for the season to start. Good luck with your 49'ers.

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