This weekend’s four Western Athletic Conference contests this weekend are spread across three days. Yesterday, Boise State survived a scare from Louisiana Tech to win in Ruston, 45-35.
Here’s today’s matchups, all times Pacific.
- Utah State (2-6, 1-3 WAC) at Hawaii (2-6, 0-5 WAC), 7 p.m. (ESPN360)
This is a matchup of two of the WAC’s bottom-dwellers, but don’t let that fool you. The Aggies are a much better team than their record indicates, with their three conference losses coming by a combined 10 points. For the Warriors, the postseason hopes are on the line — this is their last shot to remain bowl-eligible. A slim hope, yes, because Hawaii needs to win all five of its remaining games to do so, but it’s a hope nonetheless. Utah State, too, could squeak into a bowl at 6-6 if they win out. Whichever team loses this game answers their postseason questions: No.
Utah State’s offense has been a powerhouse, led by Diondre Borel’s 240 yards per game in the air and Robert Turbin’s 110 yards on the ground. But they’ve been unable to stop anyone else from scoring, and have made a series of crucial fourth-quarter errors to cough up games in the waning minutes. The Warriors were turned upside down in the third game of the season, as #1 quarterback Greg Alexander went down with an ACL injury. Hawaii hasn’t won a game since, and sophomore Bryant Moniz, thrust into the starting spotlight, has been underwhelming at best. Neither team’s record is great, but look under the hood and the Aggies have been far more impressive.
- Fresno State (5-3, 4-1 WAC) at Idaho (7-2, 4-1 WAC), 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Akey’s Army returns to the Thunderdome at night on national TV for the second time this season. Undefeated at home so far, the Vandals face one of their toughest challenges yet: a Fresno State squad that rolls up 260 yards per game on the ground on the strength of NCAA-leading tailback Ryan Mathews. Stopping him is impossible for even the WAC’s best teams, as Boise State found out. Idaho’s task will be tough enough: just slow him down. If the Vandals can’t keep him in check, this game could get real ugly real fast.
But all is not lost for the Vandals — Fresno State’s defense has been unspectacular, and if there’s one thing Idaho is capable of doing, it’s putting points up on the scoreboard. Bulldog quarterback Ryan Colburn hasn’t done much through the air, so if the Vandals can get ahead early and make the game a shootout, it could be tough for Fresno State to effectively utilize Mathews. Given the Vandals’ defensive struggles of late, that’s a very big if. The game could hinge on turnovers — Colburn, like Idaho QB Nathan Enderle, has proven pick-prone. Defensive TDs could be huge for either team.