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Last year's preseason computer forecast correctly tabbed Boise State as the conference champs, and nailed the exact records of Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico State. It came within 1 loss of nailing Boise State, Hawaii, San Jose State and Utah State.
Boise State came within 2 points of an undefeated season in 2008, sweeping its' 12 regular season opponents before falling 17-16 to TCU (11-2) in the Poinsettia Bowl.
The computer (about the computer) looks for the Broncos to continue their dominance of the WAC with their seventh conference championship in the last eight seasons. Boise State begins 2009 as a 3.94-point favorite over Oregon at home on the blue "smurf turf" where it has won 19 straight games, and 49 straight regular season home games.
Boise State has never lost at home to a fellow WAC conference member (32-0) - never.
In fact, the Broncos are 38-0 in home conference games since losing to Idaho by 1 point in the final game of the 1998 season when they were members of the Big West, and 60-4 overall against WAC foes. In nonconference games and bowl games, they are 28-11 during that same span.
Under current head coach Chris Petersen, Boise State has gone 34-2 overall in the regular season (23-1 in WAC play), and 1-2 in bowl games. Petersen's Broncos are also 3-1 vs. so-called BCS teams with victories over Oklahoma, Oregon State and Oregon, and a loss to Washington.
The computer rates the 2009 Broncos over 9 power points ahead of their closest competitors, Nevada and Fresno State. But with the Wolf Pack projected to go 7-1, the obvious inference is that the Boise State-Nevada game on November 27 in Boise could decide the conference champion. Boise State is favored by 12.37 points in that contest.
The one hiccup in the anticipated 12-1 season is a projected 3.28-point loss at Tulsa in a midseason nonconference tilt on October 14. And, as always, the Broncos will have to be wary of the trip to Fresno State where the Bulldogs are only 6.13-point home underdogs. Coach Pat Hill's bunch are the computer's choice for 3rd place in the conference, just ahead of a resurgent Louisiana Tech program under 3rd-year head coach Derek Dooley.
Hawaii's demise, since the departure of June Jones, is expected to continue. The Warriors managed to go 7-7 in their first season under Greg McMackin, Jones' former defensive coordinator. In the postseason, Hawaii became Notre Dame's first bowl victim since 1993. The bowl loss capped a year that saw the Warriors' points production drop from 43.8 per game in 2007 to 24.6 per game last year. Similarly, the defense gave up 28.9 points per game after allowing 24.4 in 2007.
All things considered, it should come as no surprise that the computer drops Hawaii's expectations down to a 5-8 campaign and a 6th-place WAC finish, behind San Jose State.
The computer thinks Utah State will be good enough to finish ahead of New Mexico State and Idaho. Those three schools have brought up the rear of the conference the past two seasons while going a combined 15-58.
The Logan Aggies and the Las Cruces Aggies are both breaking in new head coaches. Utah defensive coordinator Gary Andersen takes over for Brent Guy at Utah State, while UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker grabs the reins from Hal Mumme at New Mexico State.