NEW ERA - The WAC begins a new era this year with the additions of Denver, Seattle, UT-Arlington, UTSA and Texas State with only the latter two competing in football. The WAC will consist of a total of 10 schools for the 2012-13 season, but just seven will play football. Both UTSA and Texas State are eligible to compete for the WAC championship, but neither are eligible for a postseason bowl game in 2012 due to the two-year process of transitioning from FCS to FBS. Texas State began the process last year and becomes eligible for bowl games in 2013, while UTSA must wait until 2014 as it begins the transition process this season. For their opponents, wins against Texas State this year count toward bowl eligibility while those against UTSA do not.
TEXAS A&M-LA TECH POSTPONED - Louisiana Tech University officials announced on Tuesday that its season opener against Texas A&M has been postponed until Oct. 13 due to the impending effects of Hurricane Isaac which is scheduled to make landfall along the Louisiana coast in the next 24 hours. The game was originally scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 30. Both Louisiana Tech and Texas A&M had the same open date of Oct. 13 on their schedules which allowed the game to be moved back. Kickoff time will be determined at a later date.
UTSA'S OPENER MOVED - South Alabama Athletics Department officials announced Tuesday morning that their home opener against UTSA, originally scheduled for Thursday night, has been postponed until 1:00 p.m. (CT) on Saturday, Sept. 1, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium due to the threat of Hurricane Isaac. The game can be seen on ESPN3.
ALL COACHES RETURN - The WAC is the only FBS conference to return all of its head coaches from a year ago. Idaho's Robb Akey is the senior member of the group going into his sixth year with the Vandals. New members UTSA and Texas State have coaches that are in their second year with the school though Texas State's Dennis Franchione coached an additional two years with the Bobcats in 1990 and 1991. UTSA's Larry Coker won a National Championship in his first year with Miami (Fla.) in 2001.
PRESEASON FAVORITES - Defending WAC champion Louisiana Tech was picked as the favorite by both the media and coaches for the 2012 season. Utah State was second in both polls and San Jose State was third. As selected by the media, Louisiana Tech wide receiver Quinton Patton was voted the preseason Offensive Player of the Year while San Jose State defensive end Travis Johnson was picked as the Defensive Player of the Year. Patton, a senior, was a first-team all-WAC selection last year after catching 79 passes for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first season with the Bulldogs. Johnson, a senior, earned first-team all-WAC honors after finishing second in the WAC with 9.5 sacks last year. He enters this season with 19 career sacks, the third most of any active player in the country.
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL - The WAC continues its affiliation with the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl this year. The WAC champion (unless its UTSA or Texas State) will play an opponent from the Mid-American Conference. The WAC has played in the bowl game every year since 2000.
BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES - Since 1997, the WAC has been an official part of the Bowl Championship Series. The WAC's champion will receive an automatic berth in one of the five BCS bowl games if ranked in the top 12 of the BCS Standings (and is the highest ranked team from a conference without an automatic bid) or if ranked in the top 16 of the BCS Standings and its ranking is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls. The BCS Standings are determined by a formula involving polls and computer rankings. Next year's National Championship Game will be played in Miami on Jan. 7, 2013.
BOWL OPPONENTS - Of the 42 non-conference matchups, 19 are against teams that played in bowl games last year, six of which will be played at WAC home sites. Every WAC team except UTSA plays at least two non-conference opponents that competed in a bowl last year while Idaho and Louisiana Tech are playing a WAC-high four bowl opponents. New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State play three apiece.
TOP STAT LEADERS - Following are the returning stat leaders in the WAC from 2011. Louisiana Tech's Hunter Lee returns for his sophomore season after rushing for 650 yards last year. San Jose State's Noel Grigsby returns for his junior year and was second in the WAC in receptions per game with 7.42. Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton also returns for his final year and was second in the WAC in receiving yards per game with 92.5. Utah State sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton was eighth in the WAC in total offense with 135.7 yards per game and was fourth in the WAC in passing efficiency with a rating of 137.4 last season. On the defensive side, Idaho safety Gary Walker is the leading returning tackler after averaging 9.1 last year as a junior, fifth in the WAC. San Jose State senior Travis Johnson is the top returning sack leader with 9.5 last year, the second most in the WAC.
RETURNING ALL-WAC PLAYERS - Of the 28 first-team all-WAC players in 2011, just six return for the 2012 season. Louisiana Tech returns three of the six in senior wide receiver Quinton Patton, senior offensive lineman Stephen Warner and senior punter Ryan Allen. San Jose State returns senior tight end Ryan Otten and senior defensive lineman Travis Johnson. Utah State returns junior center Tyler Larsen. There were 30 second-team players, and nine of those should return to action this year. Louisiana Tech and San Jose State have the most returning with three apiece, followed by Idaho with two and New Mexico State with one.
RECORD-SETTING FIRST SEASON - UTSA made their mark on the NCAA attendance record book in its first season. A national startup program-record 56,743 fans packed the Alamodome on Sept. 3 to watch UTSA defeat Northeastern State, 31-3, in the program's first-ever game. The turnstiles did not stop turning after that, as the Birds averaged an NCAA startup program-record 35,521 fans in their six home dates last fall. That number would have led the WAC in 2011.
TECH XX - Throughout athletic events this fall, all WAC mascots will be wearing a black patch to honor "Tech XX," the bulldog mascot from Louisiana Tech who lost his life earlier this summer.