- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Time for your non-AQ mailbag. You can keep your comments coming to me.
Jordan in Akron, Ohio writes: Last year, Miami (Ohio) went from 1 win to 10 wins and the MAC championship. While unlikely, which one-win team from the previous season could repeat that success or at least, who do you see winning the most games? (Akron 1-11), (San Jose St. 1-12), (New Mexico 1-11) or (Memphis 1-11).
Andrea Adelson: Wow, this is a toughie! I do not see any of those teams getting to 10 wins this season. But I think San Jose State will finish with the best record among those four teams. While the Spartans have a question mark at quarterback right now, they return 18 starters. Now you might say that can't be good considering they won one game last season. But San Jose State had the injury bug hit them so hard last season, the team ended the season with 43 healthy scholarship players. This year, they have Duke Ihenacho back, a former first-team WAC selection. They also have WAC freshman of the year Keith Smith at linebacker, along with Pompey Festejo returning and everybody else on defense. The schedule is hard, but not nearly as difficult as it was last season. So if the Spartans stay healthy, they could be most improved among the four you mentioned.
Eric in Sacramento writes: Boise is in the Mountain West. Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii are the contenders for the WAC championship and all will be heading towards the MWC next year. I believe a good way to say goodbye to one conference and hello to another is by winning the WAC this year. Who looks the strongest going into the season?
Adelson writes: I go back and forth on who I think is going to win the WAC this season between those three schools. Each has positives and negatives. Bryant Moniz returning to Hawaii is a huge plus, but he loses his best receivers and four starters on the offensive line. Will Nevada be able to ride the momentum of last season without Colin Kaepernick, Vai Taua and Dontay Moch? How will Fresno State do with Derek Carr at quarterback and a defense that needs to get better more quickly. I am more inclined to go with Hawaii because of the system in place, and I think the defense is going to be solid. But Nevada gets Hawaii and Fresno State at home, so that could make the difference.
Alex in Cranston, R.I., writes: Hey Andrea, keep up the awesome work you do at ESPN!!! I love reading your columns on the non-AQs. They are very detailed, and you definitely know your stuff. I happen to have a question about Hawaii (I know, I'm from Rhode Island, it's odd). Obviously they have a relatively weak SOS, such as opening against Colorado, Washington, UNLV, and FCS opponent UC Davis, and with a down WAC because of Boise State's departure, the WAC really is only a 3 horse race, along with Nevada and Fresno State. Hawaii is the only contender from the WAC to return their starting QB, Bryant Moniz, who threw for 5,000 yards last year, and is on the preseason Watch List for both the Davey O'Brien and Maxwell awards. My question to you is this: If Hawaii is able to run the table in the WAC, and beat BYU the last game of the year to finish 13-0 (7-0), is there a realistic chance that they could maybe sneak into a BCS bowl? Or is their schedule too weak to be considered for that? From my perspective, it won't matter how hard they try this year, because they'll probably play an 8th home game in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl as they usually do, despite being undefeated.
Adelson writes: A lot depends on what happens with the other non-AQs. If Hawaii is the only undefeated non-AQ when the season ends, then the Warriors would get into a BCS game automatically if they finish in the Top 12 of the final BCS standings. But if you are asking whether an undefeated Hawaii would get in over an undefeated Boise State or undefeated TCU, that answer would be no. It is more than just the strength of schedule (which would be weaker). Those two programs are going to start the season ranked and with national attention on them already. Hawaii would have a long climb up. Plus the Warriors have to fight the perception that they are just a gimmicky team playing six hours behind everyone else. Hardly anyone gets to see them on TV. But as you know, nothing is impossible. See: 2007.
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