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1. Chris Petersen takes over a Boise State program that Dan Hawkins had made one of the most successful in the nation. Is what Hawkins built lasting? The good news is 20 starters return. Senior quarterback Jared Zabransky took half a season to get over a bad season-opening game at Georgia. Good news: Boise State opens against Sacramento State in 2006.
2. Dennis Erickson returns to Idaho as head coach, and the Vandals could use his brand of offense. Senior quarterback Steven Wichman has some talent, but made too many mistakes last season (15 touchdowns, 18 interceptions). In other words, there's a lot of room for improvement. It won't happen quickly: Four of the first five games are on the road. Erickson isn't used to losing, at least on the college level. Let's see how he handles starting over.
3. Dick Tomey took over a left-for-dead San Jose State and went 3-8. However, the Spartans won their last two games and have eight returning starters on offense. The defense must be rebuilt, but when didn't Tomey have a good defense? San Jose State also has seven home games, a first in school history. If the Spartans steal a home victory over Stanford or San Diego State in September, they'll make noise in the WAC.
1. Dan Hawkins was the spirit, charisma and guiding light at Boise State -- but coordinator Chris Petersen was the brains of the super-productive offensive operation. Now that he's the head coach, expect the Broncos to continue to put up tons of points. The tougher part of the job for the naturally-reserved Petersen will be acting as the public face of the program.
2. Fresno State has its usual opportunities to jab a finger into the eye of a BCS-conference team, playing host to Oregon and playing at Washington and LSU. Those teams had better be prepared for the Bulldogs -- but the Bulldogs, in turn, had better be prepared for WAC play in and around the nonconference games. Too many times in years past Fresno has fallen flat after a big non-league game -- including last year, when it followed that shootout with USC by losing to Nevada and Louisiana Tech back-to-back.
3. Hal Mumme went 0-12 in Year One at New Mexico State, which might have given the coach a needed dose of humility. (If he didn't already have that after being bum-rushed out of Kentucky following a major recruiting scandal on his watch.) Remaking a run-first program into his cavalier, throw-it-all-over approach was obviously a tough sell in one year. It had better improve this year, or the Aggie brass might conclude that it's time to eliminate a mistake.