Can Fresno get over the top?


ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit predicts the Western Athletic Conference champion, award winners and more:

And the winner is ...
Fresno State

The Bulldogs are the most talented team in the conference on paper, and with a healthy Paul Pinegar at quarterback expectations will be high. The high-powered offense should click and a defense led by safety James Sanders will be tough to beat.

But I wouldn't be surprised ...
If UTEP won
Yes, the Miners won just two games last year. But 19 starters return and new head coach Mike Price is instilling a belief in El Paso that gives his team a legitimate chance to make a run. The key will be a Sept. 18 visit from perennial WAC power Boise State. A win there would give UTEP some crucial confidence.

Most Valuable Player ...
Timmy Chang, QB, Hawaii
One of the most experience quarterbacks in the country, Chang needs just 2,218 yards to surpass Ty Detmer as the all-time leading passer in NCAA history.

Most Important Player ...
Jared Zabransky/Mike Stanton, QBs, Boise State
The top two competitors for the starting job face the unenviable task of replacing Ryan Dinwiddie, who threw for 4,031 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. Whichever quarterback takes over, his success will have a lot to do with whether or not the Broncos continue to dominate the WAC.

Coach of the Year ...
Pat Hall, Fresno State
The Bulldogs should win the conference title and this should finally be the year Hill's team solves Boise State. Fresno has been outscored 98-38 in its last two games against Boise but 2004 looks like the Bulldogs' year.

Assistant You Should Know ...
Chris Peterson, offensive coordinator, Boise State
Peterson's offenses have averaged 34, 46 and 43 points per game over the last three seasons and he will have to get it done this year after losing his top quarterback, running back and receiver from a year ago.

Player I'd pay to watch ...
Lawrence Bady, WR, Boise State
Bady averaged an unbelievable 25 yards per catch last season and should be Boise's go-to deep threat this year.

Toughest Place to play ...
Bronco Stadium, Boise State
Boise has won 17 in a row on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium thanks to its high-powered offense and often nasty weather.

Game of the Year ...
Fresno State at Boise State, Oct. 23
Will this be the year Fresno puts it all together and finally gets over the hump against the Broncos? This one should decide the WAC championship..

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit co-hosts College GameDay and is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.