Commentary

WAC remains mostly 'paycheck opponents' for SEC

Originally Published: August 14, 2007
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Editor's note: ESPN.com is asking its experts and SportsNation to predict which conference will be the best in 2007. Follow our bracket-style tournament throughout the week to see which teams our experts picked and to vote in the SportsNation polls.

You're kidding, right? This matchup has all the makings of one of those NCAA Tournament first-round games, when the No. 1 seed is favored by 40 points over a No. 16 seed.

Conference Call
Which conference will be the best in 2007? ESPN.com's experts have their opinions. But what is SportsNation's take? Follow along this week to get both answers. In the second round of the bracket-style tournament, the ACC matches up against the Big 12, the WAC and SEC face off, while the Mountain West takes on Pac-10, and the Big East and Big 10 duel. Bracket
Vote: ACC vs. Big 12
Vote: Big East vs. Big Ten
Vote: MWC vs. Pac-10
Vote: SEC vs. WAC

The SEC has thoroughly dominated the WAC in football. SEC teams have won 85.5 percent (53-9) of their games against WAC foes, the second-best winning percentage by SEC teams against another conference. Only the Sun Belt Conference, which has lost 93.9 percent of its games against SEC teams, has a worse record against the league.

Even the WAC's best teams haven't fared well against the SEC. Boise State opened the 2005 season at Georgia, and the Broncos were a popular choice to upset the Bulldogs in Sanford Stadium. But Georgia's defense intercepted quarterback Jared Zabransky four times and led 38-0 in the third quarter. The Bulldogs won the game 48-13.

Hawaii finished 11-3 last season (7-1 WAC), with its only WAC loss coming at league champion Boise State. But the Warriors opened the season at Alabama and lost 25-17. The Crimson Tide led 22-3 early in the second half, before Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan led his team to a late comeback. Brennan threw for 259 yards in the second half, but the game ended when Lionel Mitchell intercepted his last pass at the Crimson Tide's goal line. Alabama finished 6-7, and coach Mike Shula was fired.

Hawaii was one of the first WAC teams to keep it close against an SEC team in recent years. Since 2002, WAC teams are 1-18 against SEC opponents. The WAC's only victory during the past five seasons was Hawaii's 37-29 win over Alabama in the 2003 regular-season finale. That Crimson Tide team finished 4-9 in Shula's first season.

Otherwise, SEC teams have flourished against the WAC. Last season, LSU beat Fresno State 38-6 in Baton Rouge, La. Florida beat San Jose State 65-3 in 2003. Arkansas beat Boise State 41-14 in 2002.

See a trend? WAC teams have lost 18 games to SEC teams by an average of 30 points in the past five seasons.

Despite the WAC's recent history against the SEC, some WAC teams would probably beat a few SEC teams this coming season. Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico State and San Jose State are each capable of beating Ole Miss or Mississippi State. Hawaii would probably beat Alabama in 2007, and Boise State would keep it much closer against Georgia -- maybe even beat the Bulldogs.

In fact, Boise State and Hawaii are probably capable of beating any team in the SEC this season. But much of the rest of the WAC teams remain paycheck opponents -- and easy victories -- for the SEC.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

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