LAS VEGAS — Utah State did not hit the jackpot in the polls.
Utah State was picked to finish fifth by both the media and coaches in the 2011 Western Athletic Conference preseason polls, which were announced Thursday morning during the WAC Football Preview held at The Orleans Arena.
The Aggies don’t mind the middle-of-the-pack ranking.
“In the end, it is not as important where you are picked in the preseason polls, but where you finish on the field and in the final standings,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said.
Added linebacker Bobby Wagner: “I could care less. They can vote us eighth, I really don’t care, because it’s not going to change how we come out and play every single game. It doesn’t matter.”
This is the second straight season the Aggies have been picked in the top five of the league. The coaches tabbed them fourth last year.
“The coaches and media are all entitled to their own opinion,” USU running back Robert Turbin said. “You guys have done your research and your studies, and you feel like we’re going to be fifth in the WAC and that’s fine.
“Even if we were ranked No. 1 overall in the preseason, it really would not make a difference. It wouldn’t matter. We all have to go out and perform (on game day). We have to go out and compete and as a team, we’re just excited about the opportunity to compete against the other teams in the WAC and compete for the championship.”
Hawaii was selected first in both polls. The Warriors garnered 292 points and 18 first-place votes from the media, while Fresno State (284, 11 votes) and Nevada (264, 11 votes) rounded out the top three.
“It’s nice getting picked first in the preseason to win it,” Warriors linebacker Corey Paredes said. “Boise has always been on top. ... It’s nice, but I would like to play (the Broncos) in my senior year. I would like to have another chance at beating them. I’ve never beat them, and I hate going through my career and not beating a team.
“Now, we’ve got a target on our backs and something to live up to. We’ve got to work hard and see if we can handle the pressure.”
Louisiana Tech was picked fourth by the media, followed by USU, Idaho, San Jose State and New Mexico State.
Each team was ranked the exact same was in the coaches’ poll.
“The WAC is traditionally one of the quality conferences in the country and this year is no exception,” Andersen said. “There are not any surprises with the polls. The top three teams have proven themselves with the consistency that they have had with their records and going to bowl games the last few years.
“I believe it is going to be a very competitive conference throughout, and we are looking forward to the season.”
With Boise State now gone, the WAC seems to be a wide open race.
“Any team can beat anybody, especially in this league,” Wolf Pack quarterback Tyler Lantrip said. “... Every team can show up on Saturday and beat every other team, so you’ve got to prepare the same way regardless of what team you’re playing.”
Hawaii finished the 2010 campaign with a 10-4 overall record. The Warriors tied for the WAC regular season title with a 7-1 mark and played in the Hawaii Bowl — their seventh bowl appearance over the past nine years.
Hawaii returns quarterback Bryant Moniz, who led the nation in passing, total offense and touchdowns thrown last season.
Fresno State was 8-5 in 2010 and made its 11th bowl appearance in the past 12 years. The Bulldogs return junior running back Robbie Rouse, who rushed for 1,129 yards last season.
Nevada went 13-1 overall and 7-1 in the WAC last season. The Wolf Pack beat Boston College in the Fight Hunger Bowl, their fifth consecutive bowl appearance.
The Aggies received one first-place vote in the media poll, finishing with 166 points. In the coaches’ poll, USU garnered 22 points.
Utah State returns 46 letterwinners (29 offense, 16 defense, one special teams), including 17 starters, from last year’s team that went 4-8 overall and 2-6 in the WAC.
The Aggies officially open fall camp Aug. 8.
“We are now focusing our attention to the start of fall camp and getting our minds and bodies right to have a great fall camp, which will lead to a great season,” Andersen said.
WAC MEDIA POLL
Rank Team Points
1. Hawaii (18) 292
2. Fresno State (11) 284
3. Nevada (11) 264
4. Louisiana Tech 184
5. Utah State (1) 166
6. Idaho 141
7. San Jose State 85
8. New Mexico State 60
WAC COACHES POLL
Rank Team Points
1. Hawaii (5) 47
2. Fresno State (1) 41
3. Nevada (2) 40
4. Louisiana Tech 31
5. Utah State 22
6. Idaho 21
7. San Jose State 15
8. New Mexico State 7