It’s an end of an era. The Western Athletic Conference ceases to exist in terms of college football after the 2012 season. The 1-11, 1-5 Idaho Vandals, one of the last survivors, has become the latest to join the likes of Army, Brigham Young, Navy and Notre Dame as an Independent.
Change is inevitable and Idaho hopes that truism is very much evident in 2013 when the Vandals take a 123rd points in offense and 122nd points in defense to the line of scrimmage. An 84th strength of schedule coupled with new coach Paul Petrino, brother of Bobby, and seven returning offensive starters bodes well. A ranking of 117th in recruiting plus 17 returning starters does not. There’s a reason why Idaho stunk on offense and defense and it’s simply not the coaching staff’s fault. The players were significant culprits so whether a new voice will be able to turn things around will be a tall mountain to climb. Senior wide receiver Najee Lovett returns following reeling in 50 catches for 549 yards and six touchdowns. Junior WR Jahrie Level also returns after a stout 46 balls for 538 yards. Their success hinges on whether the Vandals did indeed improve.
Getting better would seem to be a certainty with a fairly easy schedule and eight starters alone returning defensively. Idaho however has the issue of eight guys returning on a defense which was massacred by Louisiana Tech 70-28 prompting Robb Akey to be fired mid-year. The linebacking core has large contentions with senior Matthew Willis and sophomore James Randall combining for one start last season. Randall missed all of 2012 with an injury. Sophomore cornerback Solomon Dixon comes back after leading the Vandals with three interceptions.
Those numbers will need to improve especially with placekicker Trey Farquahar no longer in uniform for Idaho. Freshman PK Austin Rehkow, who nailed a 67-yard gamewinner in a high school game last season, should see many chances assuming the Vandals are able to drive the football down the field and force turnovers. Kickoff return coverage will also be huge especially if 39 turnovers by the offense, 17 fumbled, 22 interceptions, repeats itself. Being 1-3 in one-possession games came down to the simpler things of hanging onto the ball and making the most of field goals, something Idaho’s keen on doing in 2013.
With road games at Arkansas State, Florida State, Mississippi, New Mexico State, North Texas, Washington State and Wyoming on the schedule two Vandals away wins would be a major achievement. In all of last season Idaho was just victorious once which should be beaten alone at the Kibbie Dome with Texas State and Old Dominion kicking off the Moscow schedule to begin November before a bye will be much useful for the Seminoles. A winning season still seems far-fetched. Four Vandals victories should be celebrated and more than likeky a three-win season will transpire with their overall problems offensively and defensively remaining unsolved.