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College Football '98
Big West:
Following the Pack

by Albert Lin, CNN/SI

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 1998

Projected Order
of Finish
1. Nevada
2. Utah State
3.Boise State
4. New Mexico State
5. North Texas
6. Idaho

Offensive Player of the Year
Erik Stidham, QB, Jr., Nevada
Steps right into the Wolf Pack's high-powered offense. Juco transfer will become Nevada's fifth Big West Offensive Player of the Year in six seasons.

Defensive Player of the Year
Tony D'Amato, LB, Sr., Utah State
Made 124 tackles and five sacks last season. Prototypical insider 'backer.

Newcomer of the Year
Erik Stidham, QB, Jr., Nevada
Threw for 4,215 yards and 34 TDs in two years at Chaffey College. Another good omen: Wolf Pack's starting receivers, tailback and tight end all return.

Coach on the Hot Seat
Jeff Tisdel, Nevada (5-6 in '97)
After enduring the school's second losing record in 22 seasons (though the Wolf Pack still tied for the Big West title), Tisdel must break in a new QB while trying to get back over .500.

Conference Game-Breaker
Trevor Insley, WR, Jr., Nevada
Grabbed 59 catches for 1,151 yards and six TDs, averaging nearly 20 yards per reception.

Most Underrated Player
Chris Lemon, RB, Jr., Nevada
Gets lost in the Wolf Pack's aerial attack, but it's hard to ignore 1,055 rushing yards and a conference-high 19 TDs.

Best Name
Aristotle Thompson, SS, So., Boise State
Runner-up: Dempsey Dees, CB, So., Boise State

Toughest Schedule
North Texas might as well be in the Big 13, since it plays four Big 12 schools (Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Kansas); also travels to Arizona State.

Creampuff Schedule
Boise State has a trio of games—all at home—scheduled against schools that we didn't know still played football (Cal State-Northridge, Portland State, Weber State).

Red-Letter Game
Nevada at Utah State, Nov. 7
Should decide conference title, though with each team playing only five league games, a one-game swing here or there could change things dramatically.

Drop This Name to Make Yourself Sound Smarter at the Water Cooler
Demario Brown, RB, Jr., Utah State
Despite missing three games with a knee injury, rushed for 971 yards and 10 touchdowns on only 184 carries.

Going Bowling
Whoever wins the conference title automatically goes to the Humanitarian Bowl, whatever that is.

Top Three Storylines
Air apparent?

Junior college transfer Erik Stidham tries to fill Nevada's void at QB and turn around a losing (5-6) team.

Strength in numbers

Boise State returns 10 starters on both sides of the ball; can new coach Dirk Koetter get the Broncos over the hump?

He's the Manns

Will New Mexico State's 1,000-yard rusher, Denvis Manns, and nine other returning offensive starters help the Aggies to a conference win after going 0-5 last season?

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