Following is an alphabetical team-by-team look at the eight Pacific Division teams, their preseason rank, their 1997 results (overall record, WAC record, division finish), head coach (year, record), returning starters (offense, defense, kicking, total), four top players to watch and miscellaneous notes:
Rank: First; 1997: 6-5; 4-4; fifth in Mountain Division; Coach: LaVell Edwards, 27th year (234-86-3). Returning: 5, 8, 2, 15 total. Players: OT John Tait, LB Brad Martin, RB Ronney Jenkins, DE Byron Frisch. Notes: The Cougars dropped eight wins from their 14-1 mark in 1996 . . . Jenkins returns, but the Y. loses speedy Jaron Dabney . . . Cougars start the season at Alabama, home vs. Arizona State and at Washington.
Rank: Fifth. 1997: 6-6. 5-3, third in Pacific Division. Coach: Pat Hill, second year (6-6). Returning: 6, 6, 2, 14 total. Players: RB Jaime Kimbrough, QB Billy Volek, P Jeff Roberts, PK Jeff Hanna. Notes: Bulldogs have 15 offensive linemen, but 11 are freshmen or redshirt freshmen . . . It's representative of a youthful FSU team . . . Special teams is a Fresno strength this season.
Rank: Sixth. 1997: 3-9; 1-7, eighth in Pacific Division. Coach: Fred vonAppen, third year (5-19). Returning: 8, 4, 2, 14 total. Players: P Chad Shrout, RB Charles Tharp, LB Stephen Gonzales, OT Kaulana Noa. Notes: The Rainbows were within 18 points of five would-be wins last year . . . UH is unsettled at QB, with five to choose from . . . vonAppen hopes Hawaii plays the run better on both offense and defense.
Rank: Third. 1997: 9-4; 6-2, first in Mountain Division, WAC runner-up. Coach: Rocky Long, first year (0-0). Returning: 6, 2, 1, 9 total. Players: QB Graham Leigh, P Jason Bloom, FS Brian Urlacher, LB Kenny Lewis. Notes: Long takes over for Dennis Franchione, who left for TCU . . . Along with SDSU, Lobos return fewest starters from last year . . . Long, UCLA's defensive coordinator, brings an attacking defense.
San Diego State
Rank: Fourth. 1997: 5-7; 4-4, tie (fifth) in Pacific Division. Coach: Ted Tollner, fifth year (25-21). Returning: 3, 4, 2, 9 total. Players: DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, SS Rico Curtis, RB Jonas Lewis, OG Mike Malano. Notes: The Aztecs never rebounded from their 1-5 start last year, including four straight away games . . . Tollner says his team is talented but not game-tested yet . . . Great speed on defense.
San Jose State
Rank: Eighth. 1997: 4-7, 4-4, fifth (tie) in Pacific Division. Coach: Dave Baldwin, second year (4-7). Returning: 8, 8, 1, 17 total. Notes: Spartans haven't won a nonconference game in five seasons . . . One of the highest totals of returning starters this year in the WAC . . . SJSU is getting bigger and bulkier under Baldwin.
Texas El Paso
Rank: Seventh. 1997: 4-7; 3-5, sixth in Mountain Division. Coach: Charlie Bailey, sixth year (11-38-1). Returning: 9, 6, 2, 17 total. Players: WR Jimmy Carpenter, DL Jason Smith, DL Brian Young, QB John Rayborn. Notes: A peeved Bailey promises surprises for those who picked his Miners so low in the preseason poll . . . UTEP hopes for a rare winning season, with only two in the previous 27 years.
Rank: Second. 1997: 6-5; 5-3, second (tie) in Mountain Division. Coach: Ron McBride, ninth year (55-39). Returning: 6, 8, 2, 16 total. Players: LB Phil Glover, WR Daniel Jones, DB Robert Love, DT Pene Talamaivao. Notes: McBride is pleading for week-to-week consistency . . . Utes are staying home for two-a-days, with the semester program at the U. and at CEU making it impossible for a Camp Carbon return engagement.