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Vandals off to best start since ‘94

That headline says it all, really. It's been 15 years since Idaho had as good a start as this one. The  Vandals are 3-1 after salting away a 34-31 win over Northern Illinois yesterday. 

Click below for some thoughts, links, and my first-ever WAC power rankings.

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No matter what anyone says, no one envisioned Idaho winning three of its first games -- with three of those matchups on the road. The Vandals will be no worse than 3-2 heading into conference play depending on next week's home game with Colorado State. The CSU encounter will be one of the biggest for Idaho in recent memory, and you have to think fans will be crammed into the Kibbie Dome for the 7:30 matchup to be aired by ESPNU.

How did it come to this? Well, UI came up huge yesterday when it needed to most -- on third down all day, and in the final possession when NIU had all the momentum on its side.

Here's the story in this morning's S-R and here's a game story from the Chicago Tribune with some interesting comments from Huskies coach Joe Kill and Robb Akey. "We executed better on third downs," Akey said. "Our quarterback is a pretty darn good player. We were able to run the ball pretty well, but we also got some great throws. That's poise and that's toughness and character. That showed."

Poise, toughness, character -- those are three words you haven't heard associated with Idaho in years. But it's true: The Vandals showed some grit in adversity, just as they did against San Diego State a week earlier. And they did so against a quality opponent that had toppled Purdue, which almsot came back yesterday and knocked off Notre Dame.

The biggest play of Saturday's game was no doubt Eric Greenwood's diving catch near the sideline on third down that helped Idaho drain the final minutes off the clock. Greenwood has started to blossom after being one-dimensional last year (it was lob or nothing else). But once again, there really isn't one receiver who is setting themselves apart from the pack. Enderle completed passes to 10 targets.

So what can Vandal fans  expect from here on out? Colorado State will be a tough, tough matchup. The Rams won at Colorado, beat Nevada by 15 and hung with BYU for a while yesterday. After that, the Vandals are at San Jose State before playing Hawaii at home. The Vandals have the second-best record in the WAC, but two supposed top-tier teams -- Fresno State and Nevada -- have played brutal schedules and are a combined 1-6 because of it. Expect both of them to rack up a lot of WAC wins.

Here are my WAC power rankings through Week 4:

1) Boise State (4-0). The Broncos moved up to No. 5 in the AP poll. I don't think they are the fifth-best team in the nation, but they are clearly the class of this league.

2) Fresno State (1-3). FSU's record might not stellar, but it's offense looks pretty potent to me.

3) Idaho (3-1). This is a toss-up to me between Hawaii and the Vandals. I'm giving credit to UI for an impressive win yesterday.

4) Hawaii (2-1). The Rainbows play La Tech on Wednesday, so we'll know more then. But rolling up 200 more yards on Washington State than USC did is worth something in my book.

5) Nevada (0-3). I know the Wolf Pack are 0-3, but they put up a fight  against a pretty legit Missouri team on Friday night.

6) Utah State (1-2). While the Aggies' record doesn't look pretty, they've hung with Utah and Texas A&M -- which is more than most WAC bottom feeders can say.

T-7) Lousiana Tech (1-2)/San Jose State (1-3). It's hard for me to differentiate betwen these two clubs. Neither has looked great, and SJSU's 19-9 win over Cal Poly doesn't say much.

9) New Mexico State (2-2). Give the Aggies credit for beating their rival, New Mexico, but those are two pretty weak teams.

What do you think about my rankings? Feel free to lambast me if you think I'm an idiot. I don't mind.




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