The University of Idaho has had plenty of one-win seasons in its history. But winless seasons? That hasn't happened since 1899, when the Vandals (before they were known as the Vandals) lost to Washington State, Whitman, Wallace Athletic Club and Lewiston Normal to finish 0-4.
The point of our lead-in is not to suggest Idaho will go 0-12 this season. But if the Vandals lose to New Mexico State today, they will be 0-6 with only one or two clear-cut winnable games left on their schedule. That speaks to how poorly the season has gone for UI -- and the quality of the WAC in its final season of football.
More on the Vandals' quest for a victory after the jump.
The bonfire and fireworks kicked off Idaho's homecoming festivities last night. And after the 103rd homecoming parade this morning in downtown Moscow, the Vandals clash with New Mexico State in the Kibbie Dome at 2 p.m.
Idaho is a 91/2-point favorite against the 1-4 Aggie. It's likely, depending on how the season unfolds, that this will be the only time the Vandals are favored to win all year. WAC newbies Texas State (2-2) and Texas-San Antonio (5-0) have been better than expected, and San Jose State, Utah State and Louisiana Tech have four wins apiece.
Those five teams -- plus 4-2 BYU -- make up the rest of UI's schedule after today. So, yes, you'll be hard-pressed to find winnable games beyond NMSU for the Vandals.
Here's a week-by-week rundown of Idaho's remaining schedule, with its chances for a breakthrough in each:
- New Mexico State, today. Idaho odds: 60-40. The Aggies are near double-digit underdogs for a reason. That said, they beat Idaho last year in Las Cruces and have at least tasted victory this season.
- At Texas State, Oct. 13. Idaho odds: 40-60. Texas State walloped Houston to open the season -- a huge stunner at the time -- but it has yet to do much since then.
- At Louisiana Tech, Oct. 20. Idaho odds: 20-80. The Bulldogs have wins against Illinois and Virginia the last two weeks and are unbeaten. Their defense, however, ranks 106th in points allowed.
- San Jose State, Nov. 3. Idaho odds: 35-65. You could argue SJSU has been the WAC's most impressive team so far. Its only loss was by three points at Stanford. Idaho's chances improve because it is in the Kibbie Dome. UI has also won the last three matchups with the Spartans.
- At BYU, Nov. 10. Idaho odds: 25-75. The Cougars' offense has generated little or nothing two of the last three weeks. But it survived against Utah State last night and it has a 24-point victory against Washington State.
- UTSA, Nov. 17. Idaho odds: 50-50. The Roadrunners are 5-0, but their only win against an FBS team was last week against New Mexico State. Hard to guage this one. The Vandals get a slight bump up for being at home.
- At Utah State, Nov. 24. Idaho odds: 25-75. The Vandals' last game in the WAC will be hard to win. USU's only losses so far have come by a total of five points to BYU and Wisconsin. The Aggies will contend with La. Tech (and perhaps SJSU) for the WAC title.
Back to today's game, you can read my preview of the WAC opener for Idaho here (one correction: NMSU has already played a WAC game, so obviously this isn't its WAC opener). Both UI and NMSU will be conference-less after this season, and they also happen to be the two worst teams in the WAC so far. Aggies coach DeWayne Walker doesn't think it's a coincidence.
“I think all the teams having success in our conference, they have conferences to go to (next year) and the resources and all those things continue to build,” he said. “Robb (Akey) and I, we’re in tough situations, but at the same token, the most important thing for both of us is we’re both starving for a ‘W.’ ”
For the Vandals, today represents their "last new beginning," to use Akey's words. "We’re going into Week 6 looking for our first win, but we’re also 0-0, untied, unscored upon going into conference play."
For in-game updates from the Kibbie Dome, follow me on Twitter (@SR_JoshWright).