The Aggies had a season where they finally looked like they turned the corner. Utah State is returning a lot of talent and looks to challenge for the conference title in a weakened Western Athletic Conference. The Aggies suffered some key losses on Offense and Defense but are looking like they are a program that can finally absorb key losses.
Here is a look at their schedule, with each game broke down with a prediction and chance of an Aggie victory.
Thurs, Aug 30 Vs SUU – Gary Andersen is the former head coach of the Thunderbirds. SUU is led by their quarterback Brad Sorensen. The one time BYU player who was the Great West Offensive Player of the Year this past season. This is a good early test for the Aggies improving secondary. Despite the losses of Turbin and Smith I don’t see the Aggies offense having any trouble in this game. The Aggies should win big but this might turnout like the Weber State game last year. Prediction: 42-17 USU and chance of Aggie victory 95%. Why: The Aggies will overwhelm the Thunderbirds with talent and better coaching. We will get to see the Aggies three deep at most positions.
Fri, Sept 7 Vs Utah on ESPN2 – This will only be the second time Andersen has faced Utah since leaving for Utah State. In that game the Aggies kept within striking distance thanks to a 96 yard run by Turbin and an interception late in the first half. The Aggies however were shut out in the 2nd half and went on to lose 35-17. This game will be a lot closer on the scoreboard and in talent on the field. The Utes on offense will be led by running back John White IV. The key in this game will be if the Aggies defense can stop him. Last year, when he was held under a 100 yards, the Utes were 0-5 and only averaged 13.2 ppg. The Utes defense has been dominate for a while and will probably be the best defense the Aggies face all season. Expect this game to be close both teams have question marks and it will probably come down to turnovers and field position. Prediction: 24-17 Utah and chance of Aggie victory 45%. Why: While I can see this going either way, the Aggies only beat two teams who had winnings records last year, and the Utes should still have a healthy quarterback at this time.
Sat, Sept 15 At Wisconsin on Big Ten Network –Utah State has been competitive in their money games the last three years. The near victory at Auburn last year was one of the greatest heartbreaks in recent Aggie football history. This year against Wisconsin, USU will face one of the biggest offense lines in the country along with Heisman candidate Monte Ball. Russell Wilson is gone and they are replacing 9 starters on both sides of the ball. The Badgers are on their third offensive coordinator in as many seasons. While still a very dangerous team this is another great opportunity to jump on a major program. On defense the Aggies need to stop Montee Ball or he will do what DeMarco Murray did to them in 2009 as well as not give up the big plays in the secondary as they did against Auburn. Although the Aggies are dangerous, they will face another top notch defense. This game could all come down to a couple big plays and if the Aggies can finish the game. Prediction: 42-31 Wisc and chance of an Aggie victory 35%. Why: The Aggies will play them tough and perhaps even scare the Badger faithful. However I just don’t think this is the year or team for the Aggies to upset.
Sat, Sept 22 At Colorado State – This game is all about payback. The Aggies blew the game because of turnovers. Including a fumble where it looks like Michael Smith’s knee was down and a muffed fair catch by Eric Moats when a CSU player ran into him. CSU has a new coach this year and a familiar face at the offensive coordinator position in Dave Baldwin. Colorado State will be a future conference opponent and the game will have the feel of a conference game. I look for the Aggies to punish the Rams for the loss last year and to dominate on both sides of the ball. Prediction: 42-24 Aggies and chance of an Aggie victory 65%. Why: I believe the Aggies have something to prove here. Last year the Aggies had 4 turnovers and I just don’t see that happening again. I see them coming out strong and finishing with the backups in the game.
Sat, Sept 29 Vs UNLV (on ESPN3) – Another Mountain West Conference opponent awaits Utah State. UNLV went 2-10 last season including a loss to FCS school Southern Utah. UNLV only outgained two opponents last season and a porous defense allowed 40.4 points per a game and 443.2 yards per a game. Look for the Aggies offense to roll up some huge yards in this game. This will also be the Rebels first road game of the season and I expect them to receive a warm welcome from a future conference opponent. Prediction: 52-10 and chance of an Aggie victory 85%. Why: UNLV is just a terrible program right now. The Aggies should run all over them and give us a show similar to Wyoming last year. UNLV is just overmatched on both sides of the ball.
Fri, Oct 5 At BYU (on ESPN) – Last year Utah State dominated the game until the “Riley Nelson Miracle” happened. Nelson tore apart the Utah State defense in the second half with 144 yards passing and 62 yards rushing. The aggies couldn’t move the ball when it counted because, eventually, teams figure out the bubble screen. Last year did however prove that the 2010 game was not a fluke and that the Aggies will give the Cougars trouble. The Aggies will punish the Cougars on the ground again but will need better production than the 122 yards they got last year passing the ball to win the game. Prediction: 31-21 USU and chance of an Aggie victory 55%. Why: the Aggies have proved that they can play with the Cougars these last two years. With the Aggies having some variation in their offense and another year of experience for Chuckie, I see an improved passing game leading USU to victory.
Sat, Oct 13 At San Jose St (on ESPN3)– Last year the Aggies escaped with a 34-33 victory in large part to big plays from Adam Kennedy and his receivers. However, Kennedy struggled for a good portion of the game and was pulled in favor for the wildcat formation being run by Stanley Morrison. The Spartans however are looking to continue to improve after a 5-7 season. They were a team like Utah State who was involved in more than their fair share of close games, going 3-4 in games decided by 7 points or less. Games between Utah State and San Jose St have been close historically with Utah State currently getting the better of the Spartans with a 3-game winning streak in the series. Expect a close game between the two as the Spartans continue to improve and this one will be at their house. Prediction: 34-21 USU and chance of an Aggie victory 65%. Why: The Aggies are just a better team and I don’t see the struggles with turnovers again this year.
Sat, Oct 20 Vs New Mexico St – Last year the Aggies left Las Cruces with a 24-21 victory after Matt Austin’s second game winning catch with under a minute left that season. This was the game also where the Aggies secondary got their only interception. In this game the Aggies almost had 3 runners with over 100 yards. In fact New Mexico St allowed opponents to rush for 218 yards a game. The Aggies of the north should continue their two game winning streak against the Aggies of the south. Prediction: 35-24 USU and chance of an Aggie victory 75%. Why: Utah State should continue to run the ball well against NMSU and should put more points on the board this year. DeWayne Walker, head coach of New Mexico State, will probably be on the hot seat at this point in time and we could see a desperate team.
Sat, Oct 27 At University of Texas San Antonio – The Roadrunners only began their program last year. They are led by former Miami coach Larry Coker. Coker was fired from the head coaching job at Miami in 2006 after starting his tenure there with a National Championship in 2001. It’s hard to know exactly how good this team will be. Expectations are higher because of a record-setting opening season attendance and a 4-6 season. However they will be no match for the talent level of the Aggies. Prediction: 45-10 USU and chance of an Aggie victory 90%. Why: The Roadrunners just haven’t had time to develop talent and while they look to have a good home field they will be no match for the Aggies. This is like playing another FCS team.
Sat, Nov 3 Vs Texas State – The Bobcats are the other new member of the WAC this season. They, however, have a much different past that includes a couple division II National Championships in the early 80’s and Southland Conference Championship in 2005. They have gone 4-7 and 6-6 the last two seasons. They have a potent rushing attack that averaged 195.3 yards per a game last season. The Aggie defense was effective against the run last year and should handle the Bobcats offense. The Aggies should win big in this early November game. Prediction: 38-20 USU and chance of an Aggie victory 85%. Why: The transition from FCS to FBS is huge and it’s cold by this time of year in Logan. The Aggies defense should be more than up for the challenge as the offense will continue to be prolific.
Sat, Nov 17 At Louisiana Tech – This should be the game to decide who wins the WAC. Louisiana Tech has been another team that has played the Aggies close year after year. Last year’s game was a defensive slugfest where both teams failed to reach 300 yards. Louisiana Tech won by winning the field position battle and returning Chuckie’s first interception of the season for a touchdown. This will be the WAC game of the season and will be the last meeting between these conference foes for a while and will see which former cupcake team will leave as the last WAC champion. Prediction: 35-31 Louisiana Tech and chance of an Aggie victory 45%. Why: Louisiana Tech is the favorite in the WAC for a reason. This is always a close game but the Aggies have always struggled to finish against the Bulldogs.
Sat, Nov 24 Vs Idaho (on ESPN3) – Last year Utah State won the game on some last minute heroics and an interception by Bobby Wagner. Idaho had a disappointing 2-10 season last year after going 8-5 in 2009 and 6-7 in 2010. The Vandals are now hit with being one of the teams left in the sinking sink that is the WAC. The Aggies will come in the favorite as it will be at home, superior talent, and continuing to have the Vandal’s number. Prediction: 35-21 and chance of Aggie Victory 65%. Why: The Vandals are on a downturn and have lost their two best running backs this year and will be one dimensional. They won’t be able to keep up with our offense and Aggies will handle their business at home.
Summary: The Aggies have a really good chance of at least having a winning season thanks to a very weak WAC and playing two of the bottom feeders of the MWC. This should be a good transition year for the Aggies as they prepare to move to a new conference and keep the momentum they are building.
Game that will mean the most: Fri Oct 5 at BYU – Winning this game will be the silver lining to the season and start to change the pecking order of teams in the state.
Most important game to the program: Sat, Sept 15 at Wisconsin – A win here would earn the Aggies national attention and be the trademark game they need to bring money into the program.
Most important conference game – Easily it is against Louisiana Tech, also expect this game to get picked up on ESPN3.
Predicted finish: 9-3 (5-1) Second in the WAC
Predicted bowl game: Sheraton Hawaii Bowl or Kraft Fight Hunger bowl (The WAC only has the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl which will go to the champion)
Probability of going undefeated: .00496
Probability of going undefeated in conference: .10908
Notes: To add some perspective a team that has a 90% chance of winning each of its games would only have a probability of going undefeated of .2824 through 12 games even though they would be heavily favored in each game.