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Utah State Aggies vs. Boise State Broncos: Game Preview

Boise State travels to Logan, Utah for Mountain West Conference action in a game that could decide the leadership of the Mountain Division.

Romney Stadium, Logan, Utah
Romney Stadium, Logan, Utah
Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

WEEK 7: Boise State Broncos vs. Utah State Aggies

WHEN: Saturday, October 12, 6:00 PM MT

WHERE: Romney Stadium, Logan, UT (25,513)

CONFERENCES: MWC (Mountain Division)

2013 SEASON: Boise State, 3-2, 1-1 MWC; Utah State, 3-3, 2-0 MWC

COACHES: Boise State head coach Chris Petersen (87-10); Utah State head coach Matt Wells (3-3) first year

TV: CBS Sports Network


RADIO: Aggie Sports Network. KVNU-AM 610 and KVNU-FM 102.1 in Logan---KBOI (670 AM) and KKGL (96.9 FM) in the Boise area.

SERIES RECORD: 17th meeting. Boise State is 13-4 against Utah State

LAST MEETING: 2010, in Bronco Stadium, Boise State 50, Utah State 14

WEB SITES: Boise State official | Utah State official

Romney Stadium will be in full "white-out" when the Broncos meet the Aggies on Saturday. Perhaps white is appropriate as both Boise State’s Chris Petersen and Utah State’s Matt Wells have struggled with a rash of brutal injuries recently. Last week Boise State added to their injury woes when freshman star RB Aaron Baltazar and senior safety Ebo Makinde were both lost for the season. They make a total of nine losses on the season for the Broncos. But perhaps the most significant loss to either program has been to the Aggies. They have lost three key starters on offense to season ending injuries: RB Joe Hill, OG Kyle Whimpey, and star QB Chuckie Keeton. The loss of Keeton, who tore his ACL and MCL during the first quarter of the BYU game last week, could prove irreplaceable for the Aggies.

What to expect when Utah State has the ball: The biggest question is who the new Aggie quarterback will be and coach Wells is not saying. "It will be Craig Harrison or Darrell Garretson,” Well’s says, “we'll look at them both this week. You'll know on game day.” He is also withholding any game or strategy and holding closed practices this week leading up to game time. No one can blame him for playing those cards close to his vest. Neither junior QB Craig Harrison, 6-2, 203 lbs, nor freshman QB Darrell Garretson, 6-0, 200 lbs, has much playing experience. Harrison, however, has junior college experience and last week took over the offense in the first quarter to lead the Aggies against the tough BYU Cougars in Provo. He completed about 44 percent of his passes, going 18 of 41 attempts for 185 passing yards and a TD. He also ran 6 times for 38 yards. His two favorite passing targets in that game were senior WR’s Travis Reynolds, 5-11, 180 lbs, and Travis Van Leeuwen, 6-3, 195 lbs, and you have to figure that no matter who is under center they will both play a significant role in any passing game.

Without Keeton at the helm, the Aggies will expect their new starting quarterback to be under pressure by the Bronco defense. That is one reason there could be a more sustained running game coming out of the Utah backfield. The Aggies have rushed for at least 200 yards in six of their last 10 games so they definitely have the talent to get the ground job done. That talent comes in a pair of excellent senior runningbacks: RB Joey DeMartino, 5-11, 200 lbs, and RB Robert Marshall, 6-0, 219 lbs. Last week against BYU DeMartino had 16 carries for 80 yards for an average of 5 yards per carry.

What to expect when Boise State has the ball: While the Aggie offense has gotten most of the publicity with Casey Keenan, it’s the defense where they are just as dangerous. The Aggies are ranked 1st in the Mountain West and 25th in the nation in total defense. Breaking that down, they are first in the MW in rushing defense and third in passing defense. The Aggies defense includes senior LB Jake Doughty, 6-0, 234 lbs, who ranks second in the MW and 10th nationally in tackles; sophomore LB Kyler Fackrell, 6-5, 245 lbs; and junior LB Zach Vigil, 6-2, 232 lbs. They are part of the reason the Aggies rank 12th in the nation in forcing three-and-outs.

That has to have the Broncos offense thinking. Without Baltazar to backup sophomore RB Jay Ajayi, 6-0, 215 lbs, there could be an early option for an aerial attack if the backfield fails to deliver the yardage. In the past three games senior QB Joe Southwick, 6-1, 202 lbs, has completed 77 of 97 pass attempts for an 81.5 percent completion rating. Now at midseason he is ranked 35th in the nation and seems to be hitting his stride. Among his favorite targets are WR’s Matt Miller, 6-3, 218 lbs, Geraldo Boldewijn, 6-4, 215 lbs, and Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 158 lbs. The handoffs will go to RB Jay Ajayi, 6-0, 215 lbs, who carried 15 times last week for 80 yards and 2 TD’s and RB Jack Fields, 5-9, 198 lbs, who is expected to step up his game as the backup. He'll need to if the Broncos aim to keep their latest offensive ranking at 17th in the country and their average of 42.2 points per game.

The meeting of the Mountain Division rivals will likely determine who will be playing in the MWC Championship game in December. The loss of Keeton to the Utah State offense gives the Broncos the edge in this one. The odds in Vegas have swung from the Aggies to favor the Broncos by 7 points. But no one in either the Boise or Logan camps are forecasting a win by a team that has yet to win on the road this season.

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