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Utah State Non-Conference Preview: Utah Utes

Can Utah State make it two in a row over in-state foe Utah?

Steve Dykes

The Utah State Aggies travel down I-15 to Salt Lake City to open up their 2013 season against the Utah Utes. This game kicks off on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Coach: Kyle Whittingham (71-32, eight years)

2012 record: (5-7, 3-6 in Pac-12)

2012 season in review: Utah was expected to be the one challenger to the USC Trojans in the South division of the Pac-12, but that never materialized, for either team. Quarterback woes continued for the Utes as they lost the often injured quarterback Jordan Wynn to a career-ending shoulder injury. Utah had to go to freshman Travis Wilson and senior Jon Hays, and had limited success. The defense was to off set any offensive struggles but the traditional strong Utah defense struggled to stop any team in the Pac-12 in 2013. Well, that may be a bit hards, Utah's defense was about average within FBS and the Pac-12, but that defense is typically never just average. The 5-7 record was the first time that Utah missed a bowl game in nine years, and the first ever one missed under head coach Kyle Whittingham.

Returning Offensive Starters: 6

Returning Defensive Starters: 6

Key Returning Starters: QB Travis Wilson, RB Kelvin York, WR Dres Anderson, WR Kenneth Scott, DE Trevor Reilly, S Eric Rowe, DB Brian Blechen.

2013 Strengths: The defense should be a strength, but 2013 was not the best performance for the Utes. They lost five starters, including Star Lotulelei who was taken in the first round of this past NFL Draft. The defense is the strength once again with Brian Blechen, Trevor Riley and safety Eric Snow leading the way. Plus, the linebacking corp which saw very many players see playing time this year should be improved and not be a glaring weakness as it was in 2013.

Hiring Dennis Erickson as co-offensive coordinator should help revive a struggling offense. The Utes are going back to a spread attack with sophomore Travis Wilson who should be good to go after being thrown into the fire as a true freshman where he started seven Pac-12 games.

2013 Weaknesses: At this point in the offseason, the offense has to be the main concern for Utah. They are changing to a more spread attack, brought in Dennis Erickson to help out Brian Johnson and lost star running back John White to graduation. The offense just struggled to put up points, but a lot of that has to do with injuries and playing true freshman Wilson at quarterback before he was ready to came into that equation. There are a lot of ifs with this Utah team, and right now their offense is the biggest question mark. However, their offense could be a weakness against Utah State in Week 1, but are fine by midseason, and for Utah State that is the big benefit for playing Utah early.

For more on Utah head over to Block U and Pacific Takes.