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Utah State looking to make a big statement in 2014

In Chuckie Keeton's final year, Utah State will be looking to make a big statement.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a 9-5 campaign in their inaugural season in the Mountain West, the Aggies are looking forward to the 2014 season with their eyes set on another division title. And with one of the nation's best run defenses and a quarterback that has been mentioned as a dark horse Heisman candidate, they are primed and ready to make another run.

A big focal point for the Aggies this year will be the health of senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton. He has been the workhorse for their offense in his three seasons at USU, racking up nearly 6,000 yards of offense and throwing for 56 touchdowns. The big focus, however, will be how his knee holds up this season. Keeton suffered a season ending ACL injury against BYU last season. He has spent the summer rehabbing and said the knee feels good and ready to go.

Another big focus will be how the Aggies stack up on defense. Statistically, they have been one of the best on defense, especially in the run game. Last year, the Aggies finished 12th in the country in overall defense and first in the Mountain West in points per game. They were also ranked first in the conference in rushing yards per game.

Their defense will be led by junior linebacker Kyler Fackrell and senior linebacker Zach Vigil. Fackrell is coming off a good season for the Aggies, recording 13 tackles for a loss and being named Second Team All-Mountain West along with Vigil. Both will have to pick up the slack on defense as they are two of only five returning starters on defense.

Schedule wise, the Aggies start out with a big primetime game on August 31st at Tennessee. This will be the first Sunday game in school history and will be broadcast on the new SEC Network. Many feel this will be the game that the Aggies finally get a big time win over a power conference school.

After facing off against the Vols, Utah State returns home to go up against FCS opponent Idaho State on September 6th. The Aggies then face off against another power conference school, Wake Forest, the following week. This will mark the first time in history an ACC opponent has visited Logan. They finish up the month of September with a road game against an underestimated Arkansas State team and first year head coach Blake Anderson.

They begin October play with a road game against a BYU squad led by quarterback Taysom Hill. They then begin conference play the following week in Logan against an Air Force squad coming off a disappointing season last year. The Aggies then finish up October with a road game against Colorado State and a home game against UNLV.

The Aggies begin November with the first of 5 games in a month, facing off against Hawaii, also coming off a tough season with third year head coach Norm Chow at the helm. That is followed up by a road game against Wyoming and a home game against New Mexico. Their final home game will be the following week, November 22nd, against the Spartans of San Jose State.

The team's marquee game in conference play will most likely come in the season finale at Boise State. If both teams are in a dead heat down the stretch in division play, expect this game to most likely decide the Mountain division.

With several big games on their schedule, a healthy Chuckie Keeton and a strong defense, the Aggies look to make a statement in 2014 with a Mountain West championship and possibly a January bowl game.