As I start part two of my season preview, I'd like to re-post what I wrote before my preview last year:
"With the football season just days away, it's time for my annual game-by-game breakdown of the Aggies' schedule. As an FYI, I accept the homer label as 100% true, but as always will attempt to be impartial in my analyses.
For my breakdowns, I rate each game on a scale, from ‘guaranteed loss' to ‘guaranteed win' (with ‘probable loss', ‘toss-up', and ‘probable win' in between). Different factors go into my assessment, including the date of the game, the length of the break from the previous game, player suspensions, rivalry chaos, location, likely weather conditions, barometric pressure, and logo designs, just to name a few. It's never as simple as "Who's the better team, team A or team B?""
One of the biggest factors that I do NOT take into account is injuries. Given USU's track record, I should probably start doing so... If Kent Myers or Devante Mays get injured during the season, just subtract a standard deviation of 3 or so games from my estimated win total.
Breaking Down the Schedule:
Thursday, September 1st- vs. Weber St: Guaranteed Win- The Wildcats have not had a strong team in several years; they won six games last year for the first time since 2010. The last time the two teams met, USU's Chuckie Keeton set multiple school records, including 5 first half TD passes, in a 70-6 route. While a similar result isn't a reasonable expectation, I fully expect a 30+ point victory. If we have a repeat of last year's scare vs. Southern Utah (not likely, given that SUU is head and shoulders above Weber St in terms of talent and production), the rest of the projections are thrown out the window. (1-0, 0-0 MWC)
Saturday, September 10th- @ USC: Probable Loss- The Trojans finished last year 8-6, having played five ranked teams and beaten two of them. They are coming out of the sanction years with a brighter future ahead of them, but lingering effects may give the Aggies a chance here. In their last matchup, USU's defense played lights out, stuffing the Trojan offense time after time, usually starting on their own side of the field; USC pulled out a 17-14 win, but USU showed promise. Helping USU's chances are the following points: 1- USU has two additional days to plan for this game; they'll need that time to prepare for the toughest team they'll play this year. 2- USC is playing the Aggies in between a neutral site game against Alabama and a road game against Stanford. If the Aggies ever have a shot at pulling off the upset, this is it. (1-1, 0-0 MWC)
Friday, September 16th- vs. Arkansas St: Probable Win- USU lost to ArkSt on the road in overtime back in 2014. Last year, the Red Wolves won the Sun Belt conference championship, and come into the season with some solid momentum. It won't be enough to avoid the retribution of an Aggie team looking to continue home field dominance in 2016. USU has lost three games at home in the last four years, two of them right after losing Chuckie Keeton to his first ACL tear, and I don't expect they'll lose many this year either. In addition, while USU has a short week preparing for the Friday night game, the Red Wolves are losing a day as well, and the wear of travelling two weeks in a row (ArkSt travels to Auburn the week before) will be a benefit to USU. (2-1, 0-0 MWC)
Saturday, September 24th- vs. AFA: Probable Win- USU's first conference game of the season should be a good one. Air Force has been solid enough the past couple years to challenge for the conference title; they were the only MWC team to make a game of it against SDSU last year, and they've beaten Boise two years in a row. USU's run defense will have its first test against the option, and having young linebackers is worrisome. Unfortunately for the Aggies, the Falcons also have a bye week heading into this game, which should give the Aggies pause for concern. All that being said, I don't anticipate a problem here with the game being played at home, and the Aggies being well-rested after no travel for a couple weeks in a row; while certainly a challenge, I think it is a challenge the Aggies are up to this year. (3-1, 1-0 MWC)
Saturday, October 1st- @ BSU: Probable Loss- Any time you venture onto the blue turf, it's concerning. Adding to said concern is the fact that USU humiliated the Broncos last year in the most entertaining blowout I've ever witnessed. I'm guessing that, although they won't say it straight out, this game is one the hosts will have circled on their calendars from the get go, and they will be hungry for revenge. I can see this game going one of two ways: 1- the most likely outcome is that Boise smashes USU in front of their home crowd, fueled by anger over last year's defeat, or 2- sandwiched between road games at Oregon State and UNM, and undisciplined because they're so eager for payback, USU surprised the Broncos on the road and adds insult to injury. My head says to anticipate the first, but I am not-so-secretly hoping for the surprise upset. (3-2, 1-1 MWC)
Saturday, October 8th- @ CSU: Probable Win- Their second week on the road will bring some travel lag, and I think CSU will start strong in this game. USU will figure it out by the second half, and win by ten or so. The Rams have too many question marks this year, and won't have an answer for the improved aerial attack USU will bring this year. (4-2, 2-1 MWC)
Saturday, October 22nd- vs. Fresno St: Probable Win- A rebuilding Fresno squad will be a surprise to many teams this year, over performing against expectations. It won't be enough as USU goes to 2-1 in conference under a barrage of "I believe that we will win!" and "Winning team - Losing team" chants from the raucous crowd. (5-2, 3-1 MWC)
Friday, October 28th- vs. SDSU: Toss Up- If this game were played in San Diego, I'd tip the scale in the Aztecs direction. Given that the game is played at home, it's sixes. Even with the home crowd advantage, USU will need all the chants they can get to help in this matchup. SDSU demolished the Aggies run D last year in a blowout route. Don't anticipate a repeat performance, as USU will have this game near the top of the priority list heading into the season. A loss in this game would likely drop USU out of contention for the conference title; a win would place them in prime position to vie for the top spot. If I had to put a guess out, I'd say USU pulls off the win, and Aztec fans complain about the home cooking from the refs (which won't have played a role at all), and start conspiracy theories about the conference intentionally keeping them from having a breakout season in order to keep them from being poached by a P5 conference. (6-2, 4-1 MWC)
Saturday, November 5th- @ Wyoming: Probable Win- After some helpful insight from commenters, I'm changing this game from solidly in the Guaranteed Win section to slightly into the Probable section. Wyoming is rebuilding as well, and Coach Bohl could be starting to feel some heat on his seat as this game approaches. This will not help, despite Herculean efforts from Brian Hill. USU should win this game comfortably, in spite of several players from Texas struggling with the elevation, and USU should be able to give the backups some solid playing time in the fourth quarter. (7-2, 5-1 MWC)
Saturday, November 12th- vs. UNM: Probable Win- The Lobos are on the rise, and have a legitimate outside fighter's chance at coming into this game undefeated; it's not likely, but it could happen, and I'd love to see it. UNM has, in all honestly, one of the most favorable schedules in the country, and could have a great year. I don't see them pulling off the win in Logan, but they were able to surprise Boise in Boise last year, so it's not a given. Overlooking them would be a mistake, but I don't think Wells and Co. will overlook them. I predict a win for the Aggies, by less than ten points. (8-2, 6-1 MWC)
Saturday, November 19th- @ Nevada: Toss Up- Nevada will be improved this year, and should challenge for the West Division title. With the game being playing in Reno, the Aggies will have their work cut out for them. I expect a high scoring affair, with the game decided in the final four minutes. (8-3, 6-2 MWC)
Saturday, November 26th- @ BYU: Toss Up- The final week of the season brings rivalry week, and rivalry week brings chaos, regardless of how the rest of the season has gone. Although the official guess is, "I have no idea," I'm going to unofficially go with the homer pick and say USU repeats the shellacking of two years ago, further fanning the flames of the re-budding rivalry. (9-3, 6-2 MWC)
Season projections recap:
Guaranteed wins: 1
Probable wins: 6
Toss ups: 3
Probable losses: 2
Guaranteed losses: 0
USU looks to have another decent year. I think their cap is 11-1, and their floor is 5-7. They'll most likely end up 8-4 or 9-3, just missing the conference title game, and playing spoiler to a couple teams with title hopes. They'll probably end up in the Armed Forces Bowl, win their fifth bowl game in six years, and set their hopes on a 2017 conference title. I would not be shocked if they finished horribly, just missing a bowl game; nor would I be shocked if they finish 8-0 in conference, and end the season ranked. As for me, I'm planning for the middle ground, worrying about the possible drop off, and hoping for the best. Go Big Blue, and #AggieUp!