This week our focus shifts to one specific team: Utah State. No team in the MWC, and not many in the college football world, are receiving more hype this offseason than the Aggies. They are coming off an impressive 11-2 season, return star QB Jordan Love, and are the darlings of the media right now (which doesn’t count for much when the games start). However, they have a new coaching staff, a tougher schedule, and they lost a lot of production. This begs the question, how many wins do you think Utah State will reach this year?
Mike: Put me in the camp that says Utah State will take a step back in 2019. Love loses most of his weapons and so much of their scheme was dependent on short quick passes. Having Savon Scarver will definitely help. On defense, David Woodward and DJ Williams should carry the load.
Looking at their schedule, the wins should come from Wake Forest, Stony Brook, Colorado State, Air Force, and New Mexico. The losses will be LSU, BYU, Fresno State, and Boise State. I’ll say a coin flip on SDSU, Nevada, and Wyoming. I’ll say 8 wins will happen, making them bowl eligible, but not in the top tier of the conference like they were in 2018. That’s still good considering everything that’s different from last year.
Alex: The losses on offense, especially on the offensive line, will be the biggest factor for Utah State this season. The only two returning starters for USU’s offense are QB Jordan Love and T Alfred Edwards. The defense will be the stronger unit this year for sure with LB David Woodward, DE Tipa Galeai, and S Shaq Bond leading the way.
If Gary Andersen and his staff can solidify the OL and new OC Mike Sanford can teach Jordan Love to make good work of a lesser receiving corps, the Aggies can still find a way to achieve success, but this schedule is brutal. They start the year on the road against Wake Forest, who is in no way a guaranteed win. Then they travel to Death Valley to take on LSU. As of right now, the only two sure-fire wins are vs Stony Brook and at New Mexico. Some would put Colorado State here, but they could be on the rise.
It’ll all boil down to how far Jordan Love and the veteran Aggie defense can carry this squad. A season that ends 6-6 or 7-5 wouldn’t be too disappointing given the losses of talent and the schedule. If Utah State can muster 8-9 wins, however, chalk this season up as a victory.
If I have to put a number on the season, I’ll say they play better than expected and get a little lucky and end up 9-3 with losses at LSU, at SDSU, and home vs Boise.
Jeremy: There might not be a team in the Mountain West with a wider range of potential results than Utah State, due to several variables. The new coaching staff includes big names like Gary Andersen and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford. Once coveted by many, both have had issues as of late. Which Andersen and Sanford are the Aggies inheriting? The head coach that revived and thrived with a near-dead Utah State program? Or the head coach that bombed big time in Corvallis? The offensive coordinator in Sanford that helped lead Boise State to a New Years 6 victory in 2014? Or the coach that completely botched a strong offense at Western Kentucky? The answers to those questions will offer very different results.
As for the football roster itself, it would be easy to look at Jordan Love’s return and say, “All is well!” The heavy losses on offense, however, give reason for pause. Another reason is the difficult schedule. There is no question about it: the 2019 Aggies have the Mountain West’s toughest schedule. Will all these negative factors outweigh last season’s positive results? I tend to believe the answer is always somewhere in the middle. As Chris Petersen used to say, things are never as good or as bad as they seem.
Will Utah State eviscerate defenses in route to being ranked as high as 12 in some polls again? Probably not. Will they completely fall apart? Also, probably not. Put me down for an 8-4 regular season record. A solid return season for Andersen, but not a national headline creating football team.
Matt: USU is going to be a hard team to peg this year. They lost pretty much everybody from their coaching staff, but the offense is going to be pretty experienced. Pair that with a schedule that doesn’t feature many guaranteed losses, I think they can do pretty well. In terms of extremely likely losses, there’s really only two- LSU and Boise. Then they’ve got to deal with BYU, Fresno State, and SDSU. Then there’s Wake Forest, who has been improving every year under Dave Clawson. That opening weekend game though will set the tone for the season. I think 8 wins is definitely expected, with the ability to get up to 10 after the bowl.
I don’t think we’ll see another 11 win season with a Top 25 ranking, but I think they’ve got a chance for 2nd in the Mountain Division. That should be easily attainable with 8 or 9 wins, and a good bowl game. Bill Connelly’s projections have them ending up about 8-4, but I’m a bit more optimistic at 9-3.
Jacob: The Aggies’ season will be determined by how well they come out of the gates. Three of their first four games are against opponents that are beatable, but tough. I expect Colorado State to be better this year, and we already know that Wake Forest and SDSU will be difficult road games for USU. Once you get into October, things will likely be much more predictable for the Aggies. If they can go 3-1 in August/September, they could be on their way to a nine or ten win season (including a bowl game and a potential MWC championship). If you’re Gary Andersen, you are doing everything possible to have your new offensive line and receiving corps ready for August 30th in Winston-Salem.
Zach: We really don’t know how good Utah State is. They faced two above average teams and lost both of those games. Jordan Love will be the Mountain West preseason offensive player of the year and the Aggies will get a tong of preseason love. However, they are replacing a ton of skill players and all of their offensive line. The Aggies also have a far more difficult schedule. They play LSU, Wake Forest, BYU, SDSU, Fresno State, and BSU. They also play Wyoming and Air Force who will be improved this season. I could see anything from 5-8 wins. But I am going to go with 7-5 for the Aggies. I will go a step further, their loses will be to LSU, Wake Forest, BSU, Fresno State, and Air Force. They will have some solid victories over BYU and SDSU. A solid season, but a long way from the NY6.
Adam- Utah State will be the most intriguing team this season in the Mountain West. The reason I say that is because Gary Andersen did extremely well the last time he took over a program that had talent left from the previous coaching regime. When he was at Wisconsin he benefited from Melvin Gordon and James White being already there on the offensive side of the ball, and Chris Borland and Ethan Armstrong on the defensive side. The Badgers went 19-7 under Andersen, thanks in large part to the recruiting of Bret Bielema.
Andersen walks into a similar scenario on this his second go round in Logan. Jordan Love returns at Quarterback after a stellar season last year. Gerold Bright will be in the backfield again for the Aggies, he went for 888 yards last season. Love will have to choose from some new faces at the receiver spot, but return man Savon Scarver could see the ball a lot more this season at wideout.
Defensively, DJ Williams, should be an All-MWC selection this season, along with All-American teammate David Woodward, will anchor a defense that will have to step up big in some games.
All that being said, the schedule is much tougher than last season with visits to Wake Forest and LSU to boot. Along with in conference visits to San Diego State and Fresno State, and a late season home date with Boise State; I don’t see a 11-2 repeat, but an 8-4 regular season is not out of the question by any means. Especially with the talent left from Matt Wells.
Alex Valle - I believe Utah State will have nine wins in this upcoming football season. They will regress from their 11 win season in 2018 mostly due to their non-conference games in 2019. In addition to a tough schedule the Aggies also have a majority of new coaches in their coaching staff. With this adversity already being difficult for a team to attempt to repeat such a successful season they will have to incorporate a lot of new skill players into their starting line up. A lot of their games are up in the air due to these changes and their tough schedule and no one will really know how good Utah State will be this year until the first game against Wake Forest.