When: Friday, August 30th @6pm MDT
Where: BB&T Field - Winston-Salem, NC
TV: ACC Network
Radio: Aggie Sports Network
Last Time Out: Utah State last played the Demon Deacons in September of 2017, losing 46-10 in Winston-Salem.
Welcome to college football.
It’s back, it’s beautiful, and it’s beginning with a bang.
The Utah State Aggies will begin their much anticipated 2019-20 campaign with a trip to North Carolina to take on the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest.
We at the MWCConnection are just as excited as you are for football to begin again, especially Mountain West football; so let’s get right to it and take a look at what this matchup has to offer:
How will the offense look with a multitude of new faces in the receiving corps?
If you didn’t already know, Jordan Love tossed the rock pretty well last year; it helped that he had solid talent at his disposal. His top four receiving targets are gone from last year, however, so now we’ll see if the stats Love put up can be repeated with a new group of guys. It’s hard to imagine that Love wouldn’t be able to produce like he did last year. Filling the role of top receiver this year is … well, we’re not sure yet. Savon Scarver, Jordan Nathan, and Siaosi Mariner are the starting receivers for Game 1, but seeing who can really come out and be that top dog consistently will be something we’ll just have to see as the season progresses.
Look for a higher frequency of quick passes and screens while the OL attempts to gel and become a cohesive unit. It’s not exactly the best type of gameplan for someone with Love’s talent, but resorting to that type of scheme isn’t the worst thing in the world when you’ve got speedy receivers and a lightning bolt in the backfield in RB Gerold Bright. Just a little open space and these guys can score from anywhere.
What impact will an almost entirely new Offensive Line have?
It was the biggest area of concern over the offseason, and for good reason. How will the offensive line fare with four brand new starters? LT Alfred Edwards returns with his big frame (6”7’, 310 lbs) and will be the anchor on this unit. The right side of the line will be the biggest point of interest (and concern) here, as both RT Andy Koch and RG Karter Shaw are redshirt freshmen. The Demon Deacons have talent on their defensive line, and there’s no doubt Wake DC Lyle Hemphill will look to exploit the lack of experience on the Aggies OL. Football is won and lost in the trenches; the protection for Jordan Love and company will be the most important factor in the outcome of this game.
How do the Aggies combat the Wake defense?
The two biggest names to be on the lookout for are DE Carlos Basham Jr. and DB Essang Bassey. These guys, especially Bassey, have talent that can take them pro. Basham Jr. is a stud with good run stop ability. If he can develop a better skill set to rush the QB, he could be one of the best unknown commodities in the country. The OL will have their hands full with him and other talented players like LBs Justin Strnad and Ryan Smenda Jr.
Bassey highlights a Demon Deacons secondary that’s mostly underclassmen, most notably at the safety spots. Wake’s depth chart lists Coby Davis, a redshirt sophomore, as the starting Free Safety and Nasir Greer, a sophomore, as the starting Strong Safety. Greer has the experience here as he made 41 total tackles last year (2 for a loss) and registered a pick-six vs Duke. If Jordan Love can take advantage of an inexperienced FS, there are a plethora of big plays to be had. It (once again) comes down to the offensive line and if they can give Love the time of day to make his reads and hit his targets.
How dominant can the defensive line be?
The linebacking corps features All-American David Woodward, but it’s the line that’s the richest with talent on defense. DE Tipa Galeai and DT Devon Anderson are the notable names here, but don’t forget about big guys Christopher ‘Unga or Fua Leilua either. This will be a dominant d-line that can make a quarterback’s day into a nightmare very quickly. Wake has a big and experienced offensive line to protect QB Jamie Newman, it features three seniors (1 graduate, 2 redshirt), so it won’t be easy for the big guys up front to cause disruption and make the stops they need to make. They’ve got the talent alone, so now it’s simply left to be seen if they can shake off the offseason rust and get after it in the trenches.
How will the Secondary look with some new starters along with some old faces?
The best news here is that S Shaq Bond is back and starting Week 1. Bond suffered a bad leg injury late last season but has come back and is right where he was as a starter. He won’t be the only returning starter, as there’s also DB DJ Williams, a player who’s getting some hype in his own right after a great first year (42 total tackles, four INTs) after transferring from Independence CC.
The biggest question marks are about the players who will be playing alongside Bond and Williams. According to the USU depth chart, Troy Lefeged Jr. is the starting safety and Cameron Haney is at corner. They both have experience: Lefeged Jr. is a JUCO transfer who started and Haney got good field time and made plays last year highlighted by seven deflected passes.
How do the Aggies combat the Wake offense?
It all starts with recently-announced starting QB Jamie Newman. He’s not new to the game, as he split time with Sam Hartman last season. Newman, however, dominated the spring and took the job for himself. He showed that he could make plays last year (nine TD passes in six games), and if he can limit interceptions (four INTs) he’ll be solid, if not better.
The Aggies catch a break by not having to deal with all-around talent Greg Dortch, who left school early to pursue the NFL. He now plays for the Jets, but Wake still has talent they can play with. The biggest name to look out for is WR Scotty Washington; the redshirt senior is very talented as long as he’s healthy. The Deacs also return WR Sage Surratt, the #2 receiving option from 2018. Surratt can be here and gone in a flash so, along with Washington, the Aggies defense will need to keep these guys locked down if they want to win.
Finally, there’s RB Cade Carney. He’s a playmaker who avoids losing yardage. He’ll need to keep that skill up as he runs up against an Aggies defensive front full of big bodies ready to stuff the run and make a play. He’s a solid weapon in the backfield that can keep the Aggie defense distracted and get Newman some open receivers. Utah State and new defensive coordinator Justin Ena will have to play it smart.
Repeating what was said earlier: this game comes down to line play. Both squads have new starters on their offensive lines that will have to go up against talented defensive lines. Whoever’s big guys can win that battle on a consistent basis will give their team the best chance to come out victorious.
Most projections have this game as quite close, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s production to replace on both teams, so the first team to come out and mesh quickly will have a definitive advantage. It’s time to see what Jordan Love can do, especially now that he’s got so much uncertainty around him: new protection, a new weapons arsenal, and a new coaching staff. The defense is chock-full of talented players, if not a little thin at linebacker.
If this game comes down to the wire and the Aggies can put themselves In position for some late game heroics, give me the Aggies senior kicker from Germany, Dominik Eberle, to beat the buzzer and finalize the upset.
Final Score Prediction: Utah State 30, Wake Forest 27
What are your thoughts on the upcoming game? Tell us what you think in the comments!
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