While it is very disappointing that the Mountain West opted out of playing football this fall, nothing can really be done at this point. This week may certainly hit harder for fans of Utah State and fans of other teams not playing this fall because this is a big weekend. It is FINALLY opening weekend. This is one of the most exciting weeks in college football because there is typically a very long wait during the off-season. An opening weekend that was slated to have games with huge impacts such as Washington vs Michigan, Alabama vs USC and North Carolina and Auburn are not happening. The opening weekend has been reduced to just a few games, the best being BYU vs Navy on Labor day. While this is most definitely a blow there is still football and excitement happening. One of the interesting things for fans of teams not playing to do this season is to consider supporting teams that are similar to the team that are not playing. So, what teams are similar to the Utah State that Aggies fans could support?
Both Texas A&M and Utah State are middle of the road teams in their respective divisions. Alabama has taken the SEC West division many times and Texas A&M has not really gotten over the hump of beating the Crimson Tide, with the exception of 2012. This is very similar to the Aggies and Boise State. The Broncos have recently been dominant in the Mountain Division and Utah State has not yet figured out how to beat Boise State, with the exception of the 2015 game. Texas A&M has fared better against LSU as Utah State has fared better against Air Force, yet they have not established dominance against the Falcons and the same could be said for Texas A&M against LSU. Another interesting aspect is that during Texas A&Ms 2012 season, in which they went 11-2 (their best season of the decade) the Aggies could not manage to win the West division. Likewise for Utah State, during the 2018 season, they went 11-2 and faltered in the division title game against Boise State so Utah State didn’t make the conference title game in their best season of the decade either. An added bonus is that both of these teams are known as the Aggies, so it’s a win win.
The Horned Frogs are a very interesting choice and actually rather intriguing because TCU was once part of the Mountain West for quite some time. The TCU of the Mountain West and the TCU of the Big 12 are two different teams however because TCU has been less than dominant in the Big 12 with their best season coming in 2014 when they just missed the College Football Playoff. TCU has not beaten Oklahoma, the most dominant team in the Big 12, since 2014 and that is the only time that TCU has beaten Oklahoma as a member of the Big 12. This is an interesting comparison with Utah State because Utah State has only beaten Boise State, one of the most dominant teams in the Mountain West, once as a member of the Mountain West. TCU has not been near the top of the conference every year and has infact missed out on bowl games in recent years, specifically 2019 and 2013. Utah State is very similar in this regard as well as they missed a bowl game in 2016 and has not been at the top of the conference every year, 2017 and specifically 2016. Both teams also boast strong defenses and offenses that struggle at points. TCU may not be a bad option for Aggies fans.
I know, I know. A team from the American Conference? Really? When thinking about Houston, they are actually not so different from Utah State. Both teams had successful coaches leave for bigger programs, Tom Herman (Houston) who became the head coach for Texas and Matt Wells (Utah State) who left for the vacant head coaching position at Texas Tech. The Cougars had a lot of success under Herman, who led them to a big New Years Six bowl win over Florida State and won the AAC against Temple. In Herman’s second season, the Cougars defeated Oklahoma in the season opener as well as UCF and Louisville. For Utah State, Matt Wells led the Aggies to the first ever Mountain West title game, which resulted in a loss to Fresno State. Wells would keep the Aggies very relevant in the conference as three different times Utah State had an opportunity to win the Mountain Division, however each time ended with a loss to Boise State. Most notable was the 2018 loss to Boise State as this was the first loss in conference play for Utah State. Neither Houston or Memphis has been able to make it back to their respective conference title games but have still been relevant in conference play. Just as Utah State has struggled against teams such as Boise State and Air Force, Houston has struggled against Memphis and SMU. Both have also had recent losing seasons and both teams also look to improve on disappointing 2019 seasons.
Virginia Tech is another team that has been a middle of the road team in their respective conference, the ACC. The last time the Hookies were near the top of the ACC was in 2016 when they faced Clemson in a close ACC title game. Since then, the Hookies have not returned to the ACC title game and have lost an average of three to four conference games every year. Utah State has not lost three to four conference games every year since 2016, however they have lost enough games to make the Aggies fall below teams such as Boise State and Air Force. The Aggies, as previously mentioned, had a losing season in 2016 and in 2019 the Aggies were unable to sustain success from the 2018 season as they would finish the 2019 season at 7-6. Neither team would be considered to be a ‘bad’ team, however both have struggled after having successful seasons, Virginia Tech in 2016 after losing in the ACC title game and Utah State in 2018 after finishing the season with one loss in conference play and a bowl win against North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl. While both teams have lost important conference games as of recently, both are also on the brink of having a lot of success and fighting for a division title.
What it comes down to is you can support or dislike any team that you like. The teams mentioned above are merely suggestions for Utah State fans as these teams are in similar positions to Utah State as teams that are not bad year in and year out but have not been able to get over the hump of beating the top teams in the conference and winning conference championships.