This is going to be an interesting year for Utah State and there are a number of different questions to consider: What will the team look like overall? Who steps up at quarterback for the Aggies? Is Elelyon Noa the starting running back? Can Utah State find another player to step up at receiver besides Deven Thompkins? Can the defense prevent big plays? Who steps up on the defensive line? These are questions that are going to be answered as the season begins in September and continues to move forward. There is still a bit of time before fall camp starts up but here are five early bold predictions for the season and how likely they are to come true.
Prediction 1: Andrew Peasley starts at quarterback
Andrew Peasley saw more time in the earlier Spring scrimmage in March and in the Spring game as well. He was 16-24 for 234 yards and three touchdowns and also threw an interception. Peasley took over after Jason Shelley was dismissed from the team and was able to get Utah State their first win of the season over New Mexico. He wasn’t as productive against Air Force however after gaining a lot of experience and first team reps this Spring and going through eventual Summer and Fall training, Peasley should be a better player and be well equipped to be productive for Utah State
Likelihood of prediction: Very likely
Prediction 2: Utah State beats Air Force but not Boise State
The path through any division in any conference is going to have its challenges. For the Mountain division in the Mountain West Conference, the path to a conference title runs through Air Force and Boise State. It is possible to beat one of these teams and lose to the other and still make it to the title game but lose to both teams? Then the path is considerably harder, even going as far as impossible. By beating Air Force, Utah State would be able to keep itself in the running for a conference title. Beating Boise State would be the ultimate goal as the Broncos the past few years have dominated the division but beating the Broncos with a new head coach, unknown talent on the team, and in early September seems like a little bit too much to ask. If the game was later in the year the Aggies might have a better chance, but Utah State could still be trying to figure things out in late September.
Likelihood of prediction: Seems likely
Prediction 3: The Aggies finish with three conference losses and go to a bowl game
This is really a pretty bold prediction but one of the important things to remember is that Utah State is going to avoid Fresno State and San Diego State. Hawaii still poses a challenge but San Jose State? That is the real question. If the Spartans can play like they did this past season this is going to be a significant challenge. It does seem like the Spartans could take a step back though but I think this will be one of the Aggies losses, along with Boise State and Hawaii. Three conference losses could be good enough for third place in the Mountain division and a potential spot in the Arizona bowl or Potato Bowl, which would both pit the Aggies against a MAC team.
Likelihood of prediction: It could happen but far from definite
Prediction 4 (Speaking of record): Aggies finish 8-5 (6-3) and win their bowl game
Utah State is probably going to lose out of conference games to Washington State to start the season and BYU on the first Friday of October. They will also likely lose the conference games already mentioned to Boise State, Hawaii and San Jose State. The Aggies will get enough wins in the regular season with seven to make it to the Potato Bowl against Western Michigan and will beat these Broncos to obtain their eighth win of the season.
Likelihood of prediction: Hard to see happening but the Aggies could surprise
Prediction 5: Utah State gets a 1000 rusher and finds receivers to make plays
The last Utah State player to rush over 1000 yards was Darwin Thompson in 2018, when he totaled 1,044 yards and 14 touchdowns. The last player to comfortably get over 1000 yards rushing was Joey DeMartino in 2013, who had 1,221 yards rushing and thirteen touchdowns that season. Needless to say, the Aggies have struggled at the running back position a lot recently. In 2020 Deven Thompkins was the leading receiver for Utah State and totaled just 214 yards. In 2019, Siaosi Mariner made the plays for the Aggies, going for 987 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jordan Nathan and Deven Thompkins each had four touchdowns but those three receivers were the only ones to catch more than two touchdown passes.
Elelyon Noa is a sophomore and went for 81 yards on 31 attempts last season, averaging 2.6 yards per carry. Those aren’t necessarily stand out numbers and it isn’t even clear if Noa will be the starter. Devonta’e Henry-Cole could be a good option due to his experience at Utah and last season at Utah State (41 carries for 180 yards) but in all honesty there are different options and combinations of backs that the Aggies could go with. Cooper Jones had the most rushing yards in the Spring game with 94 yards and a touchdown and also had the game winning score for the offense. John Gentry went for 72 yards and a touchdown and had 33 yards on seven carries during the 2020 season. Considering the amount of success that Cooper Jones had against the defense and the fact that the Aggies went with him in a late game situation with the game on the line, it could be hinting that Utah State is leading towards Cooper Jones.
Here is one last bold prediction: Cooper Jones will at some point, if not at the beginning of the season, move into the starting position. Depth at running back is so incredibly important as it is a grueling position so the more players have and the more experience the Aggies can build the better.
Likelihood of prediction: This is a pretty bold prediction at this point
In reality there are quite a few bold predictions that could be made under a new head coach. Maybe there was a glimpse of what the Blake Anderson version of the Aggies will look like but it is far from the bigger picture of what this team could accomplish. A prediction such as having a 1000 yard rusher is a big prediction as Utah State has not been able to do that consistently, but there is a chance. Blake Anderson seems to have instilled an energy in this team that wasn’t seen under Gary Andersen’s second tenure. The last time Utah State legitimately competed for the Mountain West title was in 2018 under Matt Wells. Blake Anderson is only in his first season but there is no reason to believe Anderson isn’t going to have success, there are always parts in the season that can be considered successful, even if success happens off the field.