This past week CBS and FOX released their airing schedules for Mountain West football games this fall. Utah State will have one game on CBS against Boise State, five games on CBS Sports Network against North Dakota, BYU, UNLV, Colorado State, and Wyoming, and five games on the FOX networks against Air Force (FS2), Hawaii, New Mexico State, San Jose State, and New Mexico (FS1). So how watchable are each of these games going to be?
12. Vs New Mexico State (FS1)
New Mexico hasn’t had a winning season since 2016, going 9-4 (6-2), winning their bowl game against UT San Antonio and also picking up wins over Air Force (45-40) and Wyoming (56-35). When the Aggies and Lobos squared off during the 2020 season, the Aggies were able to pick up a 41-27 win, which would be their only win of the season. Utah State has been competing for the Mountain division title for the past coupe of season while New Mexico has struggled mightily and has not succeeded in getting over six wins. The Aggies were not a very good team at all last year and will be looking to be a much better team this season. It probably won’t be the most entertaining game of the season and there will be better Mountain West games to watch on Thanksgiving Weekend.
11. Washington State (Pac 12 Network)
This game isn’t ranked low because of the opponent, Washington State isn’t actually that bad, it is ranked this low because this is going to be a harder game to find on television. That and the game also starts at 11 eastern, meaning that this is going to be a late night game around the country, ending close to 3 A.M. Eastern time. This overall is an exciting matchup though because it is opening weekend. If the game was on the opening Friday night on a major channel, the watchablity ranking of this game might sky rocket. However, with a new head coach and questions at quarterback, running back, and even receivers, this could turn into a long day for Blake Anderson’s debut.
10. at New Mexico State (Channel undecided)
New Mexico State only played two games in 2020 and split the results, losing to Tarleton 43-17 and beating Dixie State 36-29. In 2019, New Mexico State lost nine games before getting their first win over Incarnate Word 41-28 and their second win against UTEP 44-35. 2017 was the last time New Mexico State had a winning season, finishing the regular season at 6-6 and getting a win over Utah State in their bowl game to finish the season 7-6. There are far more notable games on this late Saturday in November but this should be a chance for Utah State to pick up a good win and therefore it should be an enjoyable game to watch for Utah State fans.
9. vs North Dakota (CBS Sports Network)
This is another late night start for the Aggies and the opponent might not be as well known to FBS football fans. The Fighting Hawks come out of the FCS and went 5-2 (4-1) in 2020. They ended the 2019 season at 7-5 (5-3) and missed out on the playoffs. The only year that North Dakota has made the FCS playoffs since its start in 2013 was in 2020 and made it to the second round, losing to James Madison 34-21. This should likely be a chance for Utah State to get their first win of the season so it should be an exciting and very watchable experience for Utah State fans late on a Friday night.
8. at UNLV (CBS Sports Network)
This isn’t such a watchable game because of the opponent, it is more so the location. UNLV debuted in Allegiant Stadium last season but it didn’t feel like the proper debut because of the lack of fans and at least some energy in the atmosphere. Things are very likely to change this fall as many teams have already announced they plan on having full capacity stadiums this Fall without limitations. UNLV hasn’t been able to get it going in conference play since 2013, when they went 7-6 (5-3) in conference play, losing their bowl game to North Texas 36-14. The last time UNLV won a bowl game was almost 21 years ago in 2000, when the Rebels won the Las Vegas Bowl against Arkansas 31-14. The Rebels can hang tough at points and if Utah State lets them hang around, the Rebels are certainly capable of winning but a lot of things would need to happen. Just for the energy of the atmosphere, this should be a watchable game.
7. vs BYU (CBS Sports Network)
This should be an interesting game because nobody truly knows if the Cougars can keep up the success they had last season when they were led by Zach Wilson. This is also a big in state rivalry game so that only adds to the entertainment value of this game. It doesn’t matter in terms of conference play but that doesn’t take away from how important this game is to Utah State and their fan base. The only loss BYU suffered in 2020 was against a Costal Carolina team that proved to be very good in a 22-17 thriller. Despite that loss, BYU was able to beat notable teams such as Navy (55-3), Houston (43-26), Boise State (51-17), San Diego State (28-14), and UCF in their bowl game (49-23). This game happens on October 1st and coming off an emotionally charged game against Boise State, the Aggies will need to be focused and healthy for this one.
6. vs Hawaii (Channel TBD)
This is going to be a big game for Utah State because they need to pick up wins where they can. Obviously this game is going to be watchable because it could very likely be a closer game but it is also watchable because it has meaning to it as a conference game, one that could end up being the deciding factor for one of these teams getting into the conference championship. The game takes place on October 30th and the Aggies will have already faced Air Force and Boise State by that point but will still have games remaining against San Jose State and Wyoming. If the Aggies end up losing the game to Hawaii, they really can’t afford a slip up against the Spartans or the Cowboys.
5. vs Colorado State (CBS Sports Network)
The Colorado State game happens just before Hawaii game and this is another big one. The Rams struggled during the 2020 season, going 1-3 and picking up their only win against Wyoming in a 34-24 game. The Rams also had a very rough 2019 season, finishing 4-8 (3-5). Colorado State may not be a top competitor for the mountain division, they could be described as middle of the pack and what this means for Utah State is that they can’t take the Rams lightly, whatever their record might be. Colorado State hasn’t beaten Utah State since 2017 so they will certainly not be lacking passion going into this game.
4. at San Jose State (TBD)
San Jose State was honestly very good last year, despite a disappointing loss in their bowl game. The Spartans are probably going to take a step back from last year but that doesn’t mean they won’t be successful. They return coach Brett Brennan and quarterback Nick Strakel after finishing the 2020 season at 7-1 (6-0) and as Mountain West champions. San Jose State went 5-7 (2-6) in 2019 and the Spartans haven’t won a bowl game since 2015 against Georgi State. This could be a high scoring entertaining game that at the end of the season will be an absolute must win for both teams.
3. vs Wyoming (FS1)
There are three teams that have proven to be at the top when competing for a mountain division title. Over the past couple seasons those three teams are Boise State, Air Force, and Wyoming. Utah State takes on two of those three early in the season and will face Wyoming late in November. Wyoming went 2-4 in 2020 grabbing wins over Hawaii and UNLV while losing games to Nevada, Colorado State, New Mexico, and Boise State. In 2019 Wyoming had a down year, going 7-5 (4-4) but they did win a bowl game. The last two times these two have met the Aggies have come out on top very narrowly and since 2017 these matchups have been very close so of course that makes for great entertainment value.
2. at Air Force (FS2)
This is a massive game for the Aggies and it will be a must win. The game comes after what could be the first or even second win of the season for Utah State. Playing at Air Force is never an easy thing to do, Utah State lost at Air Force in 2019 in a 31-7 beatdown, and the Aggies haven’t won at Air Force since 2013, when they won 52-20. Air Force had an interesting 2020 season, beating Navy 40-7, New Mexico 28-0, and Utah State 35-7. The Falcons lost to San Jose State 17-6, Boise State 49-30, and to Army 10-7. Air Force finished 2nd place in the mountain division in 2019, 4th place in 2018, 4th place in 2017, 4th place in 2016, and 1st place in 2015. In order to win the division Utah State must win at least one of two against Boise State and Air Force which brings the last team on the schedule into discussion.
1. vs Boise State (CBS)
This is going to be the biggest game of the season for Utah State and it could define how the rest of the season goes. Not only is it a game against a high caliber opponent, but this game is also getting a slot on CBS at noon eastern, so there will be plenty of eyes watching this game. The storied success of Boise State has been well known for quite some time now and the Broncos will be looking to go to their fifth straight conference title game. The last time Utah State beat Boise State was in 2015, where the Broncos committed eight turnovers and the Aggies went on to win 52-26. Boise State hasn’t lost a regular season conference game since a 19-13 loss to San Diego State at home. A win over Boise State alone would go a long way in making it a really successful season for Utah State. Getting a victory over the Broncos will certainly be a big challenge especially at the beginning of the season but it’s important to remember that Boise State will be coming off an emotional game against Oklahoma State and will be looking at their next game against a strong looking Nevada team. If Utah State can figure things out early in the season under a new head coach, this should be a pretty good game.