Last season was disappointing for Utah State as the Aggies finished 1-5, with their only win in Gary Andersen’s second year coming against New Mexico 41-27. Andersen is now out but Blake Anderson comes in from Arkansas State after finishing the 2020 season 2-6 (4-7). Week one is going to be interesting as the Aggies head to Pullman to take on Washington State, and if the Aggies want any chance to win that game, there needs to be a large amount of improvement from last season.
Utah State at Washington State
Location: Pullman, Washington
Line: Washington State (-16.5)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 4th; 10:00 P.M. EST
Television: PAC-12 Network
Head-to-Head: Washington State leads the series 2-1. The last time the Cougars and Aggies played was in 1961, where Utah State grabbed a 34-14 victory in Pullman. In 1950, Washington State came out of Logan with a 46-6 victory and in 1949, the Cougars won a home game against Utah State 33-0.
Three Things to Watch Out For:
1. Who starts at quarterback?
This is going to be an important question, especially since there isn’t a clear answer yet. Logan Bonner transfers in from Arkansas State and has experience but so does returning quarterback Andrew Peasley, who started last season after the dismissal of Jason Shelley. New head coach Blake Anderson could put both quarterbacks in against the Cougars and this wouldn’t be the first time that he has done this either after using a two quarterback season at Arkansas State. Whoever starts at quarterback is going to need to have success early against Washington State and create big plays for the receivers to take advantage of.
2. Can Utah State’s defense do better?
Utah State ranked 118th in the nation in forced turnovers and forced four total on the season. Four. Total. In order for the Aggies defense to do better and for the offense to have more chances, those numbers clearly need to improve. Utah State ranked 120th in the nation in total defense, giving up an average of 485.3 yards per game and ranked 103rd in passing yards allowed, allowing 206.7 passing yards per game. That doesn’t bode well against a team that likes to pass the football.
Cornerback Shawn Gates comes in from Akron, Ohio as a three star recruit and the Aggies also bring in talent through transfers in linebacker Patrick Joyner, linebacker Justin Rice, linebacker Byron Vaughns, defensive lineman Aurion Peoples, and cornerback Kyle Mayberry. The talent is there, Utah State just needs to play consistent.
3. Take advantage of every opportunity
As mentioned above, one way that Utah State can take advantage of their opportunities is to force turnovers where they can. Another area Utah State needs to improve in is red zone offense. Last season the Aggies were tied for 108th in this category, scoring 75% of the time. It’s important to remember that many teams played a shortened season, including Utah State. If Utah State doesn’t take advantage of opportunities to score, this game is going to be over fast. The same thing goes with stopping Washington State on third downs and in the red zone, the Aggies can’t afford to extend drives on defense and wear out quickly.
Utah State is going to be better than last season, I’m confident in that. However, the Aggies aren’t going to turn things completely around in one game. It might be a little closer than some expect early on in the game, but the second half of this game is going to make the difference. At this point, Utah State may just not have the type of growth they need to keep up because they are going to need to be able to score. Even with Jordan Love in 2019, the Aggies still struggled on offense. They might be able to put together some good drives, but it won’t be enough to get past the Cougars in Pullman.
Washington State: 45; Utah State: 17