College Football Beehive State Battle: Utah State Aggies at Utah Utes

Utah State Aggies at Utah Utes
Rice-Eccles Stadium – Salt Lake City, Utah
Thursday, August 29, 2013, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: Fox Sports 1
Opening Line: Pick
Current Line: Utah -2 1/2
Opening Total: 54
Current Total: 51 1/2
Opening Money Line: Utah -110 / Utah State -110
Current Money Line: Utah -140 / Utah State +120

Utah takes on in-state rival Utah State to open the season Thursday night in Salt Lake City.
Utah takes on in-state rival Utah State to open the season Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

The Utah Utes and Utah State Aggies meet for the 111th time Thursday night in Salt Lake City. Utah leads the series 77-29-4, but had a 12 game winning streak against the Aggies snapped last year in Logan as Utah State won 27-20 in overtime. The series could be in jeopardy as Utah plays nine games in the Pac 12, which makes it difficult to schedule games against both BYU and Utah State. Utah does not play either team next year.

Utah went 5-7 last year in the Pac 12. The Utes did beat rival BYU last year 24-21 but every other win was against teams with losing records. For Utah State, it was a banner year. The Aggies were 11-2  with narrow losses at Wisconsin and BYU by a total of 5 points. The Aggies went 6-0 in the WAC and won the league title before the WAC dissolved. Utah State won their last 7 games including a 41-15 romp over Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Aggies are now in the Mountain West.

Utah State head coach Gary Anderson left to take the Wisconsin job. The Aggies are looking for their third straight winning season under new coach Matt Wells, who was promoted from offensive coordinator. Utah State hasn’t had 3 straight winning seasons since 1978-1980. The offense last year was in the top 40 nationally in scoring, passing, rushing, and total offense under Wells. Kevin McGiven takes over as the coordinator for Wells.

Junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton was the WAC offensive player of the year last season. Keeton completed 67.6% of his passes for 3,373 yards with 27 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Keeton was also the second leading rusher with  129 carries for 619 yards and 8 touchdowns. The Aggies must replace leading rusher Kerwynn Williams, now with the Indianapolis Colts. He rushed for over 1,500 yards with 15 touchdowns, and also had 697 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. Junior Joe Hill will be the feature back, after rushing for 269 yards and 7 touchdowns, and he also caught 10 passes, including 2 for touchdowns. Utah State must also replace their two leading receivers Matt Austin and Chuck Jacobs along with tight end Kellen Bartlett. Senior  Receiver Travis Reynolds looks to be the go-to receiver after making 25 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown last year. The offensive line returns all 5 starters.

Utah State’s defense was #7 in points allowed last year and #14 in total defense nationally. Aside from a 48-41 overtime win at Louisiana Tech, no other team scored more than 27 points against the Aggie defense and that was San Jose St, a game won by Utah St 49-27. The Aggies didn’t allow more than 20 points to any other team including allowing only 16 and 6 to Wisconsin and BYU respectively in narrow losses. The Aggies suffered some losses from that unit, but the linebackers should be among the best in the Mountain West if not the country, led by Zach Vigil and Jake Doughty. Defensive end Connor Williams had 6 sacks last year. Corner Nevin Lawson is an elite talent as well.

Utah is coached by Kyle Whittingham. Last year was the first in 10 seasons, that Utah did not qualify for a bowl. The Utes were 75th nationally in scoring at 26.7 points per game, and were #108 in total offense. Whittingham brought in Dennis Erickson as the co-offensive coordinator, who wants to install a more up tempo offense.

Sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson takes over as the full time starter for the oft injured Jordan Wynn. Wilson took over midway through the season after Wynn injured his shoulder again and Jon Hays was ineffective. Wilson completed 62.7% of his passes for 1,311 yards with 7 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions, and also added 4 rushing touchdowns.  Senior Kelvin York looks to replace 1,000 yard rusher John White. York had 60 carries, 273 yards and 3 touchdowns last year. Junior receiver Dres Anderson had 36 catches, 365 yards and 3 touchdowns to lead the Utes last year. Junior receiver Kenneth Scott (32 catches, 360 yards, and 3 touchdowns) and junior tight end Jake Murphy (33 catches, 349 yards and 4 touchdowns) also return. The offensive line will be anchored by left tackle  Jeremiah Poutasi.

The Utah defense gave up around 25 points per game which was #49 in the country. The defense must replace talented defensive tackle Star Lotuleiei now in the NFL. The Utes move linebacker Trevor Reilly up to the line after he made 69 tackles and 4.5 sacks last year. Senior linebacker Brian Blechen and safety Eric Rowe are also very talented.

Utah was 5-7 ATS and the total was 6-5 last season. The Utes ate 4-1 ATS at home, 7-3 against MWC teams, 6-13 on fieldturf, and 1-3-1 in Thursday games. The over is 3-1-1 in this series recently.

Utah State was 11-1-1 ATS last year and the total was 3-9 last year. The Aggies are 5-0-1 ATS in road games, 10-1 in non-conference games, 9-1-1 on fieldturf, 12-3-1 overall, and 2-5-1 against Pac 12 teams. The road team is 5-1-1 ATS in series recently, and Utah State is 3-1-1 ATS in Salt Lake City.

Utah needs to be much better on offense, or it could be another long season in Salt lake City. It would certainly be embarrassing for Utah to lose  twice in a row to a team they consider to be the “little brother”. Although Utah State is simply a better team on both sides of the ball. Utah wins but it takes a late field goal at home.


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