The Aggies started out their 2011 year with a slow 2-5 mark but won their last 5 regular-season contests to reach a bowl game for the first time in 15 years. They finished the season with a 7-6 record following an one-point defeat to Ohio in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. They were actually better than their record indicated as 4 of their defeats came by 4 points or less.
They hope to ultimately bring in a league title after tying for second in the WAC last year with a 5-2 record.
Utah State was the highest scoring school in the league last season after putting up a whopping 33.6 points/game. They also rated second in the league in total offense with 457.3 yards/contest. Their superb rushing attack was the reason their offense was performing so strongly all season.
Utah State had one of the best rushing attacks in the nation last season. They led the WAC with 282.7 rushing yards/contest. With the departure of Michael Smith and Robert Turbin, the squad is at risk of having a major drop off in 2012. They do have ultra fast Kerywynn Williams coming back, and he’ll make sure the running game remains strong moving forward.
The QB spot is in good hands with both Chuckie Keeton and Adam Kennedy in charge. The two headed monster of Keeton and Kennedy allows the Aggies to have 2 quarterbacks capable of directing the offense. Both have had starting jobs as Keeton was the starter at the start of 2011 completing 61% of his attempts for 1,200 yards before braving an injury in their eighth game. Kennedy would go on to start the rest of the way and helped the Aggies become bowl eligible while connecting on 69% of his attempts for 972 yards with 11 scores and 4 interceptions.
Whoever gets the beginning nod will get advantages from the return of wide receiver Matt Austin, who was granted a 6th year of eligibility. He caught 34 passes for 465 yards and 6 touchdowns last season.
Three starters, including all-league center Tyler Larsen, come back on the offensive line.
The defensive unit led the WAC in total defense in 2011 with 366.2 yards permitted per game. It finished third in the conference in scoring defense with 27.9 points allowed per contest.
With the guidance of linebackers Bobby Wagner and Kyle Gallagher, the Aggies rated second in the WAC in run defense with 127.8 yards surrendered per matchup. With both of those players gone, it’s now up to Tavaris McMillian and Jake Doughty to be sure the defense continues to be strong against the run.
With the loss of a few key stars, McMillian and Doughty will not likely have as much support from the defensive line, unlike in previous campaigns.
The secondary is in fine condition with 3 of four starters back, including safety McKade Brady, who is the team’s top returning tackler.
WAC Prediction: 2nd Place
Utah State will face some troublesome non-conference games against Utah, Wisconsin, Colorado State and BYU. Three of those games are away from home, and if they can win one of those games, then they’re going to have a brilliant opportunity to win 8 contests.
The Aggies should win their other non-conference games against Southern Utah and UNLV. They should additionally be in a position to handle all of their conference games with the exception of Louisiana Tech.
With a powerful team and a manageable schedule, the possibility for a second straight bowl game is unquestionably practical.
Jack Jones offers predictions on all of the schools over at his site Bet Firms.