Utah State - Utah TV viewer guide
Game day: August 29, 5 p.m. PT
Stadium: Rice-Eccles Stadium – Salt Lake City, Utah
Utah State - Utah TV information: Fox Sports 1
Story lines: Consider this an early-season measuring stick for the Utes. Last season, Utah dropped a 27-20 overtime decision to the eventual WAC champion Aggies. That doesn’t usually happen when these two schools get together—it was the first loss suffered by the Utes in the 110-game series since 1997. It also turned out to be a bit of a harbinger for Kyle Whittingham’s crew—Utah finished 5-7 and had its nine-year bowl streak snapped. Things are obviously different for both teams this time around. The biggest off-season news in Salt Lake City was the hiring of Dennis Erickson as co-offensive coordinator to rejuvenate an offense that finished 105th out of 120 teams in the FBS in yards per game. So far, so good: the Ute offensive units combined for 797 yards and 63 points in the 40-minute spring game, thus bringing a lot of optimism to The MUSS and other Utes fans. Yes, the defensive schemes used in the spring game were pretty basic, but still, that’s a lot of yards and points for two-thirds of a game with a running clock in the second half.
That doesn't mean there aren't questions to be answered with the offense, however. Replacing The Wolfman AKA Juan Blanco Cuatro AKA John White at running back will be a must, but Kelvin York appears healthy and ready to claim the starting spot. And, while Kenneth Scott and Dres Anderson are solid pass-catching options, the Utes are still looking to solidify a third receiver (plenty of bodies to choose from, however). All of this for the recently named team captain Travis Wilson, as the quarterback was given the vote of confidence by his teamates this week. He has the playmaking ability to get the Utes back to a bowl game; will he prove to be just as good of a leader?
Perhaps an even bigger issue is replacing Star Lotulelei and Joe and Dave Kruger up front, as all three defensive linemen are off to the NFL. This is what makes Trevor Reilly one of the most important players for Utah, as the senior lineman/linebacker/team captain was the leading tackler for Utah last year with 69 stops.
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The Aggies head into the new season with a new conference affiliation (the Mountain West Conference as opposed to the Western Athletic Conference) and a new head coach who is not at all new to Logan. After Gary Andersen left for Wisconsin, the administration promoted offensive coordinator and former Utah State quarterback Matt Wells to head coach. So while there is a new head honcho, don’t expect too much to change, especially when 18 starters, including first-team all-WAC quarterback/Heisman candidate Chuckie Keeton and his five protectors up front. This is the first of two games against Pac-12 opponents for the Aggies, who also travel to USC in September.
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All three of Utah’s non-conference games are against teams from Utah, so this game will be step one to reclaiming dominance in the Beehive State. If step one is to go in the right direction, then the first quarter will be more key than usual. Utah State outscored opponents 138-9 in the first 15 minutes of its 13 games last year and were the only team in the nation to not allow a first-quarter touchdown. That trend did not skip by the 2012 meeting between these two schools, as the Aggies carried a 13-0 lead into the second quarter before Utes rallied behind the play of quarterbacks Jon Hays and now-starter Travis Wilson to force overtime. Those two filled in for Jordan Wynn, who took his last collegiate snap after suffering a shoulder injury during the Sept. 7, 2012, contest.
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TOMORROW | 7:00pm PTLive