Boise State 2009 opponent preview: Utah State

Projected Record: 4-8 overall, 3-5 conference
At-a-glance: New head coach Gary Andersen will pay dividends for the Aggies, but people need to give him a couple years. He's working with the Utah State defense, people. He's a football coach, not a miracle worker.

All good things must come to an end, including the high comedy that has been Utah State football over the past decade. So long, guffaws at the expense of 52-0 beatdowns by Boise State. Hello, relative competitiveness.

With a new head coach and a not-awful quarterback, the Aggies are poised to climb their way out of the WAC cellar. And just when my Brent Guy Face was getting really good! Will this be the Aggies' year? Probably not, but it could be the start of a significant attitude change for the program. At the very least, USU is headed in the right direction. How long it takes them to get there is the next big question.

Wins in 2008: 3
Pythagorean Wins in 2008: 3.5
Translation: Utah State was about as bad as they looked
Returning starters: Offense: 9, Defense: 7
Strength of Schedule: 80
Recruiting ranking 2005-2009: 88, 118, 107, 116, 103 (nat'l ranking from Scout.com)
WAC recruiting ranking 2005-2009: 4, 8, 8, 7, 6

Five Questions

Is new Utah State head coach Gary Andersen as unrealistic as I think he is?

I assume you are referring to Andersen's bold assertion that he's looking to join Boise State at the top of the conference. (Or maybe you are referring to the fact that the best job Utah's defensive coordinator could land after an undefeated season and a bowl win against Alabama was the Utah State gig.)

Will it happen? Maybe someday. Andersen seems to have all the makings of a good head coach, even though his only experience in that capacity came at a one year stint at Southern Utah. If he recruits the Utah area well, and if he gets his players to buy into his philosophies, Utah State will not be terrible in the future. It should be noted that Boise State is also not terrible, so maybe that will be good enough for Andersen. Besides, if he pulls the trick of getting Utah State to back-to-back six-win seasons, he is so gone anyway.

With apologies to the spread offense, what will Utah State's spread offense look like?

Well, QB Diondre Borel flashed good potential last season as a dual-threat quarterback. RB Robert Turbin was solid as a runner and a receiver. WRs Stanley Morrison and Nnamdi Gwacham both had 20 or more catches last year. The components for a spread offense are there, but to accurately compare USU's spread to that of other schools across the country would be like comparing Duplos to Legos. Yes, they're both building-block toys. But no, they are not the same.

One big question mark on how the USU spread will work is the play of the offensive line. Last year, the O-line could charitably be defined as bad. The Aggies return a group of experienced linemen who may compose one of the best USU lines in years. Is that saying much? No. But it is saying that they should be better than last year.

Besides, when all else fails, Utah State can just run the "Diondre, try not to get tackled" play.



Is Andersen's new pressure-based, man-to-man defense really the best idea for Utah State?

Considering that the Aggies allowed 37 points and 412 yards of offense per game last season, anything will be an improvement. Utah State may not have the personnel to pull off any defense effectively at this point, but they do have a strong group of quick, athletic players who can fly to the ball and hopefully figure out what to do when they get there.

The best of the bunch is senior LB Paul Igboeli, an undersized hitter and the leader of the D. Apart from Igboeli, Andersen will need to work miracles with the defensive line (featuring some big JUCO fellas), and the secondary could benefit from hitting puberty. It will be a learning process for the Aggie defense, but Andersen is the right person to be teaching them. And he'll benefit from not having Oregon on the schedule this time.

 



Will Brent Guy be receiving a "Congratulations! Utah State five wins in 2009" ring in the mail?

Guy should certainly not be forgotten when USU pulls itself out of the WAC also-rans. He was building something at Utah State, whether he was aware of it or not. From an outsider's perspective, it seemed like the players recognized Guy's hard work since they didn't quit on him late in the season (a close loss to LaTech, an easy win over NMSU). Andersen should consider himself fortunate he is not starting from scratch, as Guy was.

Do your best to name one area that Utah State needs to improve in 2009.

Consistency. Here is all you need to know about the up-and-down performance from the Aggies last season.

In the three wins, coming against Idaho, Hawaii, and New Mexico State, Utah State scored a total of 119 points. It scored 169 points in the nine losses with 38 coming against Louisiana Tech and 28 coming against Fresno State.

Schedule around the Boise State game

  • 11/7 @ Hawaii
  • 11/14 San Jose State
  • 11/20 Boise State
  • 11/28 @ Idaho
  • End of season

By the numbers

  • 5'9", 155 pounds - the size of Utah State's No. 1 cornerback Kejon Murphy ... also the size of my 12-year-old nephew
  • 58 yards - the length of the game-winning field goal that Fresno kicker Kevin Goessling nailed last season against the Aggies with no time left on the clock to give the Bulldogs a 30-28 win. If USU could have held on, Brent Guy might still be around.

Gary Andersen has vowed to change the culture of Utah State football. Might I suggest he start with an easier nonconference schedule?

The Aggies are doomed to start 1-3, with away games at BYU, Utah, and Texas A&M on the schedule. In fact, four of the Aggies' first five games are on the road. That's not exactly the way to instill confidence in your team. Utah State should be okay when it hits the soft underbelly of the WAC, but by then, Andersen may have lost the momentum he gained from big promises and sweeping change in the offseason.

Utah State will be better, but so will many other teams in the WAC. QB Diondre Borel is good, but he has room to grow. The defense has a few playmakers, but it has just as many holes. The 2009 season for Utah State seems destined to be a lesson in patience. They'll lose more often than they'd like to lose, and they'll measure their progress in terms of loss margin rather than wins.

I guess this means I'll have at least one more season to work in some more Utah State jokes.

Looks like Gary Andersen and I both have some work to do.

Perfect situation:
Borel becomes the next Colin Kaepernick, the D-line goes all Boise State circa 2008, USU splits its nonconference, upsets some WAC teams, goes bowling

Reality:
Borel struggles to grasp the spread, the defense fails against good teams, the Aggies surprise some WAC teams and get surprised by others, we all go through the "this is Utah State's year" hype again next year

Final record:
4-8 overall, 3-5 conference

Previous previews of 2009 opponents: Oregon. Miami (Ohio). Bowling Green. UC Davis. Tulsa. San Jose State. Still to come: the rest of the WAC.

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