Ranking the Importance of the 12 games of the USU season
By Jacob Nielson: The 2019 football season has been met with hype and anticipation seldom before seen in Cache Valley. With the return of Head Coach Gary Anderson, Star quarterback Jordan Love, and a talented defense, expectations are high in Bridgerland. But there are question marks as well. How will the new staff perform? How will the offense make up for the loss of RB Darwin Thompson and a handful of talented Wide Receivers? How will they handle the toughest schedule possibly ever? These questions will remain unawnsered until the season begins, but for now, lets take a look at the games we play, and rank the anticipation/importance level for all 12.
- 12. Stony Brook (9/7): The second game on the schedule will be the lightest test of the year, an opportunity for Mike Sanfords offense to work out the kinks, and for the Freshman students to memorize the Scottsman because that thing will likely be played like 35 times this game.
- 11. New Mexico (11/30): The final game of the season will be against a lowly Lobos team that is expected to be last place in the mountain division. With the presumably automatic dub the Aggies post-season destiny will most likely not be decided at this point and this game will not be one of the defining moments of the season.
- 10. Colorado St (9/28): Last years fail-mary debacle went from one of the most gut-wrenching moments of the season to one of the highest moments of jubilation within seconds. Heres to hoping this years game goes a little smoother. The Rams have to replace almost their entire offense and have an extremely inefficient defense. The Aggie defense led by Woodward and Galeai should feast on this inexperienced squad and should come out with an ever important division victory.
- 9. Nevada (10/19): This could be higher than 9th. But you look at the rest of the games on the list and you say, fetch, this schedule is really hard. The Wolf Pack will invade Logan led by Running back Toa Taua and a pretty solid front seven. Love should look to exploit a flimsy secondary and rack up the passing yards. The same could be said for several others games, but this one is a must win for the Aggies if they are to achieve their conference championship aspirations.
- 8. Wake Forest (8/30): The opening game of the season comes on a Friday night out in North Carolina against a low-tier ACC school that pounded the Aggies at home in 2017. Big Blue will be looking to get their first win over a power 5 team since, well, this same team, back in 2014. This game is a huge tone setter for the season and a huge test for this new staff. Especially with Gary Anderson promoting the Aggies as a Power 5 team themselves, if they can’t beat the Demon Deacons nobody will be taking them seriously.
- 7. Wyoming (11/16): I don’t care what anyone says, the Battle for the Bridger Rifle is freaking dope and is a cooler rivalry trophy than the wagon wheel. USU will be trying to secure the Rifle for back to back years and pick up an important late season victory against a division rival. This game always seems to cause fits for the Aggies, but this nationally televised home game should go their way if they exploit Freshman QB Sean Chambers and establish the run game.
- 6. Air Force (10/26): Last year’s white out vs. the Falcons was one of the most fun and memorable games of the season. This years game will prove to be important as well. Air Force is predicted to finish 3rd in the Mountain division, and USU has not won in Colorado Springs since 2013. They need to send Spida Mitchell out on a fighter jet to Colorado to help rally the team to victory.
- 5. LSU (10/5): Auburn in 2011. Wisconsin in 2012. USC in 2013. Michigan State in 2018. All games against marquee opponents that Utah State just let slip out of their hands. An excursion down to the Bayou will be yet another chance for Gary’s crew to get a statement win for the program. An expected top 10 team lead by QB Joe Burrow and a feisty defense, the Tigers will be the stiffest test of the year for the Aggies. But you never know. It’s any given Saturday. Love could start flinging the ball around and magic could happen.
- 4. San Diego St: (9/21): This game against the Aztecs is a ginormous test early in the season. The first conference game will be on the road in an unfriendly environment, against an SDSU team looking for something to prove after a dismal 2018. Led by arguably the top RB in the conference Juwan Washington and an athletic defense, they will be ready to give Utah St everything they can handle. A win in this one would set the Aggies up for success. Starting conference play with a win would really give life to this team, while a loss would put the pressure on, and put USU one step behind Boise right from the start.
- 3. Fresno St (11/9): The returning Mountain West champion Bulldogs are looking to pick up where they left off. They have reloaded on offense with former JUCO transfers QB Jorge Reyna and WR Derrion Grimm leading the way and have high hopes of continued success. This could prove to be a rowdy game in front of 40,000 Fresno fans, and will certainly be one of the toughest tests of the season. In a loaded in November, this game falls a week after the BYU game. Hopefully the players are not emotionally drained and are ready to rise to the occasion. A win here would be huge, and likely set up the matchup with Boise for the division. Hopefully we see these guys in December.
- 2. BYU (11/2): This game obviously does not have any implications in the conference, but the matchup against this team down south gets the fanbase and the university more excited and united then any other game can. This year the Battle for the Wagon Wheel has even bigger implications, because these Aggies have a chance to beat BYU 3 times in a row for the first time since 1974, which would be pretty special for the program, increasing support from alumni, improving recruiting, and further solidify USU as a legitimate player in the state. Achieving that will not be easy, having to face Sophomore Zach Wilson and a motivated Cougar squad, but this game sure will be fun. Expect this November Black Out atmosphere to be off the charts.
- 1. Boise St (11/23): While last year’s schedule had USU evading the good teams in Pacific division, this year they run into the best three, (SDSU, Fresno, and Nevada) while Boise St gets the cream puffs, (San Jose St., UNLV, and Hawaii). So already from the start the Broncos have a huge advantage in the division with a much easier schedule to go through. For that reason this all-important matchup is magnified to an even higher degree. This home game is the 11th game of the season, and may feel like the eleventh hour, with how much that is at stake. The Conference Title will most likely be on the line, as well as all the hopes and dreams and bowl game aspirations that come with it. This year has the potential to turn into something special, but if the game turns into a dud, its probably back to the patty cake bowl to play some 6-6 MAC team. The Broncos ruined Utah States season season last year and it’s time to return the favor.
Follow Jacob on Twitter @jacobnielson12