The Utah State Aggies face a huge challenge when they arrive on the Smurf Turf on Saturday night. There is nothing “Holy” about THIS rivalry. It’s just smash mouth Mountain West Football.
Some might not call it a rivalry. They say the Broncos have won two straight over the Aggies. Well the Broncos have beaten a lot of good teams. They have also had a couple close losses to schools like Fresno, San Diego State and even Wyoming in recent years. However, perhaps nobody has dominated them in the way that Utah State did in recent memory. The Aggies did a classic “Double Trouble” when they doubled Boise’s score 52-26 thanks to forcing 7 turnovers.
There are several scenarios in which the Aggies could win but there are reasons they could lose as well. Whether your mom is a cross between Mrs. Potato Head and a Smurf or a farmer’s daughter from the spot where the sagebrush grows, it’s easy to see why this is an exciting game. The winner goes to the Mountain West championship with a shot at a New Year’s Six Bowl and the loser goes…. probably back to Boise to play in the Idaho Potato Bowl.
The Broncos would rather have their next home game against Fresno next week instead of the Idaho Potato Bowl. Idahoans have lived their whole life on potatoes. It must get old. The Aggies would also not like to play in Boise for the rest of the season. Playing in the “Famous” Idaho Potato Bowl at Albertson’s Stadium would only run salt into the wound, and maybe potato chunks and bacon bits too.
So what are the three keys to success for the Aggies? It starts on each of these sides of the ball:
1. Key on Offense: Be what you’ve been most of the year and score fast
In wins, Utah State scores 51.1 points per game. In their lone loss they scored 31 points against Michigan State. That may be trivial until you look at the numbers in depth.
In their two single digit wins, the Aggies scored just 24 and 29 points against two teams that currently have losing records. You could argue that the Air Force game became a close nerve wracking game in a matter of seconds before the Aggies ultimately got the 10 point game.
Aside from these three close wins and the lone loss, the Aggies have won seven blowouts, outscoring teams by an average of 40.3 points per game. It’s hard to judge the quality of the Aggie wins though as the only teams that Utah State has beaten that currently have winning records are Hawaii and BYU.
There is an explanation for that. The Aggies have played the teams in front of them. The Mountain Division has really only been a two horse race between the literal Bronco horses of Boise State and the Aggies of Utah State. The West Division has been much tougher with four teams that currently have winning records and the Aggies only had to play the bottom three teams in that division.
The bottom line is that Boise State is a good team so the Aggies will have to set the offensive tone early. The Aggies won’t win this game in the 20s. They will need at least 30 points and then it will still be a toss up. It’s looking like it will be a classic game if both teams play up to their potential.
Key on Defense: Blitz Brett Rypien
Boise State is a very good defensive team which might be the one team that can stifle the Aggie offense especially in Potato country. However, they are no slouch on offense either. Against the team the Aggies nearly lost to last week, the Colorado State Rams and Wyoming Cowboys, Boise doubled their score 56-28.
The last time Utah State beat Boise State in 2015, they doubled THEIR score 52-26. Rypien was just a freshman and made a lot of rookie mistakes but throwing 3 interceptions. Since then Boise State has learned from their mistakes and hasn’t throw ANY picks in their last two wins over the Aggies. When Rypien has time to throw he finds the open man. The Aggies will have to pressure him to make him relive the erratic tendencies he displayed his freshman year.
Key on Special Teams: Be special
Special players don’t muff punts. They don’t shank kicks either. They don’t lose onside kicks either. That is why the Aggies have had a special season so far and have worked to make amends for the special teams mistakes they made in yesteryear. The Aggies almost lost to Colorado State and that muffed punt return that resulted in a lost fumble with 7 minutes to go. Deven Thompkins, was the return guy for the Aggies made the freshman mistake that could have made them the scapegoat had the Colorado State receiver not stepped out of bounds before catching what they thought was the game winning touchdown.
Bottom Line: This isn’t pee wee football. This is Boise State, a team that has been to multiple BCS bowls and won them. They might not pull off the classic fake Statue of Liberty play that made them famous but they will make the Aggies earn every inch.
Prediction: Again, as I predicted all season, I predict one more loss for the Aggies this season. It might be today or it might be in the Mountain West championship game or it might be in a big time bowl game. For the future of the program I would rather win the Mountain West and get the big time money from either the Vegas or Fiesta Bowl. I know I predicted Boise would win at the beginning of the year but now I will go out on a limb and say the Aggies win this and even the game against Fresno in the championship. However, it will be hard to beat a PAC-12 team in the Vegas Bowl. Even a Utes team missing their QB and running back would be challenging.
I’m calling it. Aggies win by 7 against Boise, then win by 14 in the Mountain West championship game, then lose by 21 to Washington State in the Fiesta Bowl. UCF just lost their quarterback. Memphis is a threat in their title game for the American Conference title.
Hey, with a 4 million dollar payout, you can’t argue with the results that would bring to the Aggies and Mountain West.