by Daniel Olsen
While the Utah State Aggies struggled in 2020, they have a new coach and new expectations in 2021. It’s time to pull out the crystal ball and see just how the upcoming football season will go for USU. With the kickoff of this game being 59 days away, it’s time to start with the preview of a Mountain West Conference matchup against the Colorado State Rams.
2020-2021 Season in Review
While USU struggled with just one win in 2020, the Colorado State Rams did as well. They finished with a 1-3 record but did not face the Aggies after the game was cancelled. USU players decided to boycott the final game due to comments made by the university President that were perceived as discriminatory.
The lone with for the Rams came on November 5, 2021 in a 34-24 win over the Wyoming Cowboys. Their three losses were by a combined 64 points. While the Rams own a 39-35-2 all-time advantage over the Aggies, the Mountain West era has seen USU own a 4-3 advantage.
The Colorado defense isn’t known for creating turnovers, but this offseason saw plenty of defenders get into the backfield. This will prevent their opponents from getting huge gains. In fact, they might be getting plenty of tackles-for-loss if opponents can’t figure out how to think fast. Luckily the Aggies do want to be a fast paced team. They should look to adjust to the coverage that the Rams’ defense sends their way.
Scott Patchan is returning to the defensive line and will look to lead the way. He had 22 tackles in just four games last season. He had 33 in 13 games in 2019. He could be set up to have a career high in his senior year if he can stay healthy. The key to success for the Rams will be to create pressure because if the quarterback has time to make the right read, the Rams’ secondary won’t necessarily close that gap and make a play. They only had one interception last season.
The Rams do not have a strong offensive line. If the Aggies can get pressure from their solid first unit on defense, they should be able to force several turnovers to sway the game in their favor. Todd Centeio will likely be the quarterback despite completing less than 40 percent of his passes last year as the backup. If the Aggie defense can rattle Centeio early, it could be a long night for the Rams.
This should be a close game. Unless inclement weather comes to Cache Valley, the Aggies will be able to get the offense rolling without many slip-ups. In the last decade, this game has been fairly close with four games won by one possession. The biggest win in the Mountain West era in this matchup was a 15-point Aggie win in 2015. Expect to see the home team triumph by a margin of one or two possessions. It won’t be the highest scoring game, but it will be a battle won in the trenches on defense.
Prediction: USU 23 CSU 13
Featured image courtesy Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports