by Daniel Olsen
Last year, Utah State won all their non-conference football games except for a 34-20 home loss to BYU. They beat Washington State, North Dakota and New Mexico State respectively for an impressive 3-1 record outside of Mountain West play.
How will the Aggies fare in their prelude to Mountain West action in 2022? It’s time to take a look at these games in our weekly countdown series and predict how they will go.
Week 1 – USU @ Alabama
USU will be hoping to go into this game as one of 11 undefeated teams in the country. That would be the case if they can defeat the UConn Huskies in the prelude to the start of the 2022 college football season for the majority of FBS teams. The Crimson Tide will welcome the Aggies in a home opener in Tuscaloosa. The game will be played on September 3, 2022. The SEC Network will cover the TV broadcast. It will be the final game of the day on that channel at 5:30 p.m. MT.
The Aggies will be seeking their first ever victory over Alabama. Their only other official meeting resulted in a 48-17 win for the home team in Bryant Denney Stadium. The Aggies will receive $1.5 million for the trip.
Players to Watch
While the Aggies have three talented quarterbacks of their own, Alabama returns reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young. Alabama used to be strong at every position except maybe the quarterback position, but those days are long gone since highly talented athletes like Tua Taigovailoa and Mac Jones started playing under center.
As talented as Logan Bonner was in the USU passing attack last year, Young threw for over 1,000 more yards along with 11 more passing touchdowns. It helped that his leading receiver, Jameson Williams, was a first round NFL talent. The second leading receiver, John Metchie III, was selected in the second round. This means the lead returning player in receptions will be TE Cam Latu, who amassed 410 yards and eight receiving touchdowns last year.
The scary part about Alabama is they don’t rebuild——- they reload. Jimmy Stein, co-host of the Locked on Bama podcast, recently told us on our Alabama Preview podcast that he thinks the defense will be even better this year. That’s a scary thought since Alabama’s only weakness, if you could call it that, could have been their defense that allowed 20.2 points per game last year. That’s a top 25 defense, but not a top defense in the country or even in the SEC. They were third behind Georgia and Texas A&M, their only two losses of the season last year.
With Will Anderson Jr. in the backfield, last year’s Nagurski award winner, Crimson Tide opponents will quickly notice of the pain that their defensive unit can impose this year. This year the defense will only continue to rise with this experienced squad.
Best Places to Eat
While social media personalities like Big Game Boomer will mock Tuscaloosa for being heavy on national food chains, Jimmy Stein also named a few popular local restaurants for traveling Aggies to try: an affordable steakhouse nicknamed Nick’s in the Sticks, an Italian cuisine called DePalmas, and others. You can hear more about these recommendations starting at the 33 minute mark of this podcast:
Although Wyoming transfer Levi Williams didn’t outright predict a win over Alabama in our exclusive interview with him, he did notice last year that Alabama isn’t completely invincible. Many teams just didn’t take advantage of the Crimson Tide last year. If USU wants to take advantage, then they have to be willing to defend a fast, athletic team like they did against San Diego State and Oregon State to end last year.
While Stein respects Utah State as the Mountain West champions, he does feel like Alabama is on another level and should cover the four touchdown spread that will likely be placed on this game. The last time the Crimson Tide lost to a G5 program was the Utah Utes in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. Since then, Colorado State was the closest we have seen and that was still a 18 point loss for the Rams in 2017.
Final Score Prediction
Alabama 31 Utah State 10
USU will show up more on defense than they are given credit for. On the other hand, so will Alabama. Expect to see more of a three touchdown win for Alabama, and not until the second half when their athleticism takes over. This isn’t something the Aggies should be ashamed of. They did almost upset the defending national champion Auburn Tigers 11 years ago, and stranger things have happened. The Aggies need to find a way to make the clutch plays they did throughout last season and not let themselves get in an early hole to have a puncher’s chance.
Featured image courtesy KSL