Opponent: Utah State Aggies
Time: 7:00 P.M. Eastern
TV: CBS Sports Network
Location: Romney Stadium (Capacity: 25,513)
Head Coach: Matt Wells (2nd season; 9-5 overall)
Series History: None
2013 Record: 9-5 (7-2 Mountain West)
Last season Utah State finished 9-5, despite star quarterback Chuckie Keeton missing the second half of the season due to an injury suffered against BYU. The Aggies finished 60th in total offense and 12th in total defense. They capped off their season by winning 6 of their final 7 games, including a 21-14 victory over Northern Illinois in their bowl game.
It's only natural that the preview of the offense begins with quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Keeton has started 27 of his 28 career games and has accumulated 5,961 passing yards, 1,153 rushing yards, and 70 total touchdowns. It's pretty easy to see why the school has already started campaigning for him to win the Heisman Trophy. He completes two-thirds of his passes and will be a nightmare for defenses to try and contain throughout the season.
The Aggies lost running back Joey DeMartino, who had more than 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns last season on 5.5 yards/carry. Their leading returning rusher is, you guessed it, Chuckie Keeton. They will now rely on Joe Hill to be the primary back. He had a strong season in 2012, but time will tell how well he recovers from the injury he suffered last season.
Utah State will have to replace receivers Travis Van Leeuwen and Travis Reynolds, who combined for more than 100 receptions and nearly 1,500 receiving yards last season. Jo Jo Natson is their top returning receiver, but he lacks the explosiveness of Van Leeuwen and Reynolds. Ronald Butler averaged more than 14 yards/reception last season and will be counted on to provide explosive plays.
Utah State continues the unfortunate theme of having to replace offensive starters from last season. They do return left tackle Kevin Whippey, who has 26 career starts, but they lost five offensive linemen who had a combined 152 starts. It's never a good thing when you have a very inexperienced line and a quarterback returning from knee surgery.
This offense certainly has the flash of Keeton, but it's concerning that they lack substance and experience at other positions. Quarterback play gets the publicity, and it's the most important position, but the loss of the offensive linemen cannot be overstated.
Matt Wells is entering his second season as the head coach of the Utah State Aggies. Wells was a quarterback at Utah State from 1993-1996. He was been an assistant at Navy, Tulsa, New Mexico, and Louisville before becoming an quarterbacks coach at Utah State in 2011. He did a fine job continuing the good work of Gary Anderson, but will he be able to maintain this high level of play for years to come?
Part two will be out tomorrow, where the 2014 Utah State defense and special teams is broken down and a way-too-early prediction is given on the game.