Opponent: Utah State Aggies
Time: 7:00 PM EST
TV: CBS Sports Network
Location: Logan, Utah - Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium
Head Coach: Matt Wells (2nd season, 10-6 overall)
Series History: First meeting
2013 Record: 9-5 (7-1 in conference, won the Poinsettia Bowl)
Both teams enter their third week of play with an even 1-1 record. The Aggies were blown out by the Volunteers of Tennessee in Knoxville, while we all know about the Deacons' loss in Louisiana. John Wolford and the offense finally came alive last weekend against Gardner-Webb, but Wake is officially out of Division I-AA teams to play for the rest of the season. A lot of young players will need to grow up quickly to have a chance at upending the Aggies.
Taking the helm on offense is senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who returns after suffering an injury last season. Before going down, he was putting up pretty impressive numbers. He completed nearly 70% of his passes and maintained a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 9:1. There's no doubt that Keeton can make plays with the ball in his hand, what's questionable is his supporting cast.
The team lost a 1,200 yard rusher in Joey DeMartino and will have to make up the the 51 catches and 832 yards that Travis Reynolds contributed last season. Out of six players who got time on the offensive line in 2013, five need to be replaced. For an offense that was 50th in the nation in scoring last year, all of the inexperience does not bode well.
Supporting Keeton will be running back Joe Hill and receivers Brandon Swindall and Ronald Butler. Hill also went down with an injury last year, while Swindall and Butler put up decent numbers as lower guys on the depth chart.
The Aggie offense was certainly respectable last season, but defense is where the team really shined. They were seventh in the nation in the scoring in 2013 and return several key playmakers. In the linebacking corps, outside starters Kyler Fackrell and Nick Vigil return, while Zach Vigil and Travis McMillian man the middle. This quartet will be crucial if the Aggies hope to match the 2.8 yards per rush they allowed a year ago.
In 2013, what the secondary lacked in coverage skills, it made up for in run defense. The back four was incredibly active and could be a hole in this year's squad. Three of the four starters are gone, so some sort of regression is expected. The lone returning player is senior safety Brian Suite, who had a nice campaign in which he compiled 57 tackles and five interceptions.
Against Tennessee the secondary showed its youth, allowing the Volunteers to cruise to 38 points on three passing scores. Even against a much weaker Idaho State team, the Aggies still allowed 20 points (while scoring 40 of their own). Young John Wolford may be the perfect dose of medicine to fix their defensive woes, but this doesn't appear to be as strong of a unit as in previous years.
Definitely a plus for the Aggies on special teams. Last week talented returner JoJo Natson ripped off a 52-yard return for a score. Punter Jaron Bentrude was also solid, averaging over 40 yards on seven punts. Kicker Nick Diaz looks decent in short yardage situations, but he has only taken two attempts on the year, with the longest going for 31 yards.
Wake's defense should keep the score in respectable range, but I don't think Wolford is ready for this test on the road yet. I'll take the Aggies by a final tally of 21-10.