We once again have enlisted the help of Brett Hein from The Upset Blog to help us preview this week's opponent. Brett helped us preview the Weber State game to start the season. They do a great job of covering the WAC, MWC, PAC 12, Big Sky and have great insight into all the Utah based schools.
This is certainly a very interesting match up for both teams and one where you almost are forced to throw out the records. Thanks to Brett for answering these questions and handling question #4 well.
1. Obviously Utah State is 1-3 right now but there have been plenty of close calls. What type of record do the Aggies deserve at this point? Are the Aggies cursed?
"Deserve" is an interesting word ... because at some point every team deserves the record they have. But I'm not sure if Utah State deserves the brutal losses it has endured. The Aggies have dominated 58 minutes of every game it has played, but in three of them it was the last two minutes that killed them. They are quite literally three plays away from being 4-0 --- the onside kick against Auburn that they didn't scheme for properly; the muffed punt return with two minutes left against Colorado State; and either the 50+ yard bomb or the tipped overthrow BYU caught for a TD, both on BYU's final drive, take your pick.
I don't believe in curses -- all three of the plays I highlighted above were not freak plays, they were preventable. But about curses, the outcome of this game against Wyoming could largely depend on whether or not Utah State believes in them. If the Aggies develop a defeatist attitude, they could let the rest of their season be ruined. I don't see Gary Andersen letting that happen, however.
2. The Aggies are averaging a WAC best 37.5 points and 463 yards per game this season. What is the main reason for the big improvement this year?
There are many reasons, but I will start with these two words. ROBERT. TURBIN. Turbin ran for 1,300 yards two years ago, but last year missed the entire season with a hurt knee. In his absence, Kerwynn Williams
and Michael Smith got some experience, and now all three are back leading one of the nation's best run games. Turbin reminds me a lot of ex-Colorado State back Gartrell Johnson, except with twice the muscle.
But a key reason being overshadowed by the return of Turbin is that quarterback Chuckie Keeton
, as a true freshman, has been light years better than Diondre Borel
was even as a senior. Borel completed 53% of his passes and threw 8 TD's and 13 INT's as a senior. So far, Keeton completes 62% of his passes and has thrown 4 TD's with ZERO interceptions. He really has looked like a seasoned veteran, and there is no way to overstate it. He can run every bit as well as Borel, but he stays within the offense much better.
3. Utah State is roughly an 10 or 11 points favorite over Wyoming. Does that seem right or should the game be closer?
Considering that Wyoming's run defense is in the bottom-fourth nationally, and Utah State's rushing offense is fifth in the country, I'm going to say 10 points feels about right just based on an odds-maker's view.
4. Chuckie Keeton or Brett Smith - Pick One.
Now that's not fair. Statistically, Keeton is the better quarterback, but not by much. On one hand, Smith throws for more yards, which is requisite in Wyoming's offense compared to Utah State's. Keeton isn't needed to throw for 250 per game, but has been capable in every throw asked of him. Smith has thrown more interceptions, but has also thrown many more attempts. Right now, I'd say Keeton, just because I think he has proven himself against better competition four games into the season. But it's close, really close. By year's end, the answer could easily be Smith. Give Smith the Utah State run game and it's possible his efficiency is better. So it's almost a draw, but I'll say Keeton by a hair.
5. Is there a weakness in the Aggie defense that Wyoming can exploit?
I think Utah State can be beat deep, but they haven't played anybody who could really test it. Auburn and BYU both showed that Utah State is susceptible to big plays. If Wyoming can exploit that, that could open up some other things for the Pokes.
6. Complete the sentence: "Wyoming will beat Utah State if ____________"
I want to say, "If Utah State is winning by 8 or less with two minutes left, Wyoming will win." Utah State's Achilles' heel is turnovers. If Wyoming can force the Aggies into turnovers at crucial moments like Utah State's other opponents, they can easily beat them. But if not, they will likely get worn down by Utah State's run game.
Utah State 31 Wyoming 26