Date & Time: September 13, 2008, 6:00 MST
Radio: Kall 700
Location: Romney Stadium, Logan, Utah
All-time series: Utah leads 74-29-4
Last meeting: 2007 (Utah 34, Utah State 18)
The most important thing about Saturday's game might not have anything to do with the Aggies and everything to do with the health of Brian Johnson. Late in last week's victory over UNLV, Johnson was hit and went down, bruising the shoulder that has been giving him so much trouble the past two seasons. Will he play and if he does, will he stay healthy? These are big questions, because it's pretty obvious the success of Utah's season rests on Johnson's arm. Even if it's a slight nagging injury, that could cause problems for the remainder of the games and may be the difference between the great season we're all hoping for and a fairly average one.
Luckily, at this point, the injury does not seem to be that serious and I expect Johnson will be fine. But you can't be too careful and it would royally suck if he reinjured his shoulder in a game against the freaking Aggies. And I say that because Utah State is undoubtedly the weakest team on Utah's schedule -- yes, even weaker than Weber State.
The Aggies are 0-2 entering Saturday's game against the Utes and are coming off a thrashing at Oregon, where they lost 66-24. The week before, USU stumbled against UNLV, a team Utah just defeated. On all accounts, this should be over at the half and it probably will be. The Aggies haven't given Utah a game since 2001, when Utah won by 4 and haven't claimed a victory in the series in over ten years. That was the height of the John L. Smith days in Logan and a lot has changed since he bolted for Louisville. Utah has won ten straight against the Aggies, currently the longest winning streak in the series by either team, and have only lost twice in the past twenty years. This is as lopsided as lopsided gets and does anyone really expect that to change this Saturday? I don't.
The Aggies' offense shouldn't put any fear into Utah. They're averaging only 20 points per game and still haven't figured out which quarterback will go against the Utes. Sean Setzer is the current starter, however, Diondre Borel very well could get the nod Saturday. Neither have put up extremely impressive numbers, but Borel seems to be the likely and best choice to lead the Aggie offense.
Outside of their passing game, which has been pretty anemic, Utah State still hasn't figured out how to run the ball very well. They're nearly at the bottom of the country in that regard, with only 96.5 yards per game. So expect them to test Utah's secondary, which has been as good as advertised this season for the Utes. That may be their only hope in this game, especially when you consider the Aggies defense couldn't stop Stephen Hawking from scoring on them.
It's only the third game of the season and Utah State is near the bottom in the country in opponent points per game, which is 46.5. Obviously the 66 dropped on them by Oregon plays a huge role in this, but still, that's pretty remarkable. The Aggies are also almost dead last in opponent yards per game, giving up 520 on average the past two contests. Ouch.
This game won't be close, or at least it shouldn't be. Utah State has no offense and their defense might actually be worse than that offense. If this is the case, the Utes should easily roll into Logan, slaughter the Aggies and run their record to 3-0. But I think it's important Utah not dink around in the first half. A big reason why they didn't rise in the rankings this week is because people saw the halftime score of the UNLV game and decided to penalize the Utes for it. Justified or not, any sign of flaws and the pollsters will pounce and validate their reasons for disrespecting Utah.
My guess is that the Utes do not come out flat this week, dominate the first half, cruise in the second and win 42-10.