Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
LOGAN — A season-opening game against Auburn, currently ranked as the No. 1 team in the country, highlights Utah State's 2011 non-conference football schedule announced Thursday.
USU Director of Athletics Scott Barnes noted that Aggies will play six home games for the second straight season — the first time since 1995-96 that USU will have six home games in back-to-back seasons.
Utah State will play road games at Auburn and BYU, while hosting Weber State, Colorado State and Wyoming. The Aggies will also have four Western Athletic Conference games on the road while hosting three conference contests, giving USU six home games.
The foundation of Barnes' scheduling plan is to continue to play a minimum of six home games each year and establish a more balanced approach, much like USU did in 2010.
The 2010 season was just the third time in the past 14 seasons that the Aggies played six home games, also doing so in 2008 and 1998, although six were scheduled in 2005, but the season-opener vs. Nicholls State was cancelled due to Hurricane Katrina.
"It is extremely difficult to establish momentum, build consistency in our program, and grow your fan base when you play the kind of schedule we have. Last year was a good example of what we will strive to match," Barnes said in reference to the 2010 ledger which did not include back-to-back road games. It was only the third time in the last 100 years that USU did not have consecutive road games.
"With five non-conference opportunities, we want to create a schedule that is both exciting for our fans and has better balance," Barnes said.
The 2011 non-conference schedule has the Aggies playing at Auburn on Saturday, Sept. 3, in the two schools' first-ever football meeting and USU's first Southeastern Conference opponent since Arkansas in 2006. Auburn faces No. 2 Oregon in the BCS National Championship game on Monday.
"Playing the possible defending national champions in the first game will be a great opportunity for us and we're excited to face an SEC team," USU head coach Gary Andersen said.
Weber State will make the trek north to Logan on Saturday, Sept. 10, marking the first time that USU and WSU have squared off since 2001.
"Playing an in-state school is always exciting for the fans and the communities of both programs," Andersen said.
The Aggie-Wildcat matchup will have special meaning for Andersen, who will be facing his mentor, Weber State head coach Ron McBride. Andersen played for McBride at Utah in 1985-86.
"Anytime you line up and face one of your mentors, it's an exciting opportunity and a tremendous challenge," Andersen said.
The Aggies will open a home-and-home series with Colorado State on Saturday, Sept. 24, locking horns with the Rams for the first time since 1997.
On Friday, Sept. 30, USU will play at BYU, with the Old Wagon Wheel at stake after the Aggies' claimed the traveling trophy with a 31-16 win in 2010 — USU's first win over BYU since 1993.
Utah State football 2011 non-conference schedule
Date, Opponent, History
Sept. 3, at Auburn, First meeting
Sept. 10, Weber State, USU leads 11-1
Sept. 2, Colorado St., CSU leads 35-30-2
Sept. 30, at BYU, BYU leads 43-34-3
Oct. 8, Wyoming, USU leads 34-24-4
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