There is nothing quite like starting the season with a challenge. Utah State opens their football season by traveling to Auburn to face the 23rd-ranked Tigers. The same Auburn Tigers who won the BCS National Championship last season and sport one of the most intimidating home crowds in the nation at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"The environment that we are walking into is going to be, probably from what I understand, one of the best in the country," Aggie head coach Gary Andersen said. "We are excited to walk into that environment, 90,000 people is what I believe they have there."
Auburn will not have last year's Heisman Trophy winner and first overall NFL draft pick Cam Newton under center on Saturday, but they still sport a talented lineup that is expected to contend for an SEC title again this year. Barrett Trotter is expected to be the Tigers starting quarterback, although much like the Aggies that position is still up in the air.
"The quarterback situation for them is much like ours, I would say, regardless of who plays. I would not be surprised to see a couple (of quarterbacks)," said Andersen.
Trotter is an athletic quarterback who was highly recruited, but has attempted just nine passes in three years as a Tiger. Luckily for Trotter, he has a talented group of receivers and last year's BCS National Championship Game MVP Michael Dyer lining up behind him at running back.
"Michael (Dyer) is very elusive with power when he wants power and when he needs power," Andersen said.
The Aggies are going to try and copy the blueprint they laid out in the season-opener last year at Oklahoma. Utah State fell behind 21-0 in Norman, but regained its composure and fought back into the game before falling 31-24. With a better first quarter the Aggies might have taken down the seventh-ranked Sooners. After coming so close last year the Aggies doubt they will be underestimated again.
"I am pretty sure they (Auburn) will be a little more worried, but I feel like we are better than we were at Oklahoma. We are just going to come and give it our all and see what happens," said senior linebacker Bobby Wagner.
Despite being faced with a hostile crowd, a defending national champion and near 100 degree temperatures with stifling humidity, Andersen says the Aggies need to focus on themselves rather than getting caught up in the spectacle.
"What you have to do in the first game is walk in and take care of the Aggies. It's not about anything else. All of us walking into the stadium together, putting our best performance in and seeing exactly where it sits. I expect this football team to execute. I expect them to handle the situations very, very well, in an extremely adverse environment."
If the Aggies can handle the test this week it should set them up for a very successful 2011 season.
"It will be a great learning experience and what we don't handle well, we will work to handle well and what we do handle well we will continue to emphasize in practice and continue to focus on that," Andersen said.
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Utah State (0-0) at No. 23/19 Auburn (0-0)
Today 10 a.m. MT Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn, Ala.
Radio: 610 AM, 97.5 FM, 1280 AM