If there's a football coach in America that understands how to beat Utah it's Utah State coach Gary Andersen.
But if there's a football coach in America that understands beating the Utes has been virtually impossible for more than a year, it's also Gary Andersen.
"To me, they're one of the best football teams in the country," Andersen, the former Ute defensive coordinator and now the USU head coach ready to take the field for the first time tonight, said. "They are one of the elite teams in America and one we want to, eventually, be like."
To get there, or even start the journey, the Aggies would love to beat Utah in Rice-Eccles Stadium and give Andersen something no head coach at USU has had since Phil Kreuger in 1973 — a win in his first game.
Utah, which has won 14 games in a row and enters the game ranked No. 19, is breaking in a pair of new coordinators, a new quarterback and several other key positions as the Utes seek to retain the momentum they've built over the past few seasons.
Utah State will try to take advantage of the inexperience at quarterback. But with a veteran running back in Matt Asiata, the Utes might have the answer to anything the Aggies throw at them.
"He's as good a running back as we'll see," Andersen said of Asiata. "For us, we'll need to be very active on defense."
USU, on the other hand, hopes a full camp as the designated starter will be beneficial for quarterback Diondre Borel and running back Robert Turbin.
The duo hopes to find a spot in the retooled Ute defensive line to exploit in any way possible.
"Diondre Borrel is a terrific athlete," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "He is not a real big guy, but he is quick and fast and can hurt you in a few different ways. To have an effective spread, you need that kind of guy back there."
Turbin, a strong runner but a little inexperienced as a sophomore, has Utah's attention. USU would love to establish the run, allowing Borel to find a little extra time to throw.
"They have 4-5 O-linemen returning and their tailback is very good," Whittingham said. "I am very high on him; he is a great football player."
Utah State's defensive line is expected to bring as much pressure as possible at Utah's starting quarterback — whomever that may be.
"Utah State will send the house after them and test them out and see how they handle pressure. All coordinators will do that," Whittingham said. "We've been pressuring the quarterback in practice and putting them in that situation, but when nothing's live, it's a bit of a different situation."14 comments on this story
Andersen, having coached at Utah for 11 years in the past and having had a hand in recruiting many of the players Utah will line up with, hopes his knowledge of the Utes will come in handy in his first game as an Aggie.
But with new coordinators in place at Utah, the playbook will undoubtedly be different.
"I don't know how much it's going to help," Andersen said of his knowledge of the Utes. "I've been too worried about getting Utah State to be the best team we can be to spend much time trying to remember what Utah is going to do."