Utah State football: Aggies picked to finish second in WAC preseason media, coaches poll
p>LAS VEGAS — The Utah State football team came out of the Western Athletic Conference media days as something it hasn't been for a long while — a team with high expectations. The Aggies were picked by both the coaches and the media to finish second with Louisiana Tech picked to finish first.
While it's easy to say that preseason prognostications don't mean much, coach Gary Andersen sees it a bit differently.
"It's a credit to these kids who have worked their tails off," said Andersen about being picked second. "It matters because it comes from your peers in my opinion and it makes a difference — it should catapult them into the season. It does not put rings on their fingers, it doesn't give you a championship or get you to a bowl game, but what it does do is show that people respect you and that's important."
The respect is well-earned following a breakthrough season that was just short of being phenomenal in 2011. Utah State found itself just seconds away from winning four more games — giving away games late against Auburn, BYU and Colorado State and in its bowl game against Ohio.
While those loses were tough to take, Andersen's team responded well — finishing strong after a 2-5 start.
"It wasn't looking real good, but to see the kids rally back and fight was impressive," said Andersen. "I can't really put words to how gratifying it was as a head football coach to be able to watch that happen and to watch these kids grow, mature and develop … you have to go through that and you have to learn how to win football games, you have to expect to win football games and it's part of the maturity process."
After last season, the Aggies are now confident that they can play against tough opponents in tough environments and come out on top. With a tough opening schedule that confidence should serve them well.
The Aggies kick off against Southern Utah followed by five more out-of-conference matchups against opponents such as Wisconsin, BYU and Utah. Players are anxious to go against both the Utes and the Cougars for a variety of reasons.
Consider senior linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu, who narrowly let BYU quarterback Riley Nelson escape his grasp during a third-and-6 situation early in what proved to be the Cougars' game-winning drive.
"Hopefully I get a chance to get Riley Nelson back this year," said Filimoeatu. "That play haunts me so much and I want to get BYU back for sure, but Utah is the game I probably want even more. I have a lot of family there and friends who I really want to play against and beat."
A competitive out-of-conference schedule while playing both of its in-state rivals highlights Utah State's coming season. Andersen, however, is mindful of what he considers to be an often overlooked WAC conference.
All five of Utah State's conference wins a year ago were decided by a touchdown or less and Andersen expects more of the same in 2012.
"I think the (WAC) is very evenly-matched," said Andersen. "I think every game will be highly-contested and I don't see any team walking through this league cleanly. I think it's going to be very entertaining football for a lot of people to see."
The Aggies lost some key players off of last year's team, but also return a lot of good experience which Andersen hopes to mesh well with some up-and-coming talent.
"Our kids are very excited about the coming season," said Andersen. "It's a very challenging schedule, but we get to play on national television four or five times throughout the year and hopefully a couple of more times on regional television. Overall this team has prepared well."
The following is the complete 2012 WAC football coaches' poll (coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams):
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- Bodyguards allegedly beat up 2 fans who took...
- Dick Harmon: BYU coach Mike Littlewood...
- Boys high school top track performances, 2013...
- High school boys track: Davis wins another 5A...
- If hired, Jeff Hornacek will face same...
- Girls high school track top performances,...
- Utes football recruiting: Polynesian... 91
- USA Rugby: 'What BYU won ... was a... 78
- Ryan Teeples: Ziggy Ansah's story... 69
- Utah Utes football: Dr. Chris Hill... 39
- High school football: Riley Nelson... 30
- Brad Rock: USU athletics can go home again 21
- Van Noy named to Lott IMPACT trophy... 14
- Dick Harmon: BYU coach Mike Littlewood... 12