There's been so much discussion of a Utah State "upset" this week that, really, it wouldn't be much of an upset, would it? The Aggies have spent the last four seasons inching closer and closer to a big win over a BCS conference opponent - losing by eight at Texas A&M in 2009, by seven at Oklahoma in 2010, by four at Auburn in 2011, and by two at Wisconsin in 2012. Many believe Keeton's magic moment is about to arrive. —Tom Haire
USC comment boards reveal that respect for the Utah State football team is marginal, but adoration for Chuckie Keeton is immense.
Opinion by Trojan fans about the Aggies and its Heisman candidate quarterback have not been short in forums hosted by ESPN.com, CBSSports.com and Rivals.com. Viewpoints of USU have led to not just individual comments but an entire thread devoted to the topic. Meanwhile, general concern has been expressed about what Keeton, who leads the nation in touchdown passes, might be able to do in Los Angeles.
With appreciation for the Aggies’ blowout wins but a focus on their season-opening loss to Utah, USC fans often seem to lean toward their team prevailing. As of Saturday morning, all of the 64 individuals who contributed to a thread by CBSSports.com’s USC.247Sports.com wrote that the Trojans would win — and the average margin of victory was 16.7. Nine had USU losing by 28 points or more.
ESPN.com’s “We are SC” forum seemed more moderate. Twenty-four of 31 fans who participated in a poll there said that the Trojans would win. A handful of comments featured concern of USU’s high offensive output (the Aggies rank eighth nationally in scoring), outside of the dual threat of Keeton.
“There's been so much discussion of a Utah State 'upset' this week that, really, it wouldn't be much of an upset, would it?” Tom Haire wrote for Rivals’ USCFootball.com. “The Aggies have spent the last four seasons inching closer and closer to a big win over a BCS conference opponent — losing by eight at Texas A&M in 2009, by seven at Oklahoma in 2010, by four at Auburn in 2011, and by two at Wisconsin in 2012. Many believe Keeton's magic moment is about to arrive.”
USC is a 6.5-point favorite.
Many Trojan fans feel that a loss would be embarrassing enough to justify the firing of USC head coach Lane Kiffin. In another ESPN.com poll, 53 believe Kiffin, who is in his fourth year on the job, should go if USU wins, while 16 think otherwise.
“Utah State is actually quite good. They might be our strongest out-of-conference opponent this year,” KevinJPPark added. “Actually I'd rather play (Notre Dame) in (Los Angeles) than Utah State in Utah for example this season.”
A common thought among all three boards is that implications of the Aggies’ defeat by the Utes in Salt Lake City mean that USU will not be able to keep up with USC. After beating USU, Utah lost to Oregon State, which lost its opener to Eastern Washington of the Football Championship Subdivision.
Others have rejected such a linear line.
USU’s throttling of Air Force (1-2) and Weber State of the Football Championship Subdivision have often not been convincing, either.
“Utah State against lousy teams has put up numbers. Let’s see how they do against our ‘D’,” headmanjones7 wrote. “A 2-2 record against weak competition is unacceptable. If (USU) puts up more than 35 points then it might be close.”
The Trojan defense ranks eighth in the nation in scoring defense, while inversely, USU rose to eighth in the nation in scoring after its blowout wins.
Other USC fans among the oft-fiery commenters are generally tired of Kiffin.
“Utah State is a really good team that will challenge our defense. They are more than capable of beating us a lot of other good teams,” wrote BOULDER TO BIRMINGHAM. “That said, regardless of the outcome Saturday, Kiffin must go.”
Scores of fans are concerned about Keeton. The junior in 2012 set four USU single-season passing records and another in rushing in 2012 before being named to several watch lists this fall.
“Can't wait for this one. The way (USC) handles Keeton will go a long way to predicting its success or lack thereof the rest of the way,” pebblepeachtroja wrote.
“If they lay the wood on Chuckie, USC will win. But if not, Utah State will win — and it might not be close,” KevinJPPark added. “Chuckie will be the best QB USC faces all year not in Westwood (UCLA’s Brett Hundley) — and he might actually be better than the guy in Westwood.”
“(USU coach) Matt Wells has said his game plan against USC, based on his advice from Gary Anderson, is to keep it close into the fourth quarter and then let Keeton be the play maker he is,” egrimwad4 wrote. “USC cannot let these guys hang around with overly conservative play calling.”
Some suggested that the USU game is an appropriate “barometer” for USC. Among another conversation, that was challenged sharply by Hillside on the Rivals.com site, who started a thread titled “This is Utah State — not the Third Reich.”
Hillside mentioned USU’s Cache Valley location (Logan, Utah), its lack of liquor stores open on Sundays and its agricultural nickname to belittle the program, adding that Gary Andersen, its “almost famous, quasi-noteworthy coach,” is now gone. Hillside also included links to USU’s last five recruiting classes on Scout.com, which shows that most Aggie recruits were rated two stars coming out of high school. USC routinely attracts recruits of at least a four-star caliber.
Hillside also included a picture at the end of a post starting the thread with a picture comparing a molehill (symbolizing USU) to a mountain (representing USC).
Several countered, saying that this Trojan team cannot take anyone lightly and that the Aggies have been impressive the past two seasons, with or without a BCS schedule. One high school coach wrote that a knowledge of X’s and O’s show that the Aggies will be a challenging opponent.
Hillside replied by saying he didn’t like how fans were “in awe” of Keeton and Company.
In a light-hearted manner, SC200SC wrote a narrative on USC.247Sports.com including a comment as to why USU truly will prove to be a real deal in the Coliseum.
“It would be a mistake to take the Aggies of Utah State lightly,” SC200SC wrote. “After all, four of the six students who have stuffed themselves into the Utah State ‘Big Blue Bull’ mascot costume have been drafted to be mascots for professional sports teams. What other university can make such a boast?”
Rhett Wilkinson is a project manager for UtahPolicy.com and hails the true-blooded Aggies from Utah. The co-founder of magazine Aggie BluePrint.com, he's been an intern for the Deseret News and other publications. firstname.lastname@example.org | @wilklogan