On Oct. 13 of last year, Utah State football nearly made history in the backfield.
Thirteen sacks were registered by the Aggie defense in a 22-point win over San Jose State. That was just two short of the NCAA and Western Athletic Conference record set by Texas Christian in a Sept. 9, 2000, win at Nevada.
USU and SJSU play again Friday at Spartan Stadium in San Jose (7 p.m., ESPN).
The stunning defensive performances of the Aggies and Horned Frogs more than a dozen years apart are highlights of two seasons that are remarkably similar. With a stellar backfield and stout defense starring a tremendous defensive back, both teams enjoyed their best seasons at least since the Great Depression era. That included their first national rankings in 41 years. They were each led by an offensive player from eastern Texas that many have questioned how they were attracted to their respective programs.
Both teams enjoyed big wins, rivalry victories, national rankings and went bowling after winning the Western Athletic Conference championship. Consequently, more fans began to fill the stadiums as each program saw players drafted after the season ended. Their common opponent? San Jose State, ironically — each in the most pivotal contest of their season.
After each banner year, the team’s head coach that season left for the bright lights of a top BCS program. Neither eluded controversy among fans looking forward to a move from the WAC into a new conference.
For TCU, the subsequent season under a new head coach — a promoted coordinator — proved not to be as successful. But the mediocre year didn’t spell the program’s future.
How might that parallel Utah State?
See the list of parallels between the 2000 TCU and 2012 USU football teams among seven categories: coaches, stars, common opponent, big wins, bowl game and national rankings, and what the Horned Frogs’ following season might mean for the Aggies going forward.
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