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Commentary: Utah State football in great shape to win back-to-back conference titles

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 11 2013 2:30 p.m. MDT

Utah State players celebrate in the end zone after wide receiver Ronald Butler scored a touchdown during an NCAA college football game against Air Force, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Air Force Academy, Colo. Utah State won 52-20. (Kent Nishimura, AP) Utah State players celebrate in the end zone after wide receiver Ronald Butler scored a touchdown during an NCAA college football game against Air Force, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Air Force Academy, Colo. Utah State won 52-20. (Kent Nishimura, AP)

Utah State left the WAC in style last season by winning 11 games, taking home its first conference title since it joined the FBS and finishing No. 16 in the AP Poll.

However, the Aggies face an uphill battle if they wanted to surpass or even match last year's success. They aren't in the extinct WAC anymore and have to face more difficult Mountain West Conference teams. They also have to find a way forward without head coach Gary Andersen after he left USU to take the head coaching job at Wisconsin.

That's what the storylines were coming into 2013.

Despite all that, Utah State has to feel good about its chances about winning the Mountain West.

Its 52-20 drubbing of Air Force has something to do with it.

Chuckie Keeton is by far the best quarterback in the Mountain Division, and so far his stats are phenomenal. He already has 674 yards passing, 162 more rushing and eight total touchdowns to just one interception.

Utah State wide receiver Travis Reynolds celebrates in the end zone after scoring a touchdown during an NCAA college football game against Air Force, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Air Force Academy, Colo. Utah State won 52-20. (Kent Nishimura, AP) Utah State wide receiver Travis Reynolds celebrates in the end zone after scoring a touchdown during an NCAA college football game against Air Force, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Air Force Academy, Colo. Utah State won 52-20. (Kent Nishimura, AP)

All that in just two games.

If Keeton maintains this rate, he'll have 4,044 yards passing, 972 yards rushing and 48 total touchdowns by the season's end.

The only quarterback in the conference that can compete with that is Fresno State's Derek Carr. We should see these two go toe-to-toe in the inaugural Mountain West Conference Championship Game.

Utah State's biggest obstacle to making to that championship game is Boise State. The Aggies are all too familiar with the Broncos, as they both used to be part of the old WAC.

Boise State ruled the conference with an iron fist. Under Chris Petersen, the Broncos won four out of five conference titles before leaving for the Mountain West.

However, Boise State didn't look like the dominant team it once was in its opener at Washington. Rather, it was the Huskies asserting their power over the Broncos as they won 38-6.

Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun, left, and Utah State head coach Matt Wells talk on the field after their NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Air Force Academy, Colo. Utah State won 52-20. (Kent Nishimura, AP) Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun, left, and Utah State head coach Matt Wells talk on the field after their NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Air Force Academy, Colo. Utah State won 52-20. (Kent Nishimura, AP)

Yes, Boise State bounced back by beating helpless Tennessee-Martin 63-14, and Utah State can't count the Broncos out as long as Petersen is on the sidelines. But the once-unstoppable team (in conference play, at least) suddenly looks quite mortal. Plus, the Aggies get to face the Broncos at Romney Stadium instead of on the dreaded Smurf Turf.

And the rest of Utah State's conference schedule is quite favorable to the Aggies. They don't have to face Fresno State in the regular season. The game at San Jose State will be tricky, but other than that, who is there?

New Mexico lost to UTSA, Hawaii fell to bad Pac-12 teams (Oregon State and USC), Minnesota and Arizona decimated UNLV by a combined score of 109-36 and Colorado State is still looking for its first win after losing to Colorado and Tulsa.

Utah State running back Joey DiMartino carries the ball during an NCAA college football game against Air Force, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Air Force Academy, Colo. Utah State won 52-20. (Kent Nishimura, AP) Utah State running back Joey DiMartino carries the ball during an NCAA college football game against Air Force, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Air Force Academy, Colo. Utah State won 52-20. (Kent Nishimura, AP)

At least Utah State's regular-season finale against Wyoming should be interesting, as the Cowboys narrowly missed taking down Nebraska 37-34.

The bottom line is that Utah State should be favored in every conference game from here on out. The Aggies should beat the Lobos, Warriors, Rebels and Rams handily. They may slip against the Broncos, Spartans or Cowboys, but a 7-1 conference record will be good enough for the division title.

And then, they'd likely face Fresno State in the Mountain West Conference Game.

We're only starting week three of college football, but Utah State might be the only FBS team in Utah to win a championship.

Again.

Lafe Peavler is a National College Football Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow me on Twitter @MasterPeavler

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