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Commentary: Utah State has plenty to look forward to despite losses to Pac-12 teams

Published: Monday, Aug. 3 2015 1:24 a.m. MDT

Utah State center Tyler Larsen looks on during warm-ups prior to their NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (Mark J. Terrill, AP) Utah State center Tyler Larsen looks on during warm-ups prior to their NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (Mark J. Terrill, AP)

Utah State fans must be disappointed after losing 17-14 at USC Saturday. Losses are bitter pills for any team to swallow, particularly when it could have made a statement on national TV.

That said, the Aggies have the most to look forward to this season of any team in the state.

After all, Utah State is still 1-0 in the Mountain West Conference. It is tied with Wyoming and a half-game ahead of Boise State, thanks to the Broncos' loss to Fresno State on Friday. It owns the No. 15 defense in the nation. The Aggies still have Chuckie Keeton under center. While the Trojans were able to contain him on Saturday, who in the MWC can do the same?

The Mountain West won't be a cake walk, but Utah State has to like its chances.

Yes, Utah State would love to have at least one win over a Pac-12 team. However, no one expects the Aggies to win the Pac-12. They are a members of the Mountain West, and they can come away with their second consecutive conference title.

Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton passes the ball during the second half of their NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (Mark J. Terrill, AP) Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton passes the ball during the second half of their NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (Mark J. Terrill, AP)

How about that?

Besides, Utah State is the only in-state team that has a reasonable chance to win a conference title and finish ranked in the Top 25. Utah is already 0-1 in conference, and it still has to face three ranked teams in No. 13 UCLA, No. 5 Stanford, No. 2 Oregon as well as solid teams like Arizona State, Washington State and Arizona. Plus, the Utes have to travel to USC and play a Colorado team that they've struggled against since joining the conference.

Despite winning the Beehive Boot, the Utes could sit at home this bowl season for the second year in a row.

BYU can't play for any sort of championship now, and with losses to Virginia and Utah, it has little to play for except a bid to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against the No. 6 team in the Pac-12 or even the No. 7 team, if two Pac-12 teams go to BCS bowls.

Meanwhile, if Utah State wins out the rest of the season — and that's a distinct possibility with BYU, Boise State and Wyoming all having to travel to Logan — it will play in the MWC championship game with an invite to the Las Vegas Bowl on the line. Win the conference title game and the bowl game against the No. 5 or 6 team in the Pac-12, and the 12-2 Aggies can expect a Top 20 ranking.

Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton gets set to pass the ball during the first half of their NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (Mark J. Terrill, AP) Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton gets set to pass the ball during the first half of their NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (Mark J. Terrill, AP)

That's not bad at all for a team that just took a step up into the Mountain West and just lost its head coach to Wisconsin last year. Utah finished 7-5 after Urban Meyer left for Florida, and the Aggies should do better than that. Granted, Gary Andersen is no Meyer, and it's unclear if Matt Wells can do as well as Kyle Whittingham, but it's still an interesting comparison.

Utah State fans will wonder what would have happened had the Aggies pulled off huge wins on the road against Utah and USC. Doubtless, Utah State would be ranked in the Top 25 now and we'd be talking about the Aggies busting the BCS.

Regardless, the Aggies have plenty to play for even after that tough loss to a desperate USC squad. Beating teams like Wyoming, San Jose State and Boise State won't be easy, but you can't bet against the Aggies with Keeton running his magic and the stout defense and special teams pinning opponents deep in their own territory.

So, cheer up, Aggie fans. There's a great chance of better days ahead.

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

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