Fall camp is already underway and college football is mere days away for Utah State. After a solid 2013 season with a 9-5 finish and a bowl win over Northern Illinois, Aggies fans are right to be optimistic about 2014. While Utah State has some tough road games against Tennessee, BYU and Boise State, the Aggies could push for a 10-win season in 2014. Here's a look at Utah State's 2014 schedule.
TV: 5:00 p.m. MT, SEC Network
2013 record: 5-7, 2-6 SEC
Fall breakdown: Stealing a win in SEC country is never an easy task. However, the Volunteers have fallen on tough times and are currently a mere shadow of what they used to be during Phillip Fulmer's heyday. At least head coach Butch Jones appears to have the program going back in the right direction. Tennessee's biggest question mark is in the trenches, as it has to replace practically the entire offensive and defensive lines. Still, a place like Tennessee has plenty of talent. A.J. Johnson is a first team All-SEC linebacker who made 106 tackles last season with 8.5 of them for loss. QB Justin Worley also has shown flashes of potential. This will be a difficult but winnable game against an SEC team on the road for the Aggies.
TV: 6:00 p.m. MT, MWN
2013 record: 3-9, 1-7 Big Sky Conference
Fall breakdown: Easy win at home vs. an FCS opponent. This team lost 32-7 to Weber State last season, a team that finished 2-10. Expect to see most of Utah State's second and third string in the second half of this game.
TV: 5:00 p.m. MT, CBS Sports Network
2013 record: 4-8, 2-6 ACC
Fall outlook: New head coach Dave Clawson has quite a mess to clean up at Wake Forest. Clawson's an expert at rebuilding programs, but he's going to need more than just one offseason to fix what ails the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest is still searching for a starting quarterback, and true freshman John Wolford was just named the Demon Deacons' starting QB. Wake Forest has a decent secondary with senior CBs Merrill "Bud" Noel and Kevin Johnson both coming back. However, this team has only 10 total returning starters. Utah State should be able to handle the Demon Deacons in Logan without too much of a problem.
2013 record: 8-5, 5-2 Sun Belt Conference
Fall outlook: Arkansas State has become a revolving door for head coaches these days. Blake Anderson is the Red Wolves' seventh head coach over the past five years, including interim head coaches. However, Arkansas State has done reasonably well despite the coaching carousel spinning out of control with a eight-win season last year. The strength of this team is in its secondary, as every member of last year's two-deep chart returns. The Red Wolves need to break in a new starting quarterback, likely last year's backup Fredi Knighten. Arkansas State has some nice returning players at RB and WR in Michael Gordon and J.D. McKissic. This team will be something of an unknown with new coaching staff, but there's enough talent here for them to be dangerous to Utah State, particularly on the road.
TV: 8:15 MT, ESPN
2013 record: 8-5, FBS Independent
Fall outlook: The Cougars embarrassed Utah State 31-14 in Logan last year, and the Aggies lost QB Chuckie Keeton to a season-ending knee injury in the process. While this rivalry has become a bit closer in the past few seasons, Utah State hasn't won a game in Provo since 1978. BYU returns one of the most dangerous QB/RB duos in the country in Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams, both of whom combined for 2,577 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns last season. The Cougars also have a dangerous group of wide receivers led by Mitch Mathews and UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie. However, the Cougars lost key players such as LB Kyle Van Noy, WR Cody Hoffman, LB Uani 'Unga and S Daniel Sorensen. This should be an interesting battle at LaVell Edwards Stadium this season.
TV: TBA (ESPN network)
2013 record: 2-10, 0-8 Mountain West Conference
Fall outlook: Air Force had a meltdown last season, particularly on defense, leading them to a two-win season. The Falcons finished No. 114 in total defense and No. 116 in scoring defense. This team should be much improved, however. Master prognosticator Phil Steele wrote in his 2014 College Football Preview that this year's Falcons would be a two-touchdown favorite over last year's sorry squad. That said, Utah State should be able to stop the Falcons' option attack at home.
TV: 5:00 p.m., CBS Sports Network
2013 record: 8-6, 5-3 Mountain West Conference
Fall outlook: The Rams appear to be headed back in the right direction under former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain after returning to a bowl game for the first time since 2008 and winning eight games for the first time since 2002. QB Garrett Grayson returns after an excellent performance against Washington State to win the New Mexico Bowl. Grayson passed for 3,696 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2013, but he did have his rough games. Utah State held Grayson to just 147 yards passing and forced two interceptions while allowing no passing touchdowns last year in Logan. The Rams are having to start pretty much from scratch at running back, and they also have to replace four starters on the offensive line, but they have a solid linebacker group with Max Morgan and Aaron Davis both back. The secondary needs some work, though, as they got beat deep all too often last season.
2013 record: 7-6, 5-2, Mountain West Conference
Fall outlook: UNLV's 2014 outlook certainly brightened after the Rebels learned they wouldn't receive a bowl ban after all for their poor academic progress rate score. That said, the Rebels face an uphill battle to return to a bowl game with starting QB Caleb Herring and leading rusher RB Tim Cornett both gone. UNLV also needs to replace four of its top five tacklers from last season. This team probably won't return to a bowl game this season.
TV: 9:00 p.m. MT, MWN
2013 record: 1-11, 0-8 Mountain West Conference
Fall outlook: 2014 will be Norm Chow's last chance to prove himself as a head coach after a 4-20 overall record and a 1-15 record in MWC play over two seasons at Hawaii. This team returns nine offensive linemen, but the Warriors need some serious help on defense. Hawaii gave up 38.8 points per game last season. Containing a quarterback like Chuckie Keeton will be a serious problem for Chow and the Warriors. This team will be better than last season for the simple reason that this team has nowhere to go but up.
TV: 6:00 p.m. MT, ESPN2
2013 record: 5-7, 3-5 Mountain West Conference
Fall outlook: Craig Bohl put together a dynasty at North Dakota State with three national titles and an impressive 104-32 record. He'll have his work cut out for him as he takes his first head coaching job at the FBS level. He has a new starting quarterback to break in, but at least he has some big-play players in RB Shaun Wick and WR Dominic Rufran. The defense has a long way to go as the Cowboys gave up an average of 36.7 points per game last season. Bohl's proven that he's an exceptional coach at the FCS level, but it would take a miracle to have this year's Cowboys ready for a solid Utah State squad in just one year.
2013 record: 3-9, 1-7 MWC
Fall outlook: The last time New Mexico went to a bowl, it was 2007. The Lobos had to suffer through the horrible Mike Locksley period before Bob Davie arrived. Davie has a 7-18 record over two seasons. The Lobos' defense needs some serious help after giving up 42.8 points per game last season. The strength of this team is its stable of running backs. Cole Gautsche is an interesting dual-threat quarterback who could really cause Utah State problems if he can stay healthy. Last season he rushed for 777 yards despite starting in just five games. This team could flirt with six wins if it could find a way to improve its dreadful defense.
TV: 7:30 p.m. MT, ESPN2
2013 record: 6-6, 5-3 MWC
Fall outlook: It's always difficult to replace a quarterback that passed for 4,189 yards and 33 touchdowns last season, and unfortunately for the Spartans, David Fales is now with the Chicago Bears. At least SJSU has a nice group of running backs led by Jarrod Lawson and Thomas Tucker. The defense has one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the conference in Christian Tago. However, a starting quarterback still hasn't immersed in the battle between Joe Gray and Blake Jurich, and neither QB looks like a sure-fire replacement of Fales. That said, if a quarterback can do a solid if not stellar job in 2014, this could be a surprise team in the conference.
2013 record: 8-5, 6-2 MWC
Fall outlook: Don't be surprised if this game decides the Mountain Division. A trip to the MWC championship game will likely be on the line when Utah State heads to Boise. The Chris Petersen era has come to an end, but you can't look past this team. That's especially true for the Aggies as they must face the Broncos on the Smurf Turf. Jay Ajayi returns at running back after rushing for 1,425 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. QB Grant Hedrick is mobile himself, rushing for 277 yards and six touchdowns despite the fact he didn't start untill game seven. This will be a de-facto division title game if all goes as predicted.
Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.