If Utah State's football team is hopping out of the frying pan and into the fire, at least the Aggies are doing so at home.

A week after getting throttled 66-24 by then No. 18 Oregon, USU will make its 2008 home debut against another ranked team — this one the No. 22 Utes.

"I live for these games. These are the ones you have to get up for. I don't approach them any different than I would approach Idaho or New Mexico State or anything like that," Aggie receiver Otis Nelson said Monday. "We have to take it game by game, week by week and day by day. We have to do the best we can to get a win."

That may be a bit of an understatement from the former Hunter High star. The Aggies, though playing in their own stadium, will certainly be considered huge underdogs to the Utes.

Not that many Aggie fans need reminding, but Utah State has had more than its share of struggles against ranked opponents. In 46 contests against teams ranked in the top 20, USU has 45 losses.

The only win came in 1991 when the Aggies stunned No. 25 Fresno State by a score of 20-19. Since that game, USU has lost 20 consecutive times when facing a ranked foe.

The Utes, which have won 10 straight against USU, present a stiff challenge if the Ags are to break away from that trend.

"It will be a challenge this week because the University of Utah is a man team and they are pressing a lot more," USU coach Brent Guy said. "They are going to walk up and press and pressure with linebackers. So we will have a challenge throwing the football this week against man coverage. That's all or nothing type of plays."

For Aggies — especially when it comes to ranked opponents — there's been a lot of the 'nothing' type of results.

STAT WATCH: As one might expect in a 66-24 loss, the final stats were skewed significantly in favor of the winning Ducks.

Oregon had 688 yards of total offense, running 88 plays for an average of 7.8 yards per snap. USU, on the other hand, ran 66 plays for a respectable 4.6 yards per snap and 308 total yards of offense.

The Aggies, however, had just 88 yards rushing on 31 carries for a 2.8 yard average. Oregon picked up 7.7 yards per carry for a whopping 408 yards on the ground on 53 carries.

The Aggies 4 of 16 on third-down conversions and punted the ball 10 times. Oregon converted 9 of 14 third downs and punted just twice.

There is, however, one stat in which USU won the battle — turnovers. Oregon coughed up the ball twice on an interception and a fumble. Utah State had zero turnovers.

BATTLE OF THE BROTHERS: When Utah visits Romney Stadium on Saturday, it will be the 108th meeting between the schools. That makes the Ute-Aggie rivalry one of the longest-running series in the country. Lehigh and Lafayette have met a record 143 times.

The Utes and Aggies have the 12th-most played rivalry, but it will take a brief hiatus in 2010 in order to accommodate scheduling requests from both schools.

The Utes have a decided advantage in the series, 75-28-4.


E-mail: eborn@desnews.com