SALT LAKE CITY — Two weeks into the football season, it’s not hard to pick out the in-state team with the most swag and brag. Forget the 2-0 Utes, who narrowly averted losing in front of a crowd of 16,762 at Northern Illinois. Ignore the BYU Cougars, who reverted back to their 2017 selves in a loss to Cal.
The flavor of the week is Utah State, coming off a 60-13 thrashing of New Mexico State. It’s not just that they scored a lopsided win against an awful team. It’s that they also came close to beating then-No. 11 Michigan State, losing by a touchdown. While the Spartans appear vastly overrated, it’s USU that nudged them in that direction.
So the Aggies have one morale-builder, plus one blowout in the books.
“We didn’t play our best game, and we were sloppy,” running back Gerold Bright said of last Saturday’s 47-point win.
Sixty points against an FBS team, and it’s not their best? Yikes.
“So, trust me on this, there is a lot to clean up and be better at,” coach Matt Wells said.
For the time being, USU has more momentum than anyone in Utah. The Utes’ close call against NIU almost felt like a loss. That will change if they defeat No. 10 Washington. BYU plays at No. 6 Wisconsin this week. Don’t plan a party after either game.
Meanwhile, Utah State hosts Tennessee Tech, picked last in the FCS Ohio Valley Conference.
It’s been a while since there was this kind of vibe in Logan after two games. Usually it’s Utah and BYU that sizzle early but overcook the steak. The Aggies always play early “payday” games against powerhouse teams, i.e. Michigan State, Auburn, USC, Tennessee, Oklahoma, etc. Though USU has played several of those games close, others are pure buzz-killers.
The last time the Aggies had this much mojo after two games was in 2012. That year they started 2-0, with wins over Southern Utah and Utah. The next week they lost 16-14 to Wisconsin. The season ended with a conference championship and an 11-2 record. But even then, they didn’t own the market in early-season hype. That year BYU started out with wins over Washington State and Weber State before losing in week three to Utah.
The Aggies started 2011 much like this year, losing by just four at Auburn, but came home to rout Weber State 54-17. They finished the season 7-6. Other than those, the Aggies haven’t been positioned so well since 1997, when they began with a win over Utah and followed with a win over Idaho State.
It’s not just wins Aggie fans can appreciate, but the ways and means. The Aggies are eighth nationally in sacks, second in forced turnovers, second in defensive scores and third in kickoff returns. Placekicker Dominik Eberle is first nationally in field goals and field goal percentage.
USU has labeled its running game the Three Horsemen following an impressive outing against NMSU.
Look out 1924 Notre Dame.
Circumstances don’t look to slide immediately for the Aggies. Tennessee Tech already has losses to Chattanooga and Kennesaw State. Tech plays a schedule straight out of the Whozarks: Jacksonville State, Eastern Illinois, Southeast Missouri, Tennessee State, Austin Peay, etc.
Not a name school in the bunch.
In spite of protestations otherwise, for now all the Aggies really need to do is not touch a thing.
“I don’t think we have to change too much,” Wells said.
They have no serious reason to think they won’t be 2-1 soon. Is that overconfidence?
“That is all our guys are worried about — get to Thursday night and find a way to be 1-0,” Wells said, lapsing into his one-game-at-a-time mode.
But wouldn’t a win make them 2-1?
When you’re in this kind of groove, who’s counting?