PROVO — No. 14 Utah State has turned enough heads to cause real neck strain. The 9-1 Aggies are explosive, and a powder keg of humiliation to programs within the realm of their matches.
Coach Matt Wells has created a system that is steamrolling the competition, taking no prisoners and making no excuse. His team really believes it has yet to play a complete game, even when leading the nation in scoring. Says Wells, “Culture smashes scheme,” a signal that chemistry in execution and confidence and belief teammates have for one another trump plays being called.
I can buy that. I’ve seen it in basketball, football and baseball for four decades. When you get a team feeling and believing it, anything is possible.
The Aggies are projected by some to face USC in the Las Vegas Bowl. That would be a fun matchup. It would be even more satisfying to see USU face Utah if the Utes do not make the Rose Bowl.
As it stands, USU is the nation’s scoring leader at 51.3 points per game and rank No. 10 in total offense, No. 7 in turnover margin, and are tied for fifth in win percentage.
Although USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin ranks the Aggies 29th with a strength of schedule of 124th, it could be argued USU’s best win so far was over a 5-5 BYU team. This is a generational Aggie effort — an all-time squad.
As the only undefeated team in MWC play, the Aggies' 513 points smashes the school record of 454 set in 2012, and the 68 touchdowns erased a seven-year school record of 60. This team can improve on those marks if it can make it to the league championship game, a bowl, and of course the remaining league schedule. USU is at Colorado State on Saturday and closes out the regular season at Boise State the following week.
Tweeted USU sports information director Doug Hoffman: “I’ve never actually drank from a firehose, but I’m guessing it’s just as overwhelming as trying to put game notes together for@USUFootball. The numbers this team is putting up is RIDICULOUS!”
In Provo, there was no large airport crowd greeting the team back from the UMass game like there was after the trip to Madison, but it was a triumphant return, breaking a two-game losing streak to set up Senior Day Saturday against New Mexico State. The Cougars are 23-point favorites and a win should get them in a bowl game.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said BYU is continuing to progress since making a change in personnel, in particular at QB with Zach Wilson. He said the Cougars have gone from huddle to no-huddle, from pre-snap reads and motion to more post-snap reaction by the quarterback, who is more often in shotgun than under center. Also, BYU is doing more without tight end depth. “Now we’ve got to keep moving because we are creating tendencies.”
At Utah, the adjustment from losing Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss appeared almost seamless, a true next-man-up Kyle Whittingham philosophy. That should provide the Utes the needed confidence to travel to Colorado and take care of business. There, with a win, and an Arizona State loss to either Oregon or Arizona, the Utes can all but assure a trip to the Pac-12 championship game in Santa Clara.
Utah’s formula in Boulder should be pretty simple: no turnovers, get turnovers, be game managers on offense, set Britain Covey free, let Matt Gay kick 50-plus 3-pointers in high altitude and let a tough defense wrap things up.
What should make Whittingham smile is Jason Shelley’s 262 yards passing against Oregon and a solid A-grade for Armand Shyne, who had 174 yards rushing.
That is depth with a fish finder.