Utah State quarterback Jordan Love (10) yells prior to the snap as center Quin Ficklin (51) and offensive lineman Roman Andrus (76) looks on during the first half of the New Mexico Bowl NCAA college football game against North Texas in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

SALT LAKE CITY — Coming off an 11-2 season that vaulted Utah State into the final college cootball rankings and the national spotlight, the Aggies are gaining traction in the respect department.

How will USU follow up one of its finest seasons in school history under first-year coach Gary Andersen in his second stint at the school?

One national publication thinks Utah State could reach unprecedented heights this year if the best-case scenario comes together. The Aggies were tabbed by Sports Illustrated as one of three Group of 5 teams — along with UCF and Houston — who "have reachable top-10 ceilings" in the 2019 season.

SI's Joan Niesen points out that, in addition to Andersen replacing the departed Matt Wells as head coach, the Aggies have plenty of production to replace, particularly on offense. Junior quarterback Jordan Love still being in the fold, though, works in USU's favor, as does a schedule that sets the Aggies up for a potential early-season climb through the national rankings, if USU can pull off road wins at Power 5 opponents.

"Utah State’s schedule also works to its advantage in terms of climbing the standings in September and October. Last year, it took until Nov. 4 for the Aggies to warrant a mention in the AP poll, but this season, they have early road games against Wake Forest (Week 1) and LSU (Week 6) that would make for eye-catching wins. Utah State wouldn’t be the first team from outside the Power 5 to take LSU by surprise at home," Niesen wrote.

Other links

  • Several former Utah college football stars participated in Seattle's XFL Showcase on Saturday, according to a roster shared by Jackson Felts of Sports Radio 950 AM KJR in Seattle

The locals included:

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  • BYU wide receiver Colby Pearson
  • Utah running back Joe Williams
  • BYU quarterback Jake Heaps
  • Utah center JJ Dielman
  • BYU guard Tuni Kanuch
  • Southern Utah cornerback Raysean Pringle
  • BYU safety Micah Hannemann
  • Utah State defensive end Ian Togiai
  • BYU defensive end Tomasi Laulile
  • Former Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky, a fourth-round pick by San Francisco this year,shared his story with The 49ers Insider Podcast
  • Watch Real Monarchs' Justin Portillo arch a beautiful shot in for a goal off a free kick in the team's 2-1 come-from-behind win over the Colorado Springs Switchbacks

And finally ...

There was a local recruiting "race" going on between BYU and Utah State basketball in Arizona last week. Cougar first-year coach Mark Pope has the details.