Utah State (2-1) at Colorado State (1-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 22, 7:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hughes Stadium (32,500) -- Fort Collins, Colorado. Television: Local. Home Record: USU 2-0, CSU 0-1. Away Record: USU 0-1, CSU 0-1. Neutral Record: USU 0-0, CSU 1-0. Conference Record: USU 0-0, CSU 0-0. Series Record: Colorado State leads, 36-30-2.
GAME NOTES: After nearly upsetting their latest opponent on the road, the Utah State Aggies now turn their attention to the Colorado State Rams as the two teams clash at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins this Saturday.
Utah State began 2012 with a pair of in-state victories against Southern Utah and Utah, but last week was the squad's first road trip as it ventured to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. The Aggies led early against the Big Ten Conference power, but the visitors were held scoreless in the second half for the first time since Oct. 15, 2011 and ended up bowing in a 16-14 final.
Nevertheless, the 2-1 start for USU is still its best mark after three games since 1997. The last time the program enjoyed three wins in the first four outings was back in 1978.
As for the Rams, it seems like their win over Colorado in the season opener was a lifetime ago. Since that triumph, Colorado State has been brought back down to Earth, first falling to FCS foe North Dakota State in the home opener on Sept. 8 by a score of 22-7, and then being crushed by San Jose State at Spartan Stadium last weekend, 40-20.
Of the three wins CSU posted last season, one came against USU in a 35-34 double-overtime final, which means the Rams now own a 36-30-2 edge in the all- time series.
Utah State took an early lead against the Badgers last week as Chuckie Keeton hit Kerwynn Williams with a 39-yard TD pass, the team eventually jumping out to a 14-3 advantage at the break. But the squad was held scoreless the rest of the way and had a late field goal attempt miss the mark, en route to the two- point loss.
Keeton not only passed for 181 yards and two touchdowns, he also ran for a team-best 75 yards as the Aggies suffered their first setback of the campaign.
For the most part the defense held UW running back Montee Ball in check, allowing him 139 yards and a score on 37 attempts. Top individual efforts on defense went to Zach Vigil who had two tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble to go along with two quarterback hurries, while a blocked PAT by Jordan Nielsen kept the Aggies within striking distance on the scoreboard.
They may not get the sort of publicity that the other teams in the state of Utah usually generate, but the Aggies should be gaining some attention based on a defense that is ranked 11th in the nation against the pass, giving up just 153.3 ypg. Permitting only 13.0 ppg means USU is 15th nationally in that category.
Keeton has the offense moving rather smoothly with his 233.7 ypg through the air for six touchdowns and just a single interception. Williams paces the program with 201 yards and a score on 48 carries, while Joe Hill has logged three rushing TDs on a mere 12 attempts.
Utah State tends to start fast on offense, scoring a combined 41 of its 75 total points in the first quarter, while the defense has held opponents scoreless through the first 15 minutes of action so far this year.
The Rams were riding high after beating rival Colorado in Denver in the first game under new head coach Jim McElwain, but the magic of that win quickly wore off and now the team is a game under .500 after being dominated by San Jose State last weekend.
Quarterback Garrett Grayson tried to keep CSU in the hunt as he threw for 297 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a team-best 40 yards and a score, but there was no getting away from the SJSU pressure which brought the signal- caller down for five sacks.
Once again the Rams have displayed a weak offensive line that is permitting four sacks per game at this stage, ranking 115th in the country. All those hits on the quarterback may have been one of the reasons why former passer Pete Thomas decided to transfer. But one thing is certain, if Grayson keeps picking himself off the turf the Rams will have a hard time claiming wins and the quarterback might not see the end of the season.
The defense has gotten progressively worse for Colorado State over the first three games, giving up 17 points to Colorado, then 22 to ND State and finally 40 versus SJSU, so one can only wonder how bad it might get if Keeton can get his crew into gear this weekend.
Allowing close to 400 ypg, the Rams are putting themselves in a deep hole that, if Grayson continues to be knocked around, will be difficult to climb out of against the Aggies.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah State 31, Colorado State 14
09/19 10:35:33 ET