Wyoming (5-6) at Utah State (7-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 30, 2 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Romney Stadium (25,513) -- Logan, Utah. Television: ROOT, Mountain West Net. Home Record: Wyoming 4-2, USU 3-2. Away Record: Wyoming 1-4, USU 4-2. Neutral Record: Wyoming 0-0, USU 0-0. Conference Record: Wyoming 3-4, USU 6-1. Series Record: Utah State leads, 35-24-4.
GAME NOTES: There's a lot on the line at Romney Stadium this weekend, as the Utah State Aggies entertain the Wyoming Cowboys in a key Mountain West Conference showdown.
The Aggies, one of the newest additions to the MWC from over in the Western Athletic Conference. find themselves riding a four-game win streak at the moment, thanks in part to a 13-0 victory versus Colorado State last weekend. Utah State is currently first in the Mountain Division standings with a mark of 6-1, and controls its own destiny in terms of earning a spot in the newly- created MWC Championship game which will be hosted most likely by Fresno State on Dec. 7.
However, Utah State can't have a let down this weekend because a loss to Wyoming, coupled with a Boise State win against New Mexico, would create a share for the division title and the Broncos own the tie-breaker based on their 34-23 win versus USU last month.
While the Aggies are most likely heading to the postseason regardless of the outcome this weekend, the Cowboys need to show up in the win column just to become bowl eligible. Last weekend, the Pokes finally put an end to a four- game slide by topping winless Hawaii in a wild, overtime affair, 59-56.
Utah State crushed the Cowboys in their latest meeting, 63-19, two seasons ago in order to move to 35-24-4 in the all-time series.
The Cowboys finally put their skid to bed last Saturday night, but the team needed overtime in order to get over on visiting Hawaii. While it was a defensive effort in overtime that finally earned the win for Wyoming, it was quarterback Brett Smith who stole the show as he set the school- and Mountain West Conference record with 640 yards of offense and eight total TDs, posting 498 yards through the air and 142 on the ground. In the process Smith, who converted 29-of-48 passes and carried the ball 19 times, became the program's all-time leader in total yards. Robert Herron also had a huge outing for the program as he turned his 11 receptions into 141 yards and four touchdowns, while Dominic Rufran was somehow held out of the end zone as he caught seven balls for 121 yards. As a team, the Pokes generated a whopping 793 yards of total offense, but at the same time gave up 624 yards to the visitors.
Obviously the Cowboys have a great talent in Smith on offense, but it is the defense that has to be a concern for this weekend. At this stage the group ranks 114th in the country with close to 500 ypg allowed and it is not as though the group can focus on one lacking area in order to get by. After 11 games the Pokes are 110th nationally with 226.2 ypg permitted on the ground and 111th with 271.5 ypg surrendered through the air, all of which combines to eventually allow 36.8 ppg (110th).
In Smith, Wyoming has one of its most outstanding quarterbacks in history, having thrown for 292.1 ypg and a total of 28 touchdowns. He's completed 63.2 percent of his attempts, the majority of which have gone to Rufran (71 catches, 868 yards, seven TDs) and Herron (68, 929, nine).
The Aggies were at the top of their game defensively last Saturday as they registered their first shutout of 2013 in a 13-0 final versus visiting Colorado State. The fourth straight win for Utah State, Joey DeMartino's one- yard run in the third quarter accounted for the only touchdown of the contest, while kicker Nick Diaz booted field goals of 24 and 44 yards in the second and fourth quarters, respectively. Darell Garretson converted just eight of his 18 pass attempts for 43 yards and was sacked four times in the outing, while DeMartino's game-high 127 yards rushing was more than three times what the entire CSU unit produced (38 net yards).
After losing top-flight quarterback Chuckie Keaton earlier in the campaign it appeared that this would turn into a lost season for the Aggies, but the team has held it together and performed very well under pressure for first-year head coach Matt Wells. Garretson has hung in there with 61.6 percent accuracy, leading to six TDs and three INTs, but rally it has been the effort of DeMartino that has set the Aggies apart.
The running back is averaging close to six yards per attempt and has made it into the end zone 11 times, three more than all opposing rushers combined through 11 games.
On defense, the Aggies are permitting only 119.2 ypg on the ground (15th nationally) and 17.6 ppg (seventh).
Winners of 17 of their last 18 conference games, the Aggies are certainly heading in the right direction now that they've assured themselves a third- straight winning season for the first time since 1978-80. However, the team will have its hands full trying to slow down a desperate Wyoming group that has nothing to lose this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wyoming 27, Utah State 23
11/27 11:09:27 ET