Utah (1-0) at Utah State (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, September 7, 8:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Romney Stadium (25,513) -- Logan, Utah. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Utah 1-0, USU 1-0. Away Record: Utah 0-0, USU 0-0. Neutral Record: Utah 0-0, USU 0-0. Conference Record: Utah 0-0, USU 0-0. Series Record: Utah leads, 77-28-4.
GAME NOTES: For just the third time since 1954, the Utah State Aggies kick off a campaign with back-to-back home dates as they entertain in-state rival Utah on Friday night at Romney Stadium.
Last week the Aggies, members of the Western Athletic Conference, were also up against another school from the Beehive State, defeating Southern Utah by a score of 34-3. The win marked the first triumph in the season opener for the program since 1997 when it took out the Utah Utes on the road, 21-14. The last time the school won at home to begin a campaign was in 1996 when the Aggies slipped by the Utes, 20-17.
As for Utah, a squad which is now in its second year in the Pac-12 Conference after residing in the Mountain West, it too began the new campaign on a high note by conquering Northern Colorado in Salt Lake City on August 30 by a score of 41-0.
Picked to finish second in the Pac-12 South by the media, Utah has a record against current WAC programs of 97-41-6.
The Utes own a 77-28-4 advantage in the all-time series with Utah State, posting a 35-17 win in the most recent matchup back in 2009 to give them 12 in a row over the Aggies. Utah's record in road openers versus USU is 8-2.
Although the two schools did not face each other the last two years, the rivalry is still the 12th-longest in NCAA FBS history.
Back on the field for the first time since the fourth game of the 2011 season when he suffered a season-ending injury against Washington, Jordan Wynn moved to 14-6 as a starter with the victory over UNC. Wynn finished the meeting 19- of-27 for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air. Jake Murphy reeled in six passes for 78 yards and both aerial scores for the program.
The rushing attack for Utah was also quite strong as the squad ran the ball 47 times for 193 yards, thanks in large part to John White who delivered 119 yards and a score on 24 carries.
The hard-hitting defense for the Utes allowed Northern Colorado a mere 35 rushing yards and 114 yards of total offense. Utah caused five fumbles, but recovered just one of those miscues by the Bears. Joe Kruger registered the one interception for the Utes and brought it back 24 yards for the last touchdown of the game.
The effort by the defense isn't necessarily anything new for the Utes because last season the team ranked third in the Pac-12 and 38th nationally with 350.9 ypg allowed. Gaining an advantage on turnovers was also a hallmark of head coach Kyle Whittingham's crew in 2011 with the team placing 14th in the country with a plus-0.77 turnovers per contest.
Where the Utes have to really focus their efforts is on offense because last year the team was 99th nationally in passing (173.2 ypg) and 109th overall with just 310.9 ypg, a number which ranked the squad last in the conference. Hopefully the return of Wynn will solve many of those ills.
As for the Aggies, their offense was right on point in the opener, thanks in large part to quarterback Chuckie Keeton who converted all but three of his 25 pass attempts for 304 yards and a couple of touchdowns in the win over Southern Utah. Matt Austin showed why he is considered a top receiver in the WAC as he reeled in five balls for 119 yards and a score.
If there is an area that Utah State must pay special attention to it is the running back position because they are having to replace both Robert Turbin and Michael Smith, two players who helped make the Aggies tops in the conference and sixth nationally with a hefty 282.7 ypg on the ground. In the opener, the team leaned heavily on Joe Hill who stepped up in a big way with 116 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries.
Holding Southern Utah to just three points was certainly a great way to kick off the new year and limiting the opposition to a mere 209 yards of offense will go a long way in helping the season average, but the Aggies have to understand that an opponent like Utah will not be as easily held down.
Linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu started out a bit slow with just 1.5 tackles in the opener, but he has a long season ahead of him and knows that the unit will be asking him to help fill a huge void left by Bobby Wagner moving forward.
Enjoying the comforts of home should aid in USU's preparation for this meeting, but the Utes simply looked too dominant on both sides of the ball last week to be taken down in Logan.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah 31, Utah State 24
09/05 10:32:18 ET