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What to expect from Utah State vs. Wisconsin

An Aggies expert joins us to preview Friday night’s opener.

NCAA Football: Utah State at Brigham Young Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Aggies of Utah State head into their 120th season of football in 2017. Playing under the lights of Camp Randall Stadium yet again, they venture to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers on Friday night.

Head coach Matt Wells comes off a rough season where the team went 1–7 in the Mountain West Conference on the way to a 3–9 record—though a handful of those losses were close.

Returning to an offense now under coordinator David Yost is senior quarterback Kent Myers (211-of-361, 2,389 yards, 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions; 449 rushing yards, six touchdowns)—along with returning running backs Tonny Lindsey, Jr. (148 carries, 763 yards, six touchdowns) and LaJuan Hunt. There’s also wide receiver Ron’quavion Tarver (46 receptions, 602 yards, three touchdowns).

On defense, safety Dallin Leavitt (57 tackles, three interceptions), defensive end Ian Togiai, and cornerback Jalen Davis are among last year’s players coming back for 2017. Each earned preseason honors from various publications.

Though the Aggies’ game notes boast 14 starters returning, their depth chart appears to show some new talent infused into the roster that could contribute.

Here to break down the Aggies is Jeremy Mauss, one of our friends at Mountain West Wire.

2017 Wisconsin Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time (CT) Spring Q&A Preview
Date Opponent Time (CT) Spring Q&A Preview
Sept. 1 Utah State 8 p.m. Mountain West Connection
Sept. 9 Florida Atlantic 11 a.m. Underdog Dynasty
Sept. 16 at BYU 2:30 p.m. Vanquish the Foe
Sept. 30 Northwestern TBA Inside NU
Oct. 7 at Nebraska TBA Corn Nation
Oct. 14 Purdue TBA Hammer and Rails
Oct. 21 Maryland (Homecoming) 11 a.m. Testudo Times
Oct. 28 at Illinois 11 a.m. The Champaign Room
Nov. 4 at Indiana TBA Crimson Quarry
Nov. 11 Iowa TBA BHGP
Nov. 18 Michigan TBA Maize N Brew
Nov. 25 at Minnesota TBA The Daily Gopher

After fall camp, whats the feeling around Utah State for Matt Wells and the 2017 season?

Wells is clearly on the hot seat after going just 3–9 last year as the team has dipped in production since he took over for Gary Andersen. Yet, there is also a ton of optimism because last year there were four games which they lost by a touchdown or less, plus David Yost’s new offense is going to be up-tempo and feature up to four and sometimes five wide receivers. That offense has never been used at Utah State and the change of pace could be what they need to boost a fairly pedestrian attack last year.

They bring in a new offensive coordinator in David Yost, previously at Oregon, Washington State, and Missouri. What should fans expect from the Aggies offense?

A lot of passing is what’s expected with this new offense and a lot of plays, too, with four-and five-wide sets. The Aggies will not give up on the ground attack with Lindsey and Hunt, but last year left a lot to be desired as they attempted to replace Devante Mays, who was hurt most of last year and is now with the Green Bay Packers. If the ground game cannot get going, then it will be tough to just sit back and throw over 30-plus times per game. The receiving game would have been even better if Rayshad Lewis—son of former NFLer Ray Lewis—had not transferred after spring football. The coaching staff is confident that the wide receiving group goes at least seven deep, but one main concern is an offensive line that lost over 100 career starts.

Where is the strength for the Utah State defense? Is it in the defensive backfield?

The secondary has always been a strength, as has the linebacking group, but for the second straight year it will be the secondary. The players leading the way are Jalen Davis and Dallin Leavitt and both have the potential to be all-conference selections at their positions in a deep Mountain West. Against Wisconsin it would be nice, from an Aggies perspective, that the front seven would be better able to keep up with the physical Badgers offensive line. Yet, the Aggies lost about half of their front seven and are breaking in a few first-time starters.

Where are the biggest concerns on this team? Are there any major injuries for Utah State?

No injuries that we are aware of, so that is good news for the Aggies. The biggest concern is testing this new offense in an actual game situation. There is only so much a team can do to prepare in spring and fall camp or even scrimmages. This offense is going to be a big change from a more pro-style formation to one that will feature a lot of passing, and its mix of running with two experienced backs in Hunt and Lindsey. On defense, it is just to not get steamrolled by the Wisconsin offensive line. The last time these two teams played, Utah State actually pushed around the Badgers front, but this is nowhere near that team that nearly pulled off the upset.

What are your keys to the game, and your game score prediction?

Utah State will need to get off to a fast start and catch Wisconsin off-guard since they have little film to go off of with this new offense. Maybe a quick strike or two could give the Aggies some confidence Friday night. The Aggies defense must not allow Wisconsin to go on extensive drives and just eat the clock and wear down the Utah State defenders, and if the defense can manage to stay fresh they will need to create some turnovers and short fields for the offense to set them up with manageable scoring situations.

Wisconsin 38, Utah State 17