Game location: Maverik Stadium, Logan, UT
Game time: 7:00 PM MDT
Spread: -8.5 (BYU)
Head coach: Blake Anderson
Anderson takes over in Logan after Gary Andersen was dismissed during the 2020 season. He spent the last seven seasons as head coach for Arkansas State, where they went to six straight bowl games and won two Sun Belt titles with Anderson at the helm.
Under Anderson, the Red Wolves routinely had a high-flying passing attack. Utah State is looking to mirror that success. Thus far, Anderson has reinvigorated their offense.
2021 Season Thus Far
The Aggies started the season with a bang, defeating PAC-12 opponent Washington State on the road, 26-23. Utah State totaled 441 yards against the Cougars, including 222 on the ground. However, we now know Washington State is having a down season, starting out 1-3 with their only win against FCS Portland State. USU then defeated North Dakota 48-24 before beating Air Force on the road, 49-45. Against the Falcons, the Utah State quarterbacks amassed 448 passing yards.
After a 3-0 start, they faced their stiffest test yet in Boise State at home. They were able to accumulate 443 total yards but three turnovers, 13 penalties, and failures in the red zone led to a 27-3 blowout loss.
Utah State now sits at 3-1, looking to bounce back from that tough loss to the Broncos.
2021 Team Rankings
Scoring offense: 58th
Total offense: 10th
Passing yards: 13th
Rushing yards: 24th
Scoring defense: 99th
Total defense: 121st
Pass yards allowed: 106th
Rush yards allowed: 112th
Penalty yards: 101st
Biggest Strength- Passing offense
Utah State is deploying a two-quarterback system with Logan Bonner and Andrew Peasley. Bonner has taken the majority of the snaps, leading the team with 959 passing yards, but Peasley has the better passer rating at 153.5.
Collectively, they have topped 400 passing yards in two of their first four games. They have two receivers who have at least 20 receptions and 300 yards through four games. The Aggies do a good job distributing the football in a variety of ways. BYU will need to be on their toes on defense and be vigilant in their pass coverage.
Biggest Weakness- Defense
North Dakota was able to move the ball through the air with 374 yards. Air Force ran wild on Utah State to the tune of 437 yards on the ground, with five touchdowns. Either by air or by ground, the Aggies’ defense has been less than stellar, ranking in the 100s in most categories. BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick should be licking his chops with the personnel he has on offense.
Best Player- Justin Rice, LB
Rice followed his coach Anderson from Arkansas State to Logan. All he has done is lead the defense with 5.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions. BYU’s offense will need to account for where No. 3 is at all times on the Utah State defense.
This is Rice’s third team in five seasons. He accumulated 112 tackles with seven tackles for loss, three sacks, and two interceptions in 2019 for Fresno State. He is a playmaker that is keen on being near the ball.
How BYU Can Win
The recipe seems pretty clear, regardless of who is playing quarterback for BYU- pound the rock. Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa should look to have big days against Utah State. BYU’s offensive line has a clear advantage and should be able to push around the Aggies’ defensive front. Once the ground game is established, big plays will open up for the Cougars. Controlling the clock and the ball are good ways for BYU to keep Utah State out of rhythm offensively.
On defense, the injuries are concerning for BYU. However, it seemed like head coach Kalani Sitake kept a few guys out for the USF game specifically to get them healthy for this big in-state matchup. Utah State will want to get big chunks through the air and BYU’s secondary will need to be ready. As long as the offense can run the ball consistently and the defense prevents the explosive plays, BYU should be able to keep the wagon wheel for another year.