<strong>LOGAN— </strong>Make no mistake about it, this game has been circled on the Aggies calendar for a long time.
As exciting as Utah State football was last season, the Aggies are still searching for a signature win under Gary Andersen. Sure, USU finally spanked BYU for the first time in 17 years back in 2010, but a true signature win, despite some close calls, has eluded the Aggies.
With Friday’s nationally televised home game against in-state “rival” and Pac-12 opponent Utah, the Aggies have a chance to finally get that win. It is a win that U-State needs to get.
Earlier this week, there was a CacheValleyDaily.com column detailing the projected <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/story/rivalry-renewed-houston-natives-chuckie-keeton-and-eric-rowe-square-off-in-friday-s-utah-state-utah-game-20120905″ target=”_blank”>best and worst case scenarios</a> for the 2012 football season. With a win Friday, USU would make a big move towards that best case scenario instead of heading in the other direction.
Momentum is a fickle mistress, and can swing wildly – and quickly – in one direction or the other. Last season, the Aggies had some bad breaks in the early games and were staring a 2-6 record in the face following an ugly first half at Hawaii. Then momentum swung in the Aggies favor.
USU capped off a wild second-half comeback win at Hawaii to get back on the winning track. Instead of being 2-6, the Aggies were 3-5 and had momentum. That momentum turned into four more wins, a 7-5 regular season record, and the team’s first bowl game in 14 years.
That is why Friday’s game against the Utes is so important.
A win against a very good Pac-12 team and a 2-0 start should provide the momentum needed to manage a schedule that is definitely harder on the front end. Even assuming a loss at Wisconsin, the Aggies would still be 2-1 heading into a road game at Colorado State. The game against the Rams is very winnable, and at 3-1 USU would be returning home to face FBS bottom dweller UNLV.
However, if the Utes win, things could snowball and lead to – at best – a 3-2 record heading into the Aggies sixth game of the season at BYU. Momentum could swing the other way on USU with a loss against the Utes though – especially if it’s a bad one, followed by another loss at Wisconsin. Now at 1-2, with two straight losses, uncertainty could set in and the Aggies could falter on the road at CSU, returning home with a 1-3 record. Even allowing for a win at home against UNLV, the Aggies would be heading to Provo with a losing record at 2-3.
There is no understating how big a 4-1 record with a win over Utah would look going into that BYU game, compared to a 2-3 record. Things don’t get any easier after the Cougars either, as USU opens up WAC play with a road game at underrated San Jose State.
Simply put, the first six games of the 2012 season will show which direction this Aggie team will take. The back end of the schedule is pretty open with the toughest games being at SJSU and at Louisiana Tech. Friday’s game against the Utes will play a big role in determining how the following four games – and in turn the season – will play out.