The Utah State Aggies suffered a stinging loss against a ranked opponent to start the season, but they have every reason to believe the pieces are in place for them to make a run at the Mountain West title, and, it goes without saying, another bowl game. But they haven't had a winning season since 2014.
The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles were banged around last season at the FCS level, and that has continued into the 2018 campaign. They are putting a lot of their hopes in a coach that has come back to his alma mater, along with a quarterback who is young and exciting, but still a work in progress. That having been said, hopes can't be all that high as they travel west.
These two schools will meet for the first time ever on Saturday night at Maverik Stadium in Logan, Utah.
ABOUT TENNESSEE TECH: Tennessee Tech had to play through a two-hour, 45-minute lightning delay in its opener against Chattanooga, and that kind of spoiled the national television exposure they received on ESPNU. Despite the heroics of John Poplar, who ran back an interception for a touchdown, the Golden Eagles dropped a 34-10 decision which was marred by three turnovers. Bailey Fisher, a true freshman, was starting his first collegiate game and went just 10-of-26 for 117 yards, losing a fumble deep in Chattanooga territory and getting picked twice, once for a touchdown. Fisher has the ability to improvise a little, running for 78 yards, but he's raw and head coach Dewayne Alexander understands that perfectly. Fisher had better numbers last week, completing 19 out of 30, but generally, things got worse, although that may have been expected against Kennesaw State, the 7th-ranked FCS team. They actually got off to a 3-0 lead, but it was downhill from there, as Kennesaw State rolled up 507 yards on the ground. So now they have to dust themselves off and play an FBS squad with very little in the way of preparation. Tennessee Tech is coming off a 1-10 season (1-7 in the Ohio Valley Conference), so one could imagine Utah State being in "name the score" mode.
ABOUT UTAH STATE: Only two teams in the nation brought back more starters from last year than the Aggies did (18), and it has shown early on. In the opening game, coincidentally they faced a team that returned even MORE starters (Michigan State) and had the Spartans on the ropes before finally succumbing 38-31. Last week they were not interested in leaving anything too close for comfort and cruised to a 60-13 win over New Mexico State. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Love, who had 319 passing yards against Michigan State, was somewhat less effective vs. NMSU, completing just 14 of 27. But the "Utags" had 274 yards on the ground and took advantage of five turnovers on the part of their opponent, so it didn't matter all that much. It may be a bad sign that Utah State had to settle for so many field goals, but they got six of them from Dominik Eberle, including three from 51 yards, and tied the NCAA record for points by a kicker in one game (24). This is no fluke; Eberle was a third-team All-American last season. With that victory, USU got its revenge against the "other" Aggies, who had beaten them in overtime in last year's Arizona Bowl, bringing head coach Matt Wells his third straight losing season. Utah State has won the last eleven times they have played against a team from the FCS. All of those games have come against members of the Big Sky Conference. They have also gone 8-1 straight-up under Wells in games that constitute a "short week," a category this one definitely falls into.
1. Bailey had exceptional numbers in his senior year of high school in Clayton, GA, throwing for 3341 yards and rushing for 1283 yards. He accounted for 70 touchdowns (43 through the air, 27 on the ground).
2. Utah State's junior running back Darwin Thompson is known to have squatted 560 pounds, which should make him quite an attraction if he ever gets to the NFL Scouting Combine.
3. Dewayne Alexander, a Tennessee Tech graduate who is now in his first year as head coach, was formerly the coach at Cumberland University, which is infamous for being on the short end of the biggest blowout in college football history, a 222-0 shellacking from Georgia Tech in 1916.
PREDICTION: Utah State 54, Tennessee Tech 7