Road heavy early schedule will challenge USU in 2013

<strong>LOGAN—</strong> Most Utah State fans were pretty excited when the home and away games were announced for the Mountain West Conference for the next four seasons. The Aggies inaugural season in the conference included home games against Colorado State, Wyoming, Hawaii, and perennial league leader Boise State.

With the two separate divisions and the rotating conference slate, USU misses San Diego State, Fresno State and Nevada completely for the next two seasons, with away games scheduled at Air Force, San Jose State, New Mexico, and UNLV in 2013. Friday the dates of those games were released, and – at least on paper – it appears the Aggies road to the inaugural MW championship game may be a little bit tougher.

USU knew it would be on the road early, as the Aggies open the season on Thursday, Aug. 29 at in-state foe Utah. The Aggies also take on another Pac-12 foe when they travel to USC on Sept. 21. However, Utah State won’t see its home field much in between those games either, as their first two MW games are on the road – making a total of four of the first five games of 2013 away from Romney Stadium.

Here’s a quick look at the 2013 schedule, with the home games in bold:

Thursday, Aug. 29 – at Utah

Saturday, Sept. 7 – at Air Force

Saturday, Sept. 14 – vs. Weber State

Saturday, Sept. 21 – at USC

Friday, Sept. 27 – at San Jose State

Friday, Oct. 4 – vs. BYU

Saturday, Oct. 12 – vs. Boise State

Saturday, Oct. 19 – at New Mexico

Saturday, Nov. 2 – vs. Hawaii

Saturday, Nov. 9 – at UNLV

Saturday, Nov. 23 – vs. Colorado State

Saturday, Nov. 30 – vs. Wyoming

The schedule is clearly front heavy, with two road games at Pac-12 schools to start the season, mixed in with what appears to be the Aggies’ two toughest conference road games. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier when USU returns home either, with big games – that will most likely be nationally televised – against BYU and Boise State. Below is a look at what the Aggies face in their first six games.

Utah (5-7, 3-6 in 2012) – The Utes are coming off their worst season since 2002 when they finished 5-6, and have struggled since joining the Pac-12. The Utes suffered a loss to Utah State last season for the first time in 15 years. The last time the Aggies beat the Utes in Logan, they followed that up with a win in Salt Lake City the next year. It won’t be easy, but with Utah returning only 13 starters from last year’s team, and still unsure of exactly what they have at quarterback, USU could be primed for another back-to-back. Utah leads the all-time series, 77-29-4.

Air Force (6-7, 5-3 in 2012) – The Falcons dropped below .500 last season with a 33-14 loss to Rice in their bowl game. This is a traditionally tricky team to play though due to their unique option offense, and it won’t be an easy MW opener for the Aggies. Air Force only returns 12 starters from last season, but the Falcons always seem to play better earlier in the year. They nearly upset Michigan at the Big House in 2012, losing 31-35, and recorded wins against conference foes Colorado State, Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada, and Hawaii. The teams have only played once, a l969 USU loss.

Weber State (2-9, 2-6 in 2012) – Utah State should have a chance to take a breather against the in-state Wildcats in the Aggies’ home opener. USU coaches and players would never admit to it, but there will probably be a fair amount of looking ahead to USC during this week. The Aggies lead the all-time series with the wildcats, 12-1.

USC (7-6, 5-4 in 2012) – The Aggies keep inching closer to scoring a win over a marquee program. Could they finally get over that hump in 2013? Playing the always talented Southern Cal Trojans is far from easy, but there are some things in USU’s favor. USC is coming off a disappointing 2012 campaign that saw them begin the season at No. 1, fall out of the rankings, and get rolled in their bowl game by Georgia Tech (a team that had to apply for a special exemption from the NCAA to even be eligible for a bowl game). Gone is four-year starting QB Matt Barkley, and a bevy of talented players on defense, and head coach Lane Kiffin is squarely on the hot seat. Can Chuckie Keeton and company stoke the fire? The Aggies and Trojans have met four teams in the past, and USC has won all four previous meetings.

San Jose State (11-2, 5-1 in 2012) – The Spartans matched the Aggies in 2012 with an 11-2 overall record. However, unlike the Aggies, SJSU suffered one conference loss last season – a 49-27 home loss at the hands of Utah State. The Spartans did not lose again, reeling off seven straight victories to close the season, including a 20-14 home win over BYU. SJSU returns 13 starters from last year’s record-breaking team, including incredibly efficient quarterback David Fales. Like the Aggies, San Jose State is trying to prove it’s not a one-year wonder. Being played on Friday night, most likely on national television, this won’t be an easy game for USU. SJSU leads the all-time series, 20-14-1.

BYU (8-5 in 2012) – The Aggies and Cougars meet on a Friday night once again, in the annual “Conference Weekend Clash.” BYU has won the last two in Provo, including last year’s 6-3 yawner, but both games have come down to the wire. Utah State won the last meeting in Logan in 2010 – a game that landed the Aggies their current QB – ending a 17-year drought against the Cougars. Keeton will now look to pick up his first win over “the school down south” against a team that returns some incredibly gifted player like Kyle Van Noy and Cody Hoffman, but also lost a lot on defense and overhauled its staff in the offseason.

<em>This is part one of a two part series looking at the 12 regular season games the Utah State University football team will play in 2013. Part two will look at the final six games of the 2013 schedule.</em>


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