LOGAN — After losing Chuckie Keeton midway through the season, there certainly was a small minority of people who believed that the Aggies could reach a bowl game so early.
Keeton was everything the Aggies had previously hoped and dreamed for, but with great struggle comes great opportunity, and that opportunity has made Darrel Garretson the new football star in Cache Valley. After Keeton went down, Utah State started Craig Harrison initially, but Harrison fell short in a loss to Boise State. Then USU turned to Garretson, who has led the Aggies to three consecutive wins — including a win over much-improved UNLV.
With Garretson at the helm, the Aggies still have an outside chance of making the inaugural Mountain West championship game. In order for this to happen though, Utah State has to hope that Boise State will lose once more, while the Aggies will have to win their final two games.
This week, the Aggies face off against Colorado State — a team that very much resembles the Aggies in record and in tempo. Utah State is 5-1 in conference play; the Rams are 4-2. The Aggies have the nation’s 28th-best offense; Colorado State has the nation’s 27th-best offense. Given that Utah State is at home, one would have to assume the Aggies will have comfort on their side as they conduct their offense.
So, the key matchup in this week’s Mountain West showdown is between the Utah State defense and the Colorado State offense.
Why this matchup?
Quite simply, if it comes down to a matchup of defenses, Utah State wins that match by far. The Aggies are giving up 19.4 points per game, while the Rams give up 31.5 points per game. However, Colorado State’s offense has put up several impressive performances this season, including scoring 66 points at Wyoming the previous weekend.
The Rams’ quarterback — Garrett Grayson — has thrown 2,785 yards and 18 touchdown passes. Also, starting tailback Kapri Bibbs has rushed for 25 touchdowns. Looking at the numbers, Grayson ranks in the upper echelon of Mountain West quarterbacks.
Quite simply, Colorado State hasn’t been able to stop anybody on defense and has turned to its offense to beat teams. Even against New Mexico, the Rams surrendered 42 points to the Lobos. Also, Colorado State allowed Colorado, one of the Pac-12’s worst offensive teams, 41 points. So, if the Rams are going to have a chance of winning in Logan, it will come from their offense.
Utah State can control Colorado State, and it will come through dropping all defensive backs into coverage throughout the game while trusting in the front seven to plug running lanes and to get pressure on the quarterback. When the Rams have played teams with above-average fronts, they have struggled to move the football. If Utah State plays how it has defensively this season, the Aggies will stay in the race for a spot in the title game.
Who wins this matchup?
Again, don’t expect the Rams to even come close to beating Utah State on the defensive side of the ball. Colorado State hasn’t proven it can stop anybody, and it doesn’t look like that will change against a team that has averaged 40 points a game since Garretson took over the offense.
Utah State will climb its way to a seventh win, keeping itself alive in the race for a spot in the Mountain West title game.