LOGAN — Week 1 of the Aggies' season didn't go as planned. FCS affiliated Southern Utah put up a strong fight against a Utah State team that was picked to finish third in the Mountain West. The Aggies couldn't score an offensive touchdown in a scary 12-9 victory.
The Utes played well in their 24-17 victory over Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines and seem to be one of the powers in the Pac-12 South. The Utes' secondary did break down a few times, allowing Wolverine receivers a wide-open look to the end zone. Lucky for the Utes, the Wolverine offense couldn't complete those passes.
The Aggies visit the ranked Utes Friday, Sept. 11, and have a lot of areas they need to improve if they are to leave Salt Lake with the upset.
Here are the key stats the Aggies need to improve to beat the Utes:
Chuckie Keeton's dismal 16/33 and 110 passing yards
It's no secret that Keeton underperformed against the Thunderbirds. Keeton's 16/33 performance, from a completion percentage point of view, was the second worst of his career. His 110 passing yards puts him at 113th in FBS for week one, with Keeton being the only quarterback to throw at least 30 passes in the bottom 30 in FBS.
Keeton and his receiving corps need to take advantage of a Ute secondary that gave up 279 yards through the air. Granted, that same secondary intercepted the Wolverines three times but did show weakness in defending the deep ball. Keeton and company will need to have similar success to escape with a win.
The Utes' 129 rushing yards vs. the Aggies' 52 rushing yards allowed
The Aggies boast one of the best rush defenses in the country, but the Utes counter with one of the best running backs in the country, Devontae Booker.
Booker didn't have a lot of success against the Wolverines' front seven, finishing the game with 22 carries for 69 yards. He's expected to see a lot of work against the Aggies to help complement Travis Wilson's scrambles.
Nick Vigil was one of the bright spots of a rather disappointing performance from the Aggies. Vigil finished with 13 total tackles, two for losses. Vigil, along with the rest of the linebackers, will need to do well to contain the Ute rushing attack.
LaJuan Hunt's 80 rushing yards
Hunt will need to have a big game just so Keeton can gain some confidence in the offense. Hunt had some success against the Thunderbirds but only averaged 3.5 yards per carry. That will need to be closer to 4.0 to take pressure off the passing game.
Hunt's counterpart, Devante Mays, had four carries for 51 yards, 39 of which came on one run. Mays doesn't need to have carries for 30-plus yards to be successful against the Utes, but he needs adequate production to spell Hunt, especially late in the game.
The Utes only allowed 79 rushing yards against the Wolverines. The Utes' rush defense will be formidable to the Aggies' rushing attack.
USU special teams scored 12 points against SUU
The Aggies' special teams players scored more points than offense. Actually, the special teams scored all of the team's points.
The first two points came from a blocked Thunderbirds' PAT that was returned for an Aggie two-point conversion, and Brock Warren added a 30-yard field goal for a total of five USU points in the first half. The Aggies didn't score again until an Andrew Rodriguez 88-yard punt return for a touchdown, and the Warren PAT put the special teams' total to 12 points.
The special teams should be proud of their success against the Thunderbirds, but the offense needs to be ashamed. The Aggies can't rely on their special teams to win the game against the Utes, but they will need significant contributions from the special teams to help them win.
29 total punts in the Aggies' opener
The Aggies and Thunderbirds put on an excellent punting display in their season-openers. The two teams punted for a combined total of 1,124 yards. As astounding as that number is, neither team wants to see that ever again. The 29 total punts made for a slow-moving game.
SB Nation found the 29 punts slightly amusing. It created what it calls Punt: The Poem in its article about the evils of punting.
If the Aggies punt as much as they did in Week 1 against the Utes, expect a dominant win, on the Utes side.
Contributing — Andy Larsen
Nathan Harker is a sports writing intern currently enrolled at Brigham Young University majoring in broadcast journalism. He can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @nharker3207.