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All is not lost: How Utah State can still compete for a conference title

Utah State running back Calvin Tyler Jr. (4) rushes against San Jose State safety Jay Lenard (27) and defensive lineman Cade Hall (92) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, San Jose, Calif.

Utah State running back Calvin Tyler Jr. (4) rushes against San Jose State safety Jay Lenard (27) and defensive lineman Cade Hall (92) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, San Jose, Calif. (Tony Avelar, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

LOGAN – The Utah State Aggies went for a wild ride Saturday and lost to an inferior Wyoming team who only had one win in Mountain West play entering the contest.

In what should have been a simple task — an opportunity for Utah State to firmly take control of the Mountain division — the Aggies were blown out 44-17 in front of their home crowd.

With the embarrassing loss, two questions remain: What happened against the Cowboys; and what kind of implications did this have on Utah State winning the division to advance to the conference championship?

Utah State was simply bested in about every facet of the game. While the final score paints a pretty good picture of what took place, peeling back the layers and digging a little deeper makes the domination a whole lot more apparent.

For a team whose bread and butter has been attacking teams through the air all season long, the Aggies significantly underperformed against the Cowboys, and that pretty much sealed the outcome from the beginning. On the year, Utah State averaged 303 yards and three touchdowns per game in the air. Against Wyoming, the Aggies barely produced half of that: 181 yards and two touchdowns.

Unable to rely on their primary source of offense, the Aggies never had a chance.

Defensively, it was arguably the team's worst performance of the season. The Aggies allowed a whopping 604 yards of total offense and an average of 9.4 yards per play. This came as a direct result of the Cowboys dominating the trenches and producing 362 yards on the ground — more than double the average of what the Aggies have allowed all year (169.5).

When an opposing team is gaining practically a first down on every play, a win is going to be nearly impossible.

The loss has its implications and takes the Aggies out of the drivers' seat to a division title, but all is not lost. The Aggies still have a favorable chance to win the division, but it's not an easy task.

Most importantly, the Aggies have to beat New Mexico — and that shouldn't be a problem. New Mexico is the worst team in the conference with a 1-6 record. The Lobos also have one of the worst pass defenses in the conference, allowing an average of 210 yards per game (7.1 per play). So if the Aggies can get back to what they do best and take care of business, as they should, they'll hold up their end.

Utah State will also have to rely on San Diego State beating Boise State, but that's where things get tricky. While the Aztecs are arguably the best team in the conference, Boise State has been on a tear lately and has won four straight, including a commanding 40-14 victory over Fresno State, the Aztecs only loss of the year.

There is still hope.

So if you need some rooting interest: Cheer on the Aztecs in the early-morning Friday game (11 a.m. MT, CBS) and then turn over to the Aggies an hour later (11 a.m. MT, FS1). Fortunately, Utah State will know its chances of clinching the division before its game goes final.

And in a season where Utah State wasn't predicted to compete for a division title, a conference championship would be the icing on the cake for the program and its new coaching staff.

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