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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah State football was picked seventh in both the 2009 Western Athletic Conference football media and coaches' polls released by the conference office Wednesday at the opening of the conference preview, held in Salt Lake City.
The seventh-place prediction matches USU's highest spot in the Aggies' five seasons in the league. In 2006, USU was tabbed seventh in the media poll and tied for seventh in the coaches poll.
"This is a very competitive league and there's a bunch of proven winners that are picked above us, and deservedly so," first-year head coach Gary Andersen said. "I expected us to be in the bottom portion at seven, eight and nine, and all three of those teams: us, New Mexico State and Idaho are fighting to move up."
Utah State collected 21 points in the coaches' poll, finishing eight points ahead of eighth-place New Mexico State and 13 points behind sixth-place San Jose State. In the media poll, USU garnered 170 points, ahead of Idaho in eighth (110 points) and behind San Jose State in sixth (263 points).
Defending champion Boise State was picked first in both polls, collecting eight of the nine first-place votes in the coaches' poll, as the coaches could not vote for their own team, and the Broncos totaled 64 points. Nevada received the other first-place vote on the way to 55 points. Fresno State and Louisiana Tech were tied for third with 45 points each, followed by Hawai'i in fifth (36 points), just ahead of sixth-place San Jose State. The Aggies were followed by New Mexico State (13) and Idaho (11).
In the media poll, Boise State was first with 55 first-place votes and a total of 519 points, while Nevada was second with three first-place votes and 444 points. Fresno State was third (365 points), preceding Louisiana Tech (360), Hawai'i (275) and San Jose State (263). USU was followed by Idaho (110) and New Mexico State (104).
The media also selected preseason players of the year, voting Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick as Offensive Player of the Year, while tabbing Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson as Defensive Player of the Year.
"There are no surprises to me in this poll, but to me, at the end of the day, preseason polls are just something to talk about," Andersen said.
Andersen and the Aggies return a WAC-leading 19 total starters, including a conference-best 10 on offense, as well as seven on defense and two kickers. Those 19 starters are part of 48 returning lettermen from last season's 3-9 team. Last year was the first time since 2005 that the Aggies had three wins in a season and USU's 3-5 WAC record was its best in its four seasons in the league. It was also the first time since 2003 that USU has won three conference games and just the third time in the 2000's (2000: 4-1 Big West; 2003: 3-4 Big West; 2008: 3-5 WAC).
"I don't think our team will be surprised with being picked seventh. Is that where we want to be at the end of the season? Absolutely not, but you've got to earn your right to be higher and be in a higher position. We know what we've got our sights set on and what our goals are as a football team, and one of them is to be higher than seventh in the WAC, so that will be one of our motivations going into the season," Andersen said.
Andersen and Utah State report to fall camp on Wednesday, Aug. 5 with practice opening on Thursday, Aug. 6.
The Aggies open the 2009 season against Utah on Thursday, Sept. 3. After a bye and a road game at Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 19, USU hosts in-state foe Southern Utah in the Aggies' home opener on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 6 p.m.
For more ticket information, contact the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, or by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.