Utah State Aggies at Utah Utes
College Football: Thursday Sept. 3, 2009, 9 PM EST (MTN)
The Line: Utah -20 1/2
Last year was just a magical year for the Utah Utes. Running the table, winning the Mountain West, and then pounding the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl. On top of great leadership, last year's Ute team benefited from some great bounces that they were able to take advantage of.
Utah lost a lot of talent this off season, with just 12 returning starters nearly half their team is gone. One of the missing is QB Brian Johnson. Johnson's replacement should be talented and fully capable but it's tough to replace the MWC player of the year.
Utah also lost both of its coordinators, such is the price you pay for success. Utah's defense had two key early defections to the NFL draft but the replacements are 4.3 40 guys. I like Utah this year and think Kyle Whittingham is a fine coach, I'm just not sure we see the same run from them we saw last season as there just seems to be a lot more hurdles to leap.
Utah State is coming off of it's best season in WAC play in quite some time. While 3-5 in the conference isn't a lot to go around and brag about, it does show a team that is moving in the right direction as the Aggies seem to be. Utah State also returns 16 starters and only lost 14 players from last year's improving team.
The reality of this game is Utah just has a lot of rough edges and Utah has a lot to be motivated about and to prove. Utah State has returning players and needs to make a statement by playing well, even if they don't get the win.
I think the public perception of the Utes are of the team running up and down the field against Alabama while in reality most of those players aren't on this team. I think that is part of the reason the line is nearly three touchdowns for this in state rivalry game.
This game will probably be a lot harder fought and tougher than people give it credit for so with all of the experience along with the motivation factor, I'm inclined to take the points.
Mitch's Pick Utah State + 20 1/2