Last season, the Utah State Aggies and Utah Utes went toe-to-toe in their annual rivalry game with Chuckie Keeton leading the Aggies to an exciting 27-20 overtime victory. The win propelled Utah State to an impressive 11-2 finish in 2012 while the Utes stumbled to a 5-7 finish. The rivalry is renewed to kick off the 2013 season, and Utah will be looking to get this season off to a fast start with a win at home against the upstart Aggies.
The key for Utah will be trying to slow down Keeton. The dynamic junior is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks on the West Coast. He can give defensive coordinators nightmares trying to contain him after he exploded in 2012 for 3,373 yards passing with 27 touchdowns to nine interceptions while rushing for 619 yards and scoring eight times on the ground. Against the Utes last season, he threw a pair of touchdowns as he completed 22-of-32 passes for 216 yards while rushing for another 86 yards and averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Utah’s defense was less than stellar last season, ranking No. 49 in scoring, and will be tasked with replacing a major chunk of their front seven. That puts a lot of pressure on some un-tested defenders to try and keep Keeton and the Aggies penned in. The bulk of the responsibility will fall on Trevor Reilly, who returns after playing with a hurt knee in 2012 to lead the defense. He’ll get moved all over the place to try and create some disruption, but the entire defense will have to stay disciplined to keep the Utes in this game.
Kyle Whittingham could also stand to see a bit more out of his offense early this season. Travis Wilson returns after a rough freshman campaign with a new offensive coordinator in Dennis Erickson who will be planning on putting the ball in the air more often this fall. The Utes finished as the No. 100 team in the nation last year in passing, so any improvement in that area will be appreciated.
Whether it is their defense keeping Utah State penned in or their offense putting up enough points to out-score the Aggies, Utah is coming into this season opener with high hopes and revenge on the mind. Do they have enough to get the job done or will Utah State start a winning streak in this annual tilt?