When the preseason polls came out at the Western Athletic Conference football preview meetings earlier this week, there were more than a few words shared about how Utah State had new-found respect.
Landing at fourth in the coaches poll was the best prediction USU has had since the Aggies joined the WAC in 2005.
And Aggie fans were genuinely pleased. After years of seventh, eighth or ninth finishing fourth would be a huge step forward in the progression of the program. Fourth place, assuming there was a non-conference win or two along the way — hello, Idaho State — would place Utah State in a bowl game.
But that show of respect among WAC coaches in one thing. There is a little convincing left among all us geniuses in the media — the writers and broadcasters covering the WAC predicting a sixth-place finish for USU.
Here’s a look at what some national ‘experts’ think.
According to Lindy’s Sports, Utah State is still among the worst teams in the nation. The national magazine isn’t impressed with the improved showing last year nor the 20 returning starters. In fact, Lindy’s placed the Aggies at seventh in its WAC preseason ranking and just 102nd overall among Division I schools.
“The Aggies have the look of the latest breakout team in the WAC, where Idaho, San Jose State and Louisiana Tech recently have won bowl games,” Lindsy’s wrote. “In fact, the entire program has appeared to be on the upswing since coach Gary Andersen took over last year … On the field, the Aggies need to play much better on defense and solve their red zone problems on both sides of the ball.”
Over in Phil Steele’s College Football Preview, the Aggies got a little — but not much — more love. USU was picked to finish the season tied for fifth (or sixth, if you look at it that way) with Hawaii.
“I probably would have picked the Aggies had RB Robert Turbin not torn his ACL in February,” Phil Steele wrote. “Previous head coach Brent Guy left Utah State in much better shape than he inherited it and head coach Gary Andersen is now in his second year … The Aggies have a shot at bowl eligibility.”
Steele sees a solid future for the Aggies but is concerned about the impact of Turbin’s injury.
“If Turbin had not torn his ACL in February, Utah State definitely would have made my most-improved list,” Steele wrote. “They should top last year’s 4-win total and sweep their three November games.”
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