Utah State football faces tough start to 2013 schedule
Logan • It's going to be a bumpy start to fall.
Utah State learned as much when the Mountain West released its conference football schedule this afternoon, a slate that gives the Aggies four of its first five games on the road and its toughest conference opponents all before mid-October.
Coach Matt Wells and his program will be tested early with games at Utah, Air Force, USC and San Jose State to start the season. The lone break at home will be against Weber State.
If the Aggies can get through that stretch clean, they'll be rewarded with home games against Boise State and BYU - no pushovers for a home stand. The game against the Broncos could well determine who gets to go to the Mountain West Championship game in December, so the pressure will be on.
Utah State knew it had tough non-conference games beforehand, but the early road battles will definitely add to the degree of difficulty this season. With a lot of returning stars, the Aggies will have to be on their game from week one proving they're worth the hype.
Wells only got a glimpse of the schedule on his phone before taking the field for the scrimmage. He'll take some time to analyze the schedule more, but he's not intimidated by a road-heavy early stretch.
"Do know that we're going on the road, and that will test this team," he said. "But that doesn't bother me because this is a veteran team. Guys won't flinch. We know how to get on a bus, we know how to get on a plane."
Utah State's schedule seems to cool down at the finish, facing teams who were between middle-of-the-pack and in the basement last year. Wells said it would be a good opportunity for the Aggie faithful to see his squad compete.
"I know we've got a lot of home games at the end," he said. "It's a good schedule for the fans to come out. We have a lot of good teams coming to Romney."
What follows is the 2013 schedule with a one-sentence early take. Obviously we'll know more about each team as we get closer to football season:
Thursday, Aug. 29 - at Utah • The Utes will be looking for payback after the Aggies nipped them at Romney Stadium last season.
Saturday, Sept. 7 - at Air Force • Always an awkward match-up early on, but Utah State will try to use its size advantage to its benefit in the run game.
Saturday, Sept. 14 - Weber State • A game the Aggies will be heavily favored in will offer some confidence in the brutal first half.
Saturday, Sept. 21 - at USC • A thudding finish to 2012 shouldn't lull anyone into a false sense of security, because the Trojans' athleticism is always tough to handle.
Friday, Sept. 27 - at San Jose State • The Aggies will hope to replicate the licking they put on David Fales last season, but that offense can be explosive.
Friday, Oct. 4 - BYU • Defensively as tough as they come, but Utah State will hope for a packed house to help swing a victory after coming close the last two years.
Saturday, Oct. 12 - Boise State • Key pieces of the Broncos defense return, which could make for a match-up with huge conference title implications.
Saturday, Oct. 19 - at New Mexico • The Lobos are rebuilding under a new coach, so Utah State hopes this road trip will go fairly smoothly.
Saturday, Nov. 2 - Hawai'i • Norm Chow's group comes to Utah, but the offense the Rainbow Warriors are running isn't likely to remind anyone of the Air Raid glory days - yet.
Saturday, Nov. 9 - at UNLV • Another team returning a lot of players, but the Rebels have an uphill battle to be considered in the same tier as the Aggies.
Saturday, Nov. 23 - Colorado State • Maybe one of the tougher late home games, as the Rams are hoping to take a step forward this year.
Saturday, Nov. 30 - Wyoming • A fun regular season finale against a Cowboys team that has good pieces but couldn't quite put it together last season.
Saturday, Dec. 7 - Mountain West Championship • Cross your fingers, because it won't be an easy road.
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon