Out of top 25, Utah State football seeking to prove itself again
Stop double-checking your calendar - it's August.
College football's start is less than a month away, and Utah State will be among the first teams to take the field on Aug. 29. The Aggies are diving into preparations, meeting with the media Thursday afternoon, and starting fall camp on Friday.
A lot has changed since hoisting the Potato Bowl trophy last December: new coaches, turnover at a few key positions and a multimillion-dollar weight room that the Aggies now get to use every day.
Also something that's changed: Utah State's perception as a top 25 team.
The first edition of the USA Today Coaches Poll, and Utah State is one of seven schools that has been dropped from the top 25. The Aggies did receive votes, finishing No. 35 one spot ahead of in-state rival BYU.
Unsurprisingly, Alabama was voted the top team, with Ohio State, Oregon, Stanford and Georgia rounding out the top 5.
Utah State will have a chance to prove it can be back in the nation's elite. Games against USC (No. 24) and Boise State (No. 19) should provide some early season challenges. Future opponents BYU (No. 36) and San Jose State (No. 41) will be in the hunt to move up as well.
From 17th last year to 35th this year? Is that fair?
Considering the changes Utah State has experienced this offseason and the program's track record in the past decade, it isn't surprising the Aggies get a heat check. They're coming off a conference title, but the Mountain West should be much harder to win. As much as Matt Wells was a part of last year's success, many football observers - not just the voters - are waiting to see how the rookie head coach adjusts when the games start.
It's always harder for a non-autobid conference team to get respect year after year. Boise State, which is ranked in the preseason top 25 for the fifth straight season, is one of the few exceptions. There probably needs to be a few more winning seasons before Utah State can earn that type of trust.
Wells has said he's tried to eliminate entitlement in the locker room, and this is exactly why: Last season is over. The trophy and the records remain, but already, the football world is waiting to see what Utah State does next.
With the season less than a month away, the Aggies are eager to see as well.
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon