Kragthorpe: Utah-Utah State football analysis
While everyone else is wondering if tonight's game will mark the last time the University of Utah ever plays football in Logan, my question is whether the outcome will be much different than ever for Utah State.
Logically, hosting the Utes at Romney Stadium is a big advantage for the Aggies, but you would never know that by the results of Utah's last three visits.
Acknowledging that I tend to dwell too much on history, and recognizing that these teams have not met since USU coach Gary Andersen's debut in 2009, I'm still influenced by those games in Logan in 2004, '06 and '08. Total score: Utah 154, USU 16.
Those three games are among the five biggest mismatches I've ever witnessed, involving two Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The disclaimer is that two of the contests involved Utah teams that would go unbeaten, and the other ('06) was with an Aggie offensive coordinator who soon would resign. But those episodes make it difficult for me to embrace the idea of a close, competitive game tonight.
Then again, it is equally difficult to imagine anything like those 48-6, 48-0 and 58-10 games of the previous decade. In '04, Ute quarterback Alex Smith did not even play in the second half, after building a 41-0 lead. In '06, the Aggies lost six turnovers and posted 98 total yards. In '08, Utah's Paul Kruger recorded four sacks.
It all comes down to Chuckie Keeton tonight. The Aggies have to score 24 or more points to stay in the game, and that will require a big effort from USU's quarterback. If Keeton is an accurate passer and a dangerous runner, the Aggies can maintain some momentum.
The first quarter will be critical. USU's chances hinge on a good start that keeps the crowd involved, gives the Aggies confidence and tests the Utes. If that happens, it could be a fun, entertaining night.
By the way, the other debacles on my list? Texas A&M 66, Louisiana-Lafayette 0 in 1997; and Georgia Tech 52, Tulsa 10 in the 2004 Humanitarian Bowl.
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