Never ever one to get ahead of himself, Matt Wells pulled the reins back earlier this week. On himself.
As the Utah State coach explained the magnitude of Saturday’s regular-season home finale, the one in which the Aggies will wave goodbye to 25 members of the No. 14-ranked team in college football, his mind wandered into what might be.
Wells talked of USU’s shot at going 6-0 at home this year, and what it would mean not only to the outgoing crop of senior Aggies, but to this memorable ongoing season as whole. After all, only three teams in the history of USU football have ever won six regular-season home games in a season. In the 51-year history of Maverik Stadium, only five teams have gone undefeated in Logan.
“When you have a season where you go undefeated at home, you can have a special season overall,” Wells said. “We’re putting ourselves in a position to continue to do that. But the big picture is have a chance to play for the Mountain Division championship [and] the Mountain West championship at the end of this month.”
That’s where Wells re-centered himself. It was just a few sentences, but it provided a glimpse into where the Aggies are right now, caught smack-dab in the middle of a fantastic wave of football. At 8-1, enjoying its highest regular-season national ranking in school history, and waiting to take on struggling San Jose State, they can taste it, even though they’re not eager to admit it.
“The small picture,” Wells continued, "the small focus is San Jose State.”
SAN JOSE STATE AT NO. 14 UTAH STATE
When • Saturday, 2 p.m.
Stream • Facebook Stadium
Three-regular season games remain. At home to a 1-8 San Jose State team, before closing the year on the road at 3-6 Colorado State and 7-2 Boise State two days after Thanksgiving. As the Aggies preach what they have all year, of doing things their way, of dictating each game the way they have this season, it’s hard not to think where they might be at the end of this month. Already No. 14 in the AP poll, the high-scoring Aggies (over 50 points per game) could climb the ladder if they handle their own business.
Despite the Top 15 ranking, USU has yet to be part of the 2018 College Football Playoff Rankings. Michigan State, the lone team to topple USU in 2018, is on there at No. 18. Even MWC rival Fresno State (also 8-1 and ranked No. 16 in the AP poll) is No. 23 in the playoff rankings. If the Aggie offense continues to blast off and if the defense continues to force turnovers (eighth nationwide in turnover margin at plus-9), the spotlight will brighten these next few weeks and talk of a potential New Year’s Day bowl game will grow louder.
Asked this week if he ever imagined having an offense this dynamic, Wells said: “Coaches aren’t in the prediction business. We don’t sit around and think of it that way.”
Fans do. And right now, USU fans are in heaven.
Wells said there is no lingering concern over the injury to star quarterback Jordan Love, who missed the second half of the win at Hawaii. The sophomore was recently named as one of 16 semifinalists for the 2018 Davey O’Brien Award, presented annually to the best quarterback in college football. Love won’t be one of those 25 seniors lauded inside Maverik Stadium Saturday, given leis and footballs and hugs.
And as Wells put it, he’s not even closing the book on Saturday being the last goodbye of 2018.
“This year will be a little different, only because … we control our own destiny,” he said. “I’ll just say it that way. There may be a chance they get one more. You never know.”