Head coach Gary Anderson takes over a program that hasn't won more than three games in the last six years. The defensive-minded Anderson travels from Salt Lake City to Logan after spending five seasons with the University of Utah. The Aggies finished the 2008 campaign with a 3-9 record with all three wins coming against WAC bottom-tier opponents, including a 47-2 throttling of New Mexico State the final game of the season.
Utah State most likely won't eclipse the .500 mark in 2009 (haven't done since 1996), but with 18 returning starters this will be an experienced team. Junior quarterback Diondre Borel is the Juice Williams of the WAC conference. He is a dual-threat signal caller whose skills will be maximized in the Aggies spread offense. Borel led the team in rushing last season (632 yards) and threw for 1,705 yards and 11 TDs. Sophomore running back Robert Turbin will be relied on much more heavily to assist in the ground game. As a freshman, Turbin carried the ball 106 times for 485 yards and eight TDs, but if he can't pull his weight you might see heralded JUCO transfer Michael Smith in the mix. Senior wideout Omar Sawyer is the Aggies top target in the passing game. He will be flanked by returning receivers Stanley Morrison and Nnamdi Gwacham who combined for 46 catches, 661 yards and three TDs in 2009.
Coordinating defense is how Gary Anderson put himself on the college football map so expect a better showing from Utah State than last year after surrendering nearly 35 points per game. Anderson preaches physicality and will carry over his full-press ideology at the line from Utah. The staff hopes this new scheme will improve upon the team's No. 93 ranked pass efficiency defense from a season ago, but it puts a lot of pressure on cornerbacks to lock down in one-on-one coverage. Senior linebacker Paul Igboeli is a poor man's Paul Posluszny, being about the same frame (6-0, 201) as the Penn State LB in college, with great awareness and a nose for the ball. Safety James Brindley leads an experienced secondary as a pristine tackler who notched 75.0 last season along with three INTs. There will be plenty of juggling positions as the new staff finds the best personnel for its speed-oriented schemes.
San Jose State Running Backs versus Utah State Linebackers. While the Aggies boast a potential All-Conference run-plugger in Igboeli, the middle is an area San Jose State should be able to exploit. Kyle Gallagher, a sophomore who missed all of last year, and Maxim Dinka, a converted safety, will accompany Igboeli in the linebacking corps. The inexperience of these two should allow Patrick Perry and Lamon Muldrow to find holes up the middle. Don't expect the Spartans to break off lengthy runs of more than 15 yards because the Aggies defense will be quick to close the gaps, but San Jose State will be in a position to win the game if it can control this matchup.
The Spartans will be a very slight underdog in this one depending on how the season has unfolded for both teams to this point. Last October, Utah State was stymied by San Jose's defense after only being able to muster a single touchdown that came during garbage time at the end of the game. A 21-point second quarter explosion by San Jose State spurred a 30-7 victory at Spartan Stadium. The stingy Spartan secondary held Borel to eight completions on 21 attempts and 66 yards passing. His counterpart, Kyle Reed, enjoyed a career game throwing for 300 yards and three TDs after completing 28-of-40 attempts. Going to Logan will pose another obstacle for the Spartans in this contest, but San Jose will be battle-tested after its previous three games and will emerge with a victory versus the Aggies.
Scott Cooley is a Contributing Analyst to Inside Sparta. You may contact Scott with any questions, comments, or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org
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