2018 New Mexico Bowl: Why Utah State Will Beat North Texas
Aggies will be facing a like-minded offensive team.
Here is how USU will get to 11 wins.
Utah State is taking on a 9-3 North Texas Mean Green out of Conference USA in the New Mexico Bowl on the first Saturday of bowl season. Winning nine games is a great achievement for North Texas but they are most known for this year for this amazing fake fair catch that led to a touchdown against Arkansas.
That play is huge but it also should be noted that North Texas easily squashed the SEC team 44-17. Yeah, the Razorbacks were awful at 2-10, but it is not every day that a Conference USA team beats an SEC squad.
The win and scoring 44 points was not a fluke. This Mean Green team put up 40 or more points six times this year and were just seven total points away from an undefeated regular season. However, North Texas has just one win over a team with a winning record and this was 6-5 Southern Miss. The Mean Green’s schedule was 139th in Sagarin Ratings and there are only 130 FBS teams, so that says something about its strength of schedule. Utah State is not free from blame as its schedule strength is 114.
Utah State needs to be ready for everything, literally everything, as they take on the Mean Green which have an offense that can go head-to-head with the Aggies. These two teams are in the top third in nearly every standard and advanced metric when it comes to scoring points as a team, so expect this one to be a potential shootout.
However, according to this preview from Sports Betting Dime, this game is being predicted as a close and lower scoring game with North Texas covering the 7.5-point line.
Seeing this game being closer than a touchdown is not surprising one bit. The main reason for that is Utah State has coaching turnover with Matt Wells taking the head coaching job at Texas Tech. College football is built on a routine and consistency so not having the head coach which has led this team for this entire year not be on the sidelines could be an issue.
Three Keys for a Utah State win
David Yost is calling the offense for the Aggies
Good news for Utah State is that Wells is helping with the game planning for the bowl game and outgoing offensive coordinator David Yost has been running practices and he will in fact be calling the plays for this game. Yost being the mastermind of this revamped Aggie offense in the booth calling the offense is the best thing for Utah State if they are going to defeat the Mean Green and get to 11 wins for just the second time in school history and the first time since 2012.
It is all well and good that Yost is calling plays, but this North Texas defense makes plays of their own. They are top 20 in turnover margin, top 30 in sacks and top 20 in tackles for loss. Do not expect the Aggies to put 40 points in this game but there will be a point in this game where the Utah State has a few easy drives to score when it matters. For a refresher go watch the last offensive drive against Colorado State which saw Utah State score a touchdown in 53 seconds on a six-play drive that went 71 yards.
Aggies can score points from anywhere.
North Texas has not seen an offense like the Aggies all season. Utah State is averaging 47 points per game, which is 11 more than the Mean Green, and the Aggies have put 50 or more points six times, 60 plus four times and a season-high 73 against Tennessee Tech.
Not all of those points are coming solely from the offense. This Aggies team has six interceptions, two punts and two kickoffs returned for touchdowns. North Texas not only need to look out for Jordan Love throwing touchdown passes to Ron’quavion Tarver and Dax Raymond or the duo of Gerold Bright and Darwin Thompson scampering off huge running plays into the end zone. This Aggies team is well rounded.
Utah State’s defense just makes plays
The one key figure that will test the Aggies defense is North Texas QB Mason Fine who is two-time Conference USA player of the year. In 2018, Fine averaged 311 yards per game in the air, 8.2 yards per attempt, 27 touchdowns to just five interceptions. Running back DeAndre Torrey also has the potential to be a thorn in the Utah State defense.
However, as mentioned this North Texas team has not faced the stiffest of competition. This Utah State defense has been known to give up yards but not all that many points. Against Boise State, the team gave up 33 which was less than what the Broncos averaged all year.
Utah State is eight in turnover margin and they take advantage of other teams mistakes with six defensive scores this year. The Aggies have two of the best linebackers around in David Woodward who was a third-team AP All-American and Tipa Galeai who seems to always be in the backfield with seven quarterback hurries, 11 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Those players will be causing Fine and the rest of the North Texas offense on its heels all day.
My score prediction for this game is Utah State 38, North Texas 28.