The Schedule is out for USU football: Let’s break it down.
The Mountain West recently put out its full football schedule for the 2020 season. Outside of the non-conference games, USU finally knows which order it’s going to play its opponents in.
Here’s a quick look at strength of schedule using ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI):
#54 Washington State
FCS Southern Utah
#29 at Washington
#62 at BYU
#88 San Diego State
#51 at Boise State
#124 New Mexico
#98 at Nevada
#77 at Wyoming
#93 Fresno State
#96 at Colorado State
#76 Air Force
Tough road to start
Aggies are going to start out the season with a solid non-conference slate. Newly staffed Washington State will roll into town with head coach Nick Rolovich leading the charge. Though Wazzou is likely to take a step back with the loss of their star passer Anthony Gordon, Rolovich has a strong reputation for pass heavy offenses. He’ll throw everything including the kitchen sink at a youthful Aggie defense.
After playing the Southern Utah Thunderbirds in the teams’ first meeting since 2015, Aggies will take on the Washington Huskies in Seattle. Even with Chris Petersen stepping down, the Huskies are in great hands with defensive guru Jimmy Lake. Aggies haven’t won a road game against a P5 opponent since the Nixon administration, so it will no doubt be tough sledding against an elite Husky defense.
Aggies will get a bye week before facing the BYU down in Provo. Though I generally am not a fan of early-season bye weeks, this one comes at a great time. Sandwiching strong Pac-12 teams around SUU should set the Aggies up to be both battle-tested and rested before they look for revenge against the Cougars in October.
Bonus fact: Aggies are 2-0 against BYU when coming off a bye.
Lighter load down the stretch against new coaches
With the exception of the defending Mountain West champs Boise State, the rest of the opponents are quite manageable for the Aggies. San Diego State and Fresno State both come to Logan, and both teams have new head coaches in charge. The Aggies will close out the regular season at home with a likely rebuilding Falcon squad as well.
Road tilts at Wyoming and Nevada are difficult, but winnable. The Wolf Pack’s QB situation is completely up in the air, and Wyoming appears to be toying with the idea of a two-QB system. As strong as the defensive culture has become in Laramie, their offensive prowess still leaves much to be desired.
On the very light end of the schedule, Aggies will face New Mexico in Logan and Colorado State in Fort Collins. The Lobos were an absolute disaster last season and the storyline will only improve as much as Rocky Long is able to coach up their defense. Last season, the Lobos ranked dead last in the FBS in pass yards allowed. They can only improve, but there will be plenty of growing pains along the way.
And let’s be real: nobody knows why Steve Addazio ended up with the Rams. He has virtually no ties to the west and he had plenty of baggage at Boston College. Time will tell if he’s a good fit for the pass-heavy Rams.
There are only a handful of what could be considered “easy games” on this schedule. It starts out as genuinely challenging but lightens considerably after the mid-October date with the Broncos.
One nice variable the Aggies have going in their favor is they’ll be facing six teams who all have new head coaches. Whether at home or on the road, taking advantage of another team’s growing pains and variable chemistry can open some prime opportunities for wins.
The Aggies themselves are transitioning back to a 3-4 “attacking” defense they had in 2018. With Stacy Collins and Frank Maile taking command of the defense, the transition will likely have fewer issues than it would have otherwise. If the unit can get near where it was in 2018, USU will have a puncher’s chance in most of their games.
Projected record: 7-5
“Body bag” games (Sure loss): at Washington, at Boise State
Difficult games (can win, but likely loss): Wazzou, at Wyoming
Toss-up games: at BYU, San Diego State, Air Force
Should win: New Mexico, at Nevada, at Colorado State, Fresno State
Raja’s Tomato-can variety: Southern Utah