Utah State Just Taught A Master Class On Local Sports Coverage
Aggies just hit the over on projected win totals
Utah State is exceeding expectations
Utah State just humiliated Vegas odds compilers in their own backyard. While Las Vegas is known for leisure and parties, USU football treated their visit to Sin City as a business trip and took the opportunity to send a clear message to odds compilers and bettors down the road and across the country: “shut up and put your money where your mouth is.” With a come-from-behind win against UNLV just off Dean Martin Drive, the Aggies secured their fourth victory of the season.
Four wins may not seem like a significant milestone, but it’s a win that Utah State wasn’t supposed to get, according to the odds set in the very home city of Allegiant Stadium itself. From within the “Death Star,” an extravagant stadium as glamorous as the city it’s in, Utah State played the right cards, bested the odds compilers, and proved that the house doesn’t always win.
Prior to the season kicking off, the odds compilers in Vegas set Utah State’s win/loss line for the season at 3.5. This means that Utah State was projected to get either three or four wins, and gamblers across the country could wager over or under that number based on which one seemed to be more likely.
Utah State is coming off a difficult year, so to some, 3.5 wins may have seemed like a reasonable or even obvious standard to set. Even still, to come to that conclusion took just a brief glance at last year’s win/loss record and headlines.
Despite that, national experts and odds compilers determined that 3.5 was a good line. Although national analysts may have agreed, local ones did not. People near to the situation would not, and did not, place such low expectations on the team. This includes fans and local journalists close to Utah State, the Mountain West, and even those around Arkansas State familiar with Blake Anderson’s body of work.
National experts and outlets aren’t incompetent or unintelligent; they are just too far removed from local situations and small stories. In fact, because of deep coffers, a wide platform, and access to information, national sources are incredibly adept in certain situations. When it comes to entire leagues, such as the NBA or NFL, national sources offer great coverage and can be the preferred source for news, analysis, and stories.
It’s not that major national outlets don’t have talented analysts and dedicated statisticians. They just don’t have the resources to cover every story from every team in every sport at every level. Just as local experts are better off catering to local markets, so too are national outlets are better off catering content to the patrons they serve; the country.
¡ Viva Las Aggies ! #LightTheA | #AggiesAllTheWay pic.twitter.com/XqJiBMt1UJ— USU Football (@USUFootball) October 17, 2021
Focusing on the entire sports landscape from a macroscopic level inherently means they will miss important details at the microscopic level. In many ways, it’s a feature of the system, not a bug.
Additionally, it provides a valuable opportunity for local and regional journalists to fill that vital role of delivering stories from a close vantage point. Some national firms are taking advantage of this and rely on local experts in specific markets rather than consolidate coverage in big cities. Although this is becoming more common, this is still the exception, not the rule. So in order to consume to best possible content, there is one solution; Support local journalism.
Utah State football is in the middle of putting on a clinic about the importance of local journalism. Just halfway through the season, the Aggies have defied national predictions, stunned the country, and are exposing national media experts and odds compilers.
As soon as the season started, Utah State wasted no time proving that 3.5 was a tragic miscalculation. To reach three wins, the Aggies only needed three games. Opening up the season 3-0 with wins at Washington State, against North Dakota, and at Air Force put Utah State on the verge of meeting their projected season win total with only one-third of the season down.
After losing consecutive games to Boise State and BYU; Utah State still has a winning record. They sat at a comfortable 3-2 when they were national projected to be 1-4 at best. Even though the Aggies stalled slightly after reaching the “under 3.5” maximum of three wins, they didn’t stop there. Against UNLV, the Aggies picked up their fateful fourth win in just their sixth game of the season.
For those with a short memory, Utah State’s success so far may seem unprecedented. It’s not. Since the beginning of the last decade, success has become the standard at Utah State, and locally, it seemed reasonable that the Aggies would return to winning ways sooner rather than later. The national expert and odds compilers in Las Vegas disagree.
Since 2010, the Aggies were 75-61 coming into the season, played in eight bowl games and won four of them, reached as high as 14 in the AP poll, which was as recently as 2018, and produced NFL talent, including a first-round quarterback. Locally, it appeared that the woes of the 2020 season were an obvious outlier. The national expert and odds compilers in Las Vegas disagree.
SAVON SCARVER!— USU Football (@USUFootball) October 16, 2021
The Vegas kid just tied the NCAA record for kickoff return touchdowns in a career with 7️⃣‼️#AggiesAllTheWay | @SavonScarver pic.twitter.com/OfwklsaXaa
Utah State’s coaching staff boasts first-year head coach Blake Anderson at the helm. Although a quick google search about the hiring process might retrieve some unflattering headlines painting a chaotic frame around the program, a closer look reveals that despite the chaotic clickbait and unsubstantiated accusations, the University is in great hands, and its leadership team is competent, dynamic, capable, and always acted in accordance with the best interest of the University and athletic department. Furthermore, Blake Anderson was a proven winner in his previous stops and was widely considered to be very qualified for the job.
A man of high character, coach Anderson has earned the esteem of players and coaches everywhere he has gone and was an excellent recruiter. Anderson had also coached in the Mountain West before and was well-acquainted with football in the west. Locally, it was clear that Blake Anderson was the right hire and that he could Utah State back to its winning ways. The national expert and odds compilers in Las Vegas disagree.
A preseason look at Utah State’s schedule, for those familiar with the matter, showed at least enough obvious wins to indicate that 3.5 was far too low a line to set.
It could have been easily predicted by those well-acquainted with football in the west that Utah State would go at least 2-2 in non-conference games. That alone would have the Aggies at two wins hunting for just two more in the Mountain West to pass 3.5. Looking at Utah State’s conference schedule, it’s difficult to see only a single victory.
New Mexico was Utah State’s only win last year. Even though 3.5 is dismal, it is a win percentage of .291, which acknowledges an improvement upon last year’s team that had a win percentage of just .200 and would have won only a projected two games in a full season. So following the logic of the odds compilers themselves, it seems Utah State was, or should have been, favored in the matchup against the Lobos this season as well. This brings the Aggies to three probably wins with teams like Colorado State, Hawaii, UNLV, and Wyoming still on the schedule.
Last year, Colorado State won only as many games as Utah State, although they played only four finishing the season 1-3 is still not substantially better than Utah State. Hawaii had a relatively impressive 4-4 season, but historically Utah State has played well against the Rainbow Warriors. Additionally, this game is set to be played in Logan. Travel from the island to the mainland can be burdensome and exhausting, and an October 30th game can be an unfamiliar cold for Hawaii. UNLV is the only team in the conference that had a worse season than the Aggies last year. The Rebels went 0-5 and haven’t won a football game since November 30th of 2019, when they capped on a 4-8 season.
Wyoming was 2-4 last season, and although they were projected to finish second in the division, the Cowboys could only beat UNLV and Hawaii on their way to a bottom-half finish. Wyoming is set in play in Logan on Utah State’s senior night, and although Wyoming had high expectations, they were a bottom team in the Mountain West last year.
Given those four teams that finished last year’s season, along with Utah State, near the bottom of the Mountain West, or are projected to do so this season, it would have been hard not to assume at least one more victory for Utah State. Locally, it was obvious that Utah State would easily surpass a line of only 3.5 wins. The national expert and odds compilers in Las Vegas disagree.
Now, odds compilers are learning an expensive lesson, and national experts are being forced to walk back early predictions and analysis. Instead of speculating about which Utah state coaches or administrators are on the hot seat, they are speculating about which bowl game the Aggies will be playing in. Utah State was given only four wins on the entire year. They did that in just half a season, and now, the Aggies are projected to win most of the remaining games on the schedule by nearly every available metric.
As the Aggies roll on, they continue to teach a master class about the importance of local sports coverage. They have already proven their point, yet they have the opportunity to continue to do so. Taking only half the season to meet the over, the Aggies left themselves plenty of games to keep winning and proving their point. From here on out, every win will take on collateral meaning. Each Utah State win will not only be one step closer to a winning record, bowl eligibility, a conference championship, but also a chance for the Aggies to continue proving themselves to the world and, in turn, continue to inadvertently teach a relevant lesson to support local journalism.