Utah State vs. Colorado State: Game Preview, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
How the Aggies can top the Rams
Week 8: Utah State (4-2) vs Colorado State (3-3)
When: Friday, October 22nd, 2021 – 7:30 pm MST
WHERE: Maverik Stadium; Logan, Utah (25,100)
TV: CBS Sports Network
STREAMING: FuboTV – Get a 7-day free trial
RADIO: Utah State radio broadcast on 1280 the zone (1280 AM), 1280thezone.com / Tunein.com
SERIES RECORD: Colorado State leads the all-time series, 37-34-2
ODDS (via ESPN): Utah State +3.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Colorado State by 6.6
FEI PROJECTION: Colorado State by 1.4
USU returns home to face a surging CSU team in a key conference tilt. Ags are going to need more offense and better defense to contain the formidable Rams. After the teams didn’t meet last season due to USU sitting out the game in protest over Frank Maile’s firing, the Rams will surely bring extra emotion for being denied their senior night in Fort Collins.
Three Keys to an Aggie Victory
1. Hold the line of scrimmage better
Against UNLV, the Aggies did not have their best night running the football. They only averaged 3.1 ypc against a decidedly average run defense. Calvin Tyler was only effective running in spurts and USU mostly got yardage in large chunks. When that didn’t occur, the Aggies were regularly either driven back or stopped for a minimal gain, which allowed the Rebels to put more pressure on QB Logan Bonner. John Gentry didn’t contribute many carries and Elelyon Noa was inconsistent, though he did have a great scamper for the go-ahead TD late.
When playing the Rams, USU’s O line will need to play much better. The thin line has no margin for any more injuries with OL Jacob South having missed time recently. This has opened the door for R-Fr Cole Motes to take his place. Though the underclassmen are inexperienced, he has decent size and played okay against UNLV. He is going to need to grow up quickly to help hold off an aggressive CSU front. The defense is similar to what USU runs, albeit with more size in the trenches. If the running game doesn’t show better than last week, then the pressure on Bonner from CSU will be significantly increased.
On the defensive line, USU will get back Marcus Moore from suspension. This will help a lot as the Aggies’ depth at the tackle position will be tested sorely against a running back unit with strong weapons. David Bailey and A’jon Vivens lead the team in rushes and both average nearly 4 ypc. Guys like Moore and Motu’apuaka need to get an initial push against the Rams’ O line in order to slow down an attack that currently ranks 59th in NCAA, very close to where the Aggies themselves are at.
2. Play superior special teams
There has been good and bad special teams play from USU this season. Even little mistakes could end up costing the Aggies dearly in a close contest, so they need to be at their best to come out on top against the Rams.
First, the good news. Savon Scarver tied the NCAA record for career kickoff TD returns. He showed his trademark brand of explosiveness and served as a spark to an Aggie offense that struggled a large portion of the night in Las Vegas. The milestone he hit will remind opposing teams to change part of their game plan to try and keep the ball away from him. It will also keep them on edge in case he does get his hands on the ball. Scarver can flip the script in a hurry on defenders, so a re-emergence of his confidence is a nice boon for USU.
— USU Football (@USUFootball) October 16, 2021
Now for a little bad news. The thin depth on USU’s O line has made field goal blocking and execution easier said than done. The Aggies didn’t make a single field goal against the Rebels, and one of the attempts was even blocked. Points may end up coming at a premium versus the Rams, especially if the game stays close. CSU boasts a strong scoring defense as they are only allowing 19.5 ppg. If they stymie USU’s passing attack, the Aggies are going to need Connor Coles to find his confidence and keep putting points on the board.
Small details matter in heated games. History has shown wins and losses in this series often are determined by special teams play, so USU absolutely cannot afford a repeat of what happened against the Rebels.
3. Slow down Trey McBride
The number one weapon the Rams bring to Logan is unquestionably All-American Trey McBride.
He’s a terrific TE with abundant size for the position and he bowls over most defenders with ease. Tackling him one on one is virtually impossible and even tasking two defenders with stopping him is a big ask. Compared to USU’s secondary, he’s the textbook definition of a nightmare mismatch.
— Colorado State Football (@CSUFootball) October 6, 2021
Though he’s on the slower end like most TEs, this won’t matter much if he gets too many catch opportunities against USU’s backend. Losing Dominic Tatum earlier in the year thinned out that defensive unit and Shaq Bond is still not quite 100%, despite playing an excellent game in Vegas with two picks. If the Aggies want to slow McBride down early and frustrate him, putting a LB like Justin Rice or AJ Vongphachanh near him often might be a good strategy. It could lead to the defense giving up more rush yards, but stopping the Rams’ biggest playmaker is a viable trade-off.
The games between the Rams and the Aggies are almost always intense. The Aggies have a 5-4 advantage in the last nine games. However, several of them were decided by one score or less. Regardless of whether either team has a good record in any given year, the games are usually competitive.
The Aggies boast a high-flying passing attack that will be pitted against a great scoring defense. On the flip side, the Rams’ total offense next to the Aggies’ total defense leaves something to be desired for both squads. Though the Rams struggled early in the season by losing to an FCS team at home, they’ve clearly hit their stride and remain undefeated in conference play.
USU does retain control of its own destiny in the conference, yet losing this one could prove decisive in who represents the Mountain Division at year’s end in the title game. Like many of the previous contests, this game will stay close in the waning minutes.
USU 31, CSU 24