Utah State vs. Alabama: Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction
It’ll be a battle between conference champs when the Aggies and Crimson Tide clash on Saturday. Here’s how to watch and what to watch for.
A huge challenge awaits.
WEEK 1: Utah State Aggies (1-0) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
WHEN: Saturday, September 3 — 5:30 PM MT/4:30 PM MT
WHERE: Bryant-Denny Stadium; Tuscaloosa, AL
WEATHER: 70% chance of rain, possible thunderstorms, high of 88 degrees
TV: SEC Network
RADIO: The Utah State broadcast can be found on the affiliates of the Aggie Sports Network, which includes flagship 1280 AM/97.5 FM (KZNS) out of Salt Lake City. The game will also be broadcast on satellite radio, on Sirius XM channel 381, and it can be streamed live via KSL Sports.
SERIES RECORD: Alabama leads the all-time series, 2-0. In the last meeting on October 29, 2005, the Crimson Tide defeated the Aggies, 35-3, in Tuscaloosa.
ODDS: Alabama -41.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Alabama by 36.6
FEI PROJECTION: Alabama by 29.5
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: Alabama 99.78% win probability (43.16-3.61)
GAME 2️⃣ | at #1 Alabama
🏟 Bryant–Denny Stadium
⌚️ Saturday | 5:30 PM MT
— USU Football (@USUFootball) August 29, 2022
The Utah State Aggies got their season off to a solid, if unspectacular, start against the UConn Huskies last weekend, but now the proverbial difficulty level gets kicked up to Insanity this Saturday when they hit the road to face the Alabama Crimson Tide.
After falling just short of another national title in January, Nick Saban’s Tide are the odds-on favorite to finish on top once again and the Aggies might be little more than a modest speed bump on the way to Inglewood this winter. Long odds are better than no odds, though, so here’s what Utah State has to do to accomplish the unthinkable and mount an upset bid.
Three Keys to a Utah State Victory
1. Win inside the 20-yard line.
It may not shock you to learn Alabama has been one of the nation’s most proficient teams when it comes to getting points in the red zone, posting a 92.65% conversion rate that ranked fifth last year after finishing eighth in 2020. They turned 46 of their 68 opportunities into touchdowns, a 67.65% rate that ranked 25th overall, and that is a far cry from what Utah State’s offense did during the same season: The Aggies ranked 100th in overall red zone conversion rate and 107th in touchdown conversion rate inside the 20.
Bryce Young, in particular, was aces in the red zone. The Heisman Trophy winner completed 49-of-80 passes with 25 touchdowns and two interceptions, so while he’ll be working with a mostly new cohort of pass catchers in 2022, making stops when the chips are down will be necessary for any Utah State upset.
2. Don’t let Logan Bonner take a beating.
Linebacker Will Anderson is considered by many to be the best college football player in the country, full stop, but the reality is that the Crimson Tide owned the nation’s best overall sack rate last year, 11.2%, because the entire defense is littered with elite talent. Phidarian Mathis and Christian Harris might be in the NFL now, but the other five Alabama defenders who posted at least two sacks in 2021 — Anderson, Dallas Turner, Henry To’oTo’o, DJ Dale, and Byron Young — are back.
Utah State fans aren’t likely to dispute that Bonner got hit way too often last year and will probably concede that Alabama will get to him at least a few times on Saturday, which might explain why running back Calvin Tyler Jr. had more rushing attempts than the star quarterback had passes. A more balanced offense might keep the Tide off balance for a little while, but sooner or later they’ll need to connect on the explosive plays that made the Aggies offense so dangerous throughout their championship run.
3. Don’t get stuck in third-and-long.
One element of the game that Utah State overcame throughout last season was being only average on first downs. Tyler Jr., for instance, improved his yards per carry from first to second to third down in 2021, while the passing offense completed just 58.8% of its 182 first-down attempts (though the Aggies did average a healthy 8.7 yards per attempt in those situations).
Long story short, it’s incredibly unlikely that Utah State will be able to make up ground as consistently if the Tide stuff them for short gains, or worse, on early downs. Staying on schedule as often as possible will go a long way.
Utah State’s performance against UConn wasn’t as extreme as the naysayers would have you believe, but any slow start on the road against the College Football Playoff runners-up will not fly. The margin for error is nil, and while the Aggies should still be okay in the long run, they have not proven yet that they can play a full sixty minutes with zero mistakes.
The good news? In Tuscaloosa, at least, that will make them just like everyone else who tries their hand at turning back the Tide.
Alabama 48, Utah State 14