Know thy foe: Utah State

We're moving right along in our "Know Thy Foe" series, and today we're taking a look at the Badgers' third opponent of the year, the Utah State Aggies. The Aggies will travel to Camp Randall Stadium for the second time in their history on Sept. 15, with their last visit coming in 1968. The Aggies beat the Badgers 20-0 en route to a 7-3 season, but they might find this year's contest a little more difficult. The Aggies are coming off their most successful season since 1996, but they'll need to be on top of their game in September if they want to upset the Badgers in Madison.
To get the inside scoop on the Aggies, went to an expert on Utah State football. Tavin Stucki is the sports editor for the Utah Statesman, Utah State's student-run newspaper. Stucki was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Aggies, and we are certainly grateful for his insight.
Know Thy Foe: Utah State
What kind of shape are the Aggies in as they head into 2012? Are they an experienced team or looking more to younger players? How many starters are returning? And how did the 2011 season compare to pre-season expectations?
Tavin Stucki: The Aggies head into 2012 without two premier running backs in Robert Turbin and Michael Smith, as well as linebackers Bobby Wagner and Kyle Gallagher. A good chunk of the supporting cast last year is back for this season, so it will be interesting to see how they step up, especially senior running back Kerwynn Williams and sophomore linebacker Tavaris McMillian.
2011 was the best season for Aggie football in nearly two decades. USU made a bowl appearance for the first time in 17 years, in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. 10 games last season were decided by a touchdown or less, including the heartbreakers at Auburn and BYU and comeback victories at Hawaii and Idaho. The team goal all season was to win the WAC, beat BYU, and a get to a bowl game. Based on that, they just missed, but last season rejuvenated a program and a fan base that for so long would rather have skipped September-November and headed straight to basketball season.
How would you describe the Aggies' offense? What kind of system do they run? Who are the key players to watch for?
TS: The Aggies will be led offensively by Williams and either returning quarterback, sophomore Chuckie Keeton or Senior Adam Kennedy. There is an abundance of talent at the skill positions, so look for a balanced attack with misdirection plays worked in.
Same question, but for the defense this time. What should the Badgers expect to see in early September?
TS: Defensively look for the linebackers to continue leading the team out of the 3-4 defense. The Aggies also return three starting defensive backs in Jamanne Robertson, Nevin Lawson, and Mckade Brady.
Can you give me a best-case and worst-case scenario for the Aggies in 2012? Which do you think is the more likely outcome, and how do they stand up to the rest of the WAC?
TS: It will be a surprise if the Aggies don't have another winning season. It's realistic for USU to run the table in league play, beat future league foes in UNLV and Colorado State, and beat BYU for the second time in three seasons, and surprise Utah in a renewed rivalry. Wisconsin also better watch out, based on past years "money" games against Auburn, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma. Best-case scenario is running the table, and worse case is probably falling below .500 against a weak schedule.
The biggest challenge standing between USU and a WAC championship is a road game against Louisiana Tech and a possible sequel to all the close games in conference last season. I don't know what to expect from the two new Texas schools. SJSU, Idaho, and NMSU should be victories, but don't read too much into preseason predictions.
It's still really early, but do you have a prediction for this game? What do the Aggies have to do to go into Camp Randall and get a win this September? Have the Aggies come close in games like this before?
TS: Utah State has nearly pulled off three money game upsets in a row over the past three seasons. Line play will be key on both sides of the ball against a deeper Wisconsin front line, but the Aggies will need to play all four quarters with very few mistakes to stay in the game. I can't give a final score prediction, but based on last season I can promise it will be a very exciting game.
Thanks again to Tavin for his help. You can follow him on Twitter, too: @StuckiAggies.
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