Coach: Matt Wells (2nd year, 9-5)
Last year: 9-5 overall, 7-1 in MWC, 1st in Mountain Division
Predicted 2014 finish: 2nd in Mountain Division
Preseason All-MWC: QB Chuckie Keeton (MWC Preseason Player of the Year); LB Kyler Fackrell; LB Zach Vigil; DL B.J. Larsen
Starters/lettermen returning: 14/38
Returning statistical leaders: Keeton, 136-196, 18 TDs, 2 Int; RB Joe Hill, 53-274, 1 TD; WR JoJo Natson, 59-395, 2 TDs; Vigil, 124 total tackles.
Notable: Wells is a former New Mexico assistant (2007-08, 2010). He’s a former Utah State quarterback, as well. … Keeton is one of 17 players on Bleacher Report’s Heisman Trophy watch list, despite missing the second half of last season after suffering an ACL injury. … The Aggies have 15 players of Polynesian descent on their roster. … Utah State opens the season at Tennessee on a Sunday. … After a Saturday game at Hawaii on Nov. 1, the Aggies have to play at Wyoming the following Friday. … They’ll play 13 games as the NCAA permits for teams that play at Hawaii.
Quotable: “(Keeton’s) knee is fine. Every knee is different, and every rehab is different, but he’s been cleared. Hopefully he’s the same Chuckie we all know and love” – Wells, to the Deseret News.
Outlook: After winning the Mountain Division last season, Utah State came within eight points of topping Boise State in the Mountain West preseason poll. The Aggies’ defense was the best in the conference last year (seventh in the nation in points allowed per game at 17.1) and should be formidable again. If Keeton is completely recovered (and stays that way), and if Hill can step in at running back for the departed Joey DeMartino, another division title for USU would surprise no one.
Aug. 31: at Tennessee
Sept. 6: Idaho
Sept. 13: Wake Forest
Sept. 20: at Arkansas State
Oct. 3: Brigham Young
Oct. 11: at Air Force
Oct. 18: at Colorado State
Oct. 25: UNLV
Nov. 1: at Hawaii
Nov. 7: at Wyoming
Nov. 15: New Mexico
Nov. 21: San Jose State
Nov. 29: at Boise State