With the 2022 Utah State football season set to kick off this Saturday, it’s time to take a look at what’s ahead. Can the Aggies sustain the surprise success of 2021, or will they take a step back?
After a 1-5 record in 2020 that included a midseason coaching change, almost nothing was expected from the 2021 version of the Aggies.
Instead, led by new head coach Blake Anderson, a slew of transfers, and a breakout season from receiver Deven Thompkins, the Aggies were one of the biggest surprises in college football.
They ended the season with at 11-3, the 11 wins tying a single-season school record. They won the Mountain West Mountain Division title, then traveled to nationally ranked San Diego State and crushed the Aztecs to win the Mountain West championship. The Aggies then won the LA Bowl against Oregon State of the Pac-12 and ended the season ranked No. 24 in both the AP and Coaches polls. The season was not only highlighted by wins over the Aztecs and Beavers but also included ones over The Pac-12’s Washington State on the road, and a 10-win Air Force team.
It was a season that Aggie fans will likely never forget. After a record-setting season, what’s in store for 2022?
After a record-setting season, quarterback Logan Bonner looks to pick up where he left off last year. In 2021, he threw for single-season school records in touchdown passes (36) and passing yards (3,628), while also tossing a single-game record 5 touchdowns in a win over New Mexico.
If something were to happen to Bonner, the Aggies have a deep quarterback room. Transfer Levi Williams led Wyoming to a bowl win last season, while Utah State also has last year’s bowl game hero, Cooper Legas as backup options.
And while the Aggies lost All-American receiver Deven Thompkins to the NFL, they have again used the transfer portal to their advantage. They have added Brian Cobbs from Maryland and Xavier Williams from Alabama to the depth chart to reload with options for Bonner to throw to.
Running back Calvin Tyler Jr. returns from last season, and looks to cement himself as the No. 1 option and make improvements after an inconsistent 2021.
While the defense was much improved last season over the 2020 version, it still had some issues with consistency.
The Aggie defense gave up less than two touchdowns to the opposition on four occasions, but also allowed 49 points against Air Force and 44 to Wyoming. The team led the league in tackles for loss, but then allowed nearly 400 yards of offense per game. The Aggies will look to be more well-rounded on the defensive side in 2022.
And while they lost valuable pieces from last season’s defense in defensive end Nick Heninger and linebacker Justin Rice, they were able to use the transfer portal to bring in ready-to-play replacements. Safety Gurvan Hall comes over from Miami, while linebackers MJ Tafisi and Anthony Switzer arrive from Washington and Arkansas State respectively. They will also hope for internal improvements from the likes of Byron Vaughns and Hale Motu’apuaka as they look to take another step forward on the defensive side.
Breaking Down The Schedule
Looking at this season’s opponents, the Aggies have a chance to make some noise if things go well.
They open with a home game agaisnt Connecticut, a team that won just once a season ago. They then travel to national power No. 1 Alabama, before facing in-state FCS foe Weber State in Logan.
After opening the Mountain West portion of their schedule by facing UNLV at home, they travel a few hours south to face No. 25 BYU in what could be the last Old Wagon Wheel rivalry matchup for the foreseeable future.
Utah State then hosts Air Force, before three of the next four are on the road. They’ll face Colorado State and Wyoming away, return home to face New Mexico, and then travel to Hawaii.
They then take on San Jose State on Senior Day in the home finale before closing out the regular season at Boise State.
What Could Happen
The Aggies’ season could have multiple outcomes. They could finish 10-2, losing only to Alabama and Boise State while upsetting BYU and going on a nine-game winning streak during what could be a favorable portion of the schedule.
Or, with a target on their back from last season, they could regress to 6-6, barely qualifying for a bowl game while losing some tough road matchups during a potentially difficult midseason stretch.
More than likely though, Utah State’s 2022 season will fall somewhere in between. Perhaps not as high as 11 wins, a conference title, and a national ranking, but also not as low as a .500 record.
8-4 (5-3 Mountain West)
Wins: UConn, Weber State, UNLV, BYU, Wyoming, New Mexico, Hawaii, San Jose State
Losses: Alabama, Air Force, Colorado State, Boise State
I predict the Aggies to upset BYU in Provo, get revenge on Wyoming, and win six games against weaker opponents. Alabama is too much to overcome, while Air Force’s triple option will get the best of them. They’ll also lose a tough road matchup against an improved CSU team and lose in Boise, a place they have only won at once previously (1996).
With an 8-4 record, Utah State will have the chance to play in a bowl game for the 10th time in 12 years, where they can add a ninth win and a bowl trophy to a solid 2022 season.
The Aggies kick off their 2022 campaign on Saturday, August 27. The game is slated to start at 2 p.m. MT at Maverik Stadium in Logan and can be seen nationally on FS1.