Logan, Utah—Coming off a disappointing 2010 season, the Utah State Aggies will once again have a chance to pull off a huge upset as they travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium to face the defending BCS National Champion Auburn Tigers on Saturday. Just last season Coach Gary Anderson’s team went to Oklahoma and pushed the Sooners to the limit before falling 31-24 in the season opener.
Returning a wealth of starters on offense while inexperienced on defense, Utah State will face an Auburn team that has its own share of questions heading into the new season. Anderson said even if Cam Newton and Nick Fairley are gone from the Tigers he’s expecting a tough task on the road to open the new year.
“The word Auburn pretty much speaks for itself,” Anderson said. “From what they did last year obviously, they are the defending national champions. I expect them to be a very, very good team. They are an SEC team. You watch SEC tape and it speaks for itself. They have a lot of new pieces to the puzzle, but I’m sure they’ll be quality and fine young men that are very well-coached. We’ll be in for a challenge.”
Preparing for Auburn may have been a difficult task for the Tigers’ opponents last season, for Anderson and Utah State it has been downright impossible. With eight new starters on offense and eight on defense Auburn has a new look across the board, something that has made for some long days for the Aggies’ coaching staff.
“The names and numbers are a little bit of a dilemma, there’s no question about that,” Anderson said. “The quality of athlete, I don’t think that’s in question at all. They’re going to have tremendous players and I guarantee you they’ve recruited very well. To have a great understanding of individuals can be very time consuming and it has as we’ve gone through and tried to watch a young man when he played and trying to make cut-ups of different people. It’s difficult, but I think in this game the emphasis for us has got to be on executing against a tremendous athlete wherever he winds up. No matter who Auburn puts on the field he’s going to be a quality young man.”
There will be plenty of new faces for Utah State as well with the first one being at quarterback where junior college transfer Adam Kennedy (6-5, 218) and true freshman Chuckie Keeton (6-2, 185) are battling for the starting job. The good news for the Aggies is that four starting offensive linemen return along with running back Robert Turbin (5-10, 216). After missing last season with an injury Turbin is looking to regain the form that saw him rush for over 1,000 yards in 2009. Throw in three returning starters at wide receiver and Auburn will have a tough challenge on the defensive side of the ball.
Defensively for Utah State however they will have plenty of holes to fill as three starters up front and three in the secondary are gone from last season. The group will be built around the linebacker corps led by senior middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (6-1, 232) and fellow senior Kyle Gallagher (6-0, 225).
With his team heading across the country to face a squad that is more talented and deeper, Anderson said the key for his guys is to avoid mistakes and to make plays in key situations. If Utah State is able to do those things it could once again be a chance to pull the upset against a ranked opponent from a big conference.
“Like any game one in any year the key is to have your team be able to execute and understand game management,” Anderson said. “They’ll be well-coached and solid across the board. We’ll have to play extremely. We could talk for 15 minutes about the dynamic weapons Auburn has on its team. They won’t have a weakness. The key for us is the execute on both sides of the ball and find a way to make plays on third down on both offense and defense to get the ball back or keep it away from Auburn.”
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