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Nevada opponent preview: Utah State has the Mountain West's top quarterback

Jordan Love
Utah State quarterback Jordan Love has big talent but is surrounded by a worse supporting cast this season. (Rick Scuteri/AP file)

The Nevada football team’s season opens Aug. 30 when it hosts Purdue. Leading into the season opener, we will preview all 12 of Nevada’s games in 2019. Here is a look at Nevada’s game versus Utah State.

Just the facts

Nevada at Utah State

When: Oct. 19, TBD

Where: Maverik Stadium

TV: ESPN family of networks

2018 recap

Picked in the preseason poll to finish fourth in the Mountain Division, Utah State had arguably the best season in program history, tying a school record with 11 wins against just two losses, both defeats coming to ranked teams (Michigan State and Boise State). The Aggies went 7-1 in the Mountain West but didn’t get a spot in the conference title game after losing the Mountain Division tiebreaker to Boise State. Utah State peaked as high as No. 14 in the nation in the AP poll after starting the year 10-1. After routing North Texas, 52-13, in the New Mexico Bowl, the Aggies finished No. 22 in the final AP Top 25. Utah State lost coach Matt Wells to Texas Tech after the season and hired, Gary Andersen, who went 26-24 as the Aggies' head coach from 2009-12.

The history

Nevada and Utah State first played in 1904, a 24-5 Wolf Pack win in Reno. The teams played seven time before 1950 and then didn’t face off again until 1992 when Nevada joined the Big West. They’ve played 17 times in the Wolf Pack’s 28 seasons in the FBS, with Nevada holding a 13-4 record. Utah State has won two of the last three contests, including the last two games at Logan, where this year’s contest will be played.

Aggies on offense

Utah State averaged 47.5 points per game last season, which ranked second in the FBS behind only Oklahoma, but a good chunk of the talent that put up those numbers is gone. Quarterback Jordan Love returns and is the preseason MW offensive player of the year after throwing for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns while adding seven rushing scores as a sophomore. He’s a beast. Top back Darwin Thompson, a sixth-round pick by the Chiefs, is gone, but Gerold Bright (901 yards, 10 TDs) returns. The receiving corps was shredded as Ron’quavion Tarver, Jalen Greene, Aaron Vaughns and Dax Raymond combined for 170 catches, 2,324 yards and 21 touchdowns but are all gone. Savon Scarver, a big-time bit-play threat, could have an impact year. Utah State also lost two All-MW offensive linemen, so there are question marks there. Love will have to be even better as a junior for Utah State to maintain its prolific offense.

Aggies on defense

Andersen’s successful Utah State teams were built with terrific defenses, and he inherits a group that allowed 22.2 points per game last season, tied for fourth in the MW. The group could be even better in 2019. LB David Woodward (82 tackles, 12.5 TFL, five sacks) and DE Tipa Galeai (MW-best 10.5 sacks) are All-American candidates. DJ Williams, Cameron Haney, and Ja’Marcus Ingram form arguably the best cornerback corps in the conference. Woodward, Galeai and Williams were named preseason All-MW and DT Devon Anderson could earn those honors at season’s end. Utah State ranked tops in the FBS in turnovers created last season with 32. It will be hard to match that mark, but this unit should be among the best in the conference.

Most likely outcome

Coming off its historic season, Utah State is still projected to be strong. The Aggies were voted 36th in the preseason AP Top 25 and are the biggest challenge to Boise State in the Mountain Division. Utah State has won seven straight home games and is 35-9 in Logan in its last 44 tilts, so this is a tough place to win. Utah State will likely have worked out the kinks on offense by the time this game rolls around and the defense looks terrific on paper, so odds are the Wolf Pack falls short of a win in The Beehive State. This is one of the toughest games on the schedule.

Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.

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