As we move into the summer months, it's time to take a look at Utah State's 2018 football schedule.
The Aggies face a couple of ranked opponents on the road this year in Michigan State and Boise State, but the rest looks manageable. Five teams Utah State will face this year won four or fewer games last season. The Aggies have a good chance of making it to a bowl game for the fifth time under Matt Wells based on this schedule.
Here's a breakdown of Utah State's opponents for 2018:
at Michigan State Spartans, Friday, Aug. 31
TV: 5 p.m., Big Ten Network
2017 record: 10-3 (7-2 Big Ten)
The Spartans hit rock bottom two seasons ago when they went 3-8, but it didn't take long for Mark Dantonio to put things back together and return to winning form. However, the buzz around Michigan State has been anything but positive after the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. The NCAA is conducting an investigation into the school and it's still unclear how things will turn out, although this scandal has already caused athletic director Mark Hollis and university president Lou Anna K. Simon to resign.
Still, Michigan State looks good on the football field and are No. 11 in a composite preseason ranking. The Spartans return 19 starters and are a contender in the Big Ten. That group includes RB LJ Scott, who ran for 194 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota last season. The Aggies are no strangers to tough opening opponents, and this trip to East Lansing, Mich., looks no different.
vs. New Mexico State Aggies, Saturday, Sept. 8
2017 record: 7-6 (4-4 Sun Belt)
Utah State's second game is a rematch of the Arizona Bowl against an upstart New Mexico State team that before last season hadn't gone to a bowl game since 1960. While Utah State fell in overtime last season, New Mexico State is now without its best offensive trio in more than 50 years in QB Tyler Rogers, RB Larry Rose III and WR Jaleel Scott. Utah State will have quite a welcome planned for New Mexico State in Logan this year, and odds are this won't be a pleasant trip for the Aggies in red.
vs. Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles, Thursday, Sept. 13
2017 record: 1-10 (1-7 Ohio Valley Conference)
Tennessee Tech is an FCS team and a bad one at that. While some FCS teams have proven in recent years that they can upset FBS teams, the Golden Eagles will need something next to a miracle to come out of Logan with a win.
vs. Air Force Falcons, Saturday, Sept. 22
TV: ESPN Network, time TBA
2017 record: 5-7 (4-4 Mountain West)
Here's another potential revenge game for the Aggies as the Falcons defeated Utah State last season, 38-35. QB Isaiah Sanders ran wild on USU's defense for 196 yards and three touchdowns. Sanders was the backup quarterback behind the injured Arion Worthman, and both QBs return in Air Force's run-happy triple option. Utah State will need to bring a solid run defense if it wants to get back at the Falcons.
at BYU Cougars, Friday, Oct. 5
TV: 7 p.m., ESPN2
2017 record: 4-9 (FBS independent)
The Aggies absolutely dominated the Cougars last season in Logan as they forced seven turnovers on their way to a 40-24 rout. BYU's offense was as bad as its been since LaVell Edwards showed up in Provo back in the '70s, leading Kalani Sitake to change offensive coordinators, replacing Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer with former LSU running backs coach Jeff Grimes. BYU knows it can't afford another humiliating defeat at the hands of the Aggies as it tries to find its way as an independent program. But can Grimes fix an absolutely horrid offense in just one year? The Cougars don't even know who will start at quarterback even though Tanner Mangum returns. At any rate, the pressure will be on the Cougars and not the Aggies this October.
vs. UNLV, Saturday, Oct. 13
2017 record: 5-7 (4-4 Mountain West)
The Rebels flirted with bowl eligibility last season but just couldn't quite get to six wins. Utah State dominated UNLV's defense last season on its way to 52 points. But UNLV was a bit of a wild card last season as it managed to beat West Division winner Fresno State by 10 on the road. Dual-threat QB Amari Rogers certainly can be dangerous as he passed for 211 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 193 yards more with an additional TD in a single game against New Mexico last season. The Rebels have been trending in the right direction under head coach Tony Sanchez. The Aggies better not take the Rebels lightly even though this game is in Logan.
at Wyoming Cowboys, Saturday, Oct. 20
2017 record: 8-5 (5-3 Mountain West)
Craig Bohl is already a legendary head coach at the FCS level as he won three straight national championships at North Dakota State before coming to Laramie. After a rough first couple of years, Bohl's Cowboys have posted two consecutive eight-win seasons and won their first bowl game since 2009. Sure, QB Josh Allen is off to the NFL, but Wyoming's defense is starting to get downright scary. The Cowboys were No. 23 in total defense (335.2 yards allowed per game) and No. 9 in scoring defense (17.5 points per game), and No. 1 in turnovers gained (38). Wyoming returns five of its front seven, including defensive end Carl Granderson and defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan. Those two players combined for 31.5 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.
vs. New Mexico Lobos, Saturday, Oct. 27
2017 record: 3-9 (1-7 Mountain West)
Head coach Bob Davie was suspended for 30 days after an outside investigation into "alleged interference with and improper involvement by the football program into police and/or university investigations of sexual and physical assault by football players." While the investigation couldn't find conclusive evidence against him, there's no doubt that Davie is on thin ice.
And we haven't even talked about his team's problems on the field. The Lobos won just three games and only one conference game. At least it appears there won't be a QB controversy this year as Lamar Jordan has moved onto the NFL, leaving sophomore Tevaka Tuioti as the guy in New Mexico's option offense. While Tuioti led the team with 705 passing yards, he also completed only 48.3 percent of his passes. Davie certainly has his work cut out for him.
at Hawaii Warriors, Saturday, Nov. 3
2017 record: 3-9 (1-7 Mountain West)
To say Hawaii is not in a good place right now is a severe understatement. The Warriors had their usual struggles on defense as they gave up 458.8 yards and 33.9 points per game last season. What makes things worse is that Hawaii needs to replace almost all the skill positions on offense, including QB Dru Brown, RB Diocemy Saint Juste, three of their top four receivers and All-MWC tackle Dejon Allen. Hawaii is also losing players to transfers as WR Dylan Collie left for BYU and Brown is now at Oklahoma State. At least Hawaii has WR John Ursua back after he tore his ACL last season. Ursua had 667 receiving yards and five touchdowns last year in just six games played.
vs. San Jose State Spartans, Saturday, Nov. 10
2017 record: 2-11 (1-7 Mountain West)
Head coach Brent Brennan's first season at San Jose State was a rough one even by the Spartans' standards. It's true that not too long ago San Jose State won 11 games under Mike MacIntyre, but that seems like an eternity ago based on where the Spartans are now. San Jose State had the second-worst rushing defense last season as they gave an average of 285.4 yards per game. If the Spartans want to win more games, it has to find a way to not get run over game after game. And while the offense has a decent core of young players in QB Montel Aaron and RB Tyler Nevens, it's probably going to take a little longer than one year to fully realize their potential.
at Colorado State Rams, Saturday, Nov. 17
2017 record: 7-6 (5-3 Mountain West)
Colorado State has been to three straight bowl games, but getting to its fourth looks a bit tough without QB Nick Stevens (3,479 yards and 27 TDs passing) and RB Dayln Dawkins (1,349 yards and eight TDs rushing). The Rams defense struggled down the stretch as it gave up 45 points to Air Force and 59 points to Boise State in an overtime loss. We'll see what new defensive coordinator John Jancek can do in one offseason as the Rams move from a 3-4 to a 4-3.
at Boise State Broncos, Saturday, Nov. 24
2017 record: 11-3 (7-1 Mountain West)
To the surprise of pretty much nobody, Boise State is the favorite to pick up the Group of 5's automatic bid to a New Year's Six bowl this year. However, the Broncos haven't been to a big-time bowl since 2014. Before last season, Boise State had gone three years without winning the Mountain West.
But this year's group really does look like the BCS-busting Boise State of old. Not only do they have a seasoned senior QB in Brett Rypien and 1,000-yard rusher in Alexander Mattison, but they also might have the best defense outside a Power 5 conference. The defense was young last season with 15 freshmen and sophomores in the rotation and still managed to force 26 turnovers and held opponents to just 332.6 yards of total offense per game. And this season finale game is on the dreaded Smurf Turf.