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Utah State football: The Aggies are getting noticed, and not just in Utah

Utah State has been one of the best stories in the country this season and now the Aggies are being recognized for it.

Utah State head coach Blake Anderson, left, tabs quarterback Logan Bonner (1) on the head after he threw a touchdown pass against San Jose State during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, San Jose, Calif. Utah State won 48-17.
Tony Avelar, AP

For much of the season, the Utah State Aggies have kind of flown under the radar.

Preseason expectations were practically nonexistent, and even after an undefeated 4-0 start, including an upset of Washington State, Utah State football wasn’t exactly a major talking point.

After losses against Boise State and BYU, USU fell back into a state of almost complete anonymity outside of Utah, and most discussions about the Mountain West Conference centered on teams like San Diego State, Fresno State and Nevada, even as the Aggies stood in first place in their own division.

But now 8-2 on the season (5-1 in conference play) and fresh off a resounding victory over San Jose State, Utah State is no longer being overlooked.

ESPN’s latest Football Power Index (FPI) gives the Aggies the second-best chance of any MW team to win the conference this season, behind only Fresno State.

USU has the best chance of any MW team to win its division, and with games remaining against Wyoming and New Mexico, the Aggies are projected to break the 10-win barrier this season.

The recognition goes beyond that ESPN metric, though.

On Monday, the Biletnikoff Award, which is presented annually to the season’s outstanding college football receiver regardless of position, announced that USU wide receiver Deven Thompkins is one of 10 semifinalists.

Thompkins is the first Aggie receiver to be named a Biletnikoff semifinalist since Kevin Curtis in 2001.

  • Thompkins leads the nation in:
  • Receiving yard per game (144.1).
  • All-purpose yards per game (169.9).
  • Games with 100-plus yards receiving (8).
  • Games with 170-plus yards receiving (5).

He is also eighth in receptions per game (7.7) and 16th in total receiving touchdowns (8).

Also on Monday, Thompkins’ position coach, Kyle Cefalo, was announced as a nominee for the Broyles Award, which honors the nation’s top college football assistant coach.

To Cefalo’s credit, Utah State is averaging 467.0 yards per game, which leads Mountain West and is the 14th-best mark in the country.

Nationally, USU ranks:

  • 32nd in scoring offense (33.4 point per game).
  • 15th in passing offense (315.2 yards per game).
  • 28th in passing efficiency (152.7).
  • 18th in third down conversions at 46.1 percent (77-of-167).
  • 14th in passing yards per completion (14.39).
  • 15th in first downs per game (24.4).

The recognition didn’t end with Thompkins and Cefalo.

Head coach Blake Anderson, who was praised by multiple national reporters over the weekend including CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli and The Athletics’ Chris Vannini, was one of eight coaches recognized by ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, as a top coach of the week.

Perhaps no Aggie received more attention, however, then wide receiver Jordan Nathan, though his was for an entirely different reason — namely his acting.

Anderson for his part believes Nathan deserves recognition from the Academy Awards.

Utah State has been one of the best stories in college football this season. Having a legitimate chance to win 10 games a year after winning just one game will do that.

And now, people are noticing.