Utah State (0-0) at No. 25 Iowa (0-0)
Kickoff: Saturday, 10 a.m. MDT.
Venue: Kinnick Stadium, Ames, Iowa.
TV: Fox Sports 1 (FS1).
Radio: Aggie Sports Network.
Series: Utah State trails 0-2.
Weather: Sunny with little to no chance of precipitation with temperatures in the mid 70s at kickoff.
For Utah State: The Aggies are coming off a 6-7 campaign in 2022 that ended with a 38-10 beatdown by Memphis in the First Responders Bowl.
For Iowa: The Hawkeyes finished the 2022 season 8-5 overall and soundly defeated Kentucky 21-0 in the Music City Bowl.
What to watch for
Utah State has plenty of questions entering the 2023 season, after losing 30-plus players to the transfer portal during the offseason, to say nothing of players who exhausted their eligibility.
The Aggies have more than 35 new scholarship players this season and as a result questions across the roster, particularly on the offensive side of the ball where head coach Blake Anderson has taken over play-calling duties.
On USU’s first official depth chart, seven “or” options were listed, all on offense, as the Aggies have no shortage of skill position players battling for playing time.
How Utah State’s inexperienced offensive line plays is arguably the most pressing question entering Saturday’s contest, though, as the Aggies return only one starter from last season — Wade Meacham.
Defensively, Utah State had to remake its defensive front and its secondary, outside of key returners like defensive tackle Hale Motu’apuaka and safety Ike Larsen.
Competition for playing time in the backend specifically, will likely continue throughout the first month of the season, as Utah State added transfers from Wisconsin, Oregon, Colorado and UCF, all of whom arrived in Logan during the summer.
As for Iowa, the Hawkeyes biggest question marks are on offense, as the team enters the season hoping for an improved attack compared to a season ago.
Key to that may be the health of quarterback Cade McNamara — transfer from Michigan — who suffered a quad injury a couple of weeks ago. McNamara is expected to start and play for Iowa, per multiple reports and head coach Kirk Ferentz
Luke Lachey, Iowa tight end: The junior tight end, along with fellow junior tight end Erick All will be arguably the most important part of the Hawkeyes’ offense, which is expected to take a leap forward this season. Lachey — preseason second-team All-Big Ten by Phil Steele — averaged 14.2 yards per catch last season, finishing with four touchdowns, but with McNamara in the fold and hobbled, expect those numbers to improve significantly as Lachey is likely to be the premier target in Iowa’s passing game.
“As good as they are on the backend, and they are, there’s no doubt it starts up front. They’re able to move line of scrimmage back to the quarterback’s lap, they rush the passer and really just dominate most fronts that they play against. ... We are going to be tested, maybe the best defense we’ll see all year. They’re one of the best in the country for reason. We don’t exactly know who to expect to line up with the suspensions, and obviously they lost some key players in the NFL and you don’t know what kind of injuries they’re dealing with. But I know this, whoever they line up, it’ll be a challenge.” — Utah State coach Blake Anderson
“Utah State is coming off a 6-6 season, Coach Anderson’s second year at Utah State, and prior to that he had a really good strong run at Arkansas State, did an outstanding job. If you look at what he did going to Utah State, they were coming off a 1-5 season in the pandemic year, and he and his staff led the team to 11 wins two years ago and then came back 6-6. He’s had success everywhere he’s gone. ... Bottom line is if you look at their staff, there’s a lot of DNA there that’s pretty consistent. I know they lost their offensive coordinator, but that is what Coach Anderson specializes in. He’s going to take that over. I think we have a decent feel at least what that looks like.” — Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz
Utah State: vs. Idaho State on Sept. 9.
Iowa: at Iowa State on Sept. 9.
Utah State schedule
- Sep. 2 — at Iowa (10 a.m. MDT, FS1).
- Sept. 9 — vs. Idaho State (6 p.m. MDT).
- Sept. 16 — at Air Force (6 p.m. MDT, CBS Sports Network).
- Sept. 23 — vs. James Madison (6 p.m. MDT).
- Sept. 30 — at UConn (10 a.m. MDT, CBS Spots Network).
- Oct. 7 — vs. Colorado State (6 p.m. MDT).
- Oct. 13 — vs. Fresno State (6 p.m. MDT, CBS Sports Network).
- Oct. 21 — at San Jose State (5 p.m. MDT, CBS Sports Network).
- Nov. 4 — at San Diego State (TBA).
- Nov. 11 — vs. Nevada (1 p.m. MST).
- Nov. 18 — vs. Boise State (5 p.m. MST, CBS Sports Network).
- Nov. 24 — at New Mexico (1:30 p.m. MST, CBS Sports Network).