CSJ 2022 Game Preview: UConn at Utah State

Connecticut at Utah State
When: Saturday, August 27, 4:00 PM EDT
Where: Maverik Stadium, Logan, Utah

UConn and Utah State will actually be the first G5 vs. G5 game of the year in Week 0. Utah State and Connecticut have met once before in 2001 and Utah State won that game 38-31 at Connecticut.

UConn welcomes in a new coach in Jim Mora, Jr., who last coached UCLA in 2017, comes back to coaching the Huskies in the hopes to turn around their fortunes. UConn left the American Athletic Conference after the 2019 season and is now an independent. UConn has only won four games since the end of the 2017 season in total.

Utah State had possibly its best ever season a year ago that culminated in winning the Mountain West Conference and also won the LA Bowl over the Pac-12’s Oregon State. The Aggies under their first year head coach Blake Anderson went 11-3. The 11 wins equaled the 2012 team that also won 11 times.

Here is a look at what each team did statistically in 2021:

Connecticut Huskies (1-11, Independent, 2021)

LOCATION: Storrs, Conn.

HEAD COACH: Jim Mora, Jr. (1st Season, 0-0 @ UConn, 46-30 Overall at College level)

With the low win totals for the past five years, Mora went to the transfer portal to try to compete right away. The incoming transfers include QB Ta’Quan Roberson from Penn State, OLs Dayne Shor from Alabama and Jack Stewart from Michigan and LB Marquez Bembry from Kentucky.

But the team was not completely bare of talent despite its low win output. RB leading rusher Nate Carter is back after running for 578 yards and two scores a year ago and should see more action after Kevin Mensah exhausted his eligibility.

The team recently got news that Defensive Coordinator Lou Spanos has taken a leave of absence for “personal reasons.” No further details for his leave were given in the school’s statement. But that will leave will leave some affect on the team in this game.

The defense has its center around its linebacker corps. Leading returning tackler Jackson Mitchell (120 tackles will be helped by the return of second-leading tackler Ian Swenson.

Key Players: QB Ta’Quan Roberson

Roberson saw action in four games last year in throwing for 85 yards and a touchdown for Penn State. He spent three seasons with the Nittany Lions with one being a true redshirt season and another as a COVID redshirt so he will have three seasons left of eligibility.

He will be a player that UConn has not seen that is similar. He showed in high school that he can use both his arm and legs and this might be something he will need to do in this game to keep Husky drives going and to keep this game close.

His athletic ability alone should make the Huskies a better team this year and will have a chance with few football games this weekend to show in front of a national audience.

Utah State Aggies (11-3, 6-2 MWC, 2021)

LOCATION: Logan, Utah

HEAD COACH: Blake Anderson (2nd Season, 11-3 @ USU, 62-40 Overall)

As mentioned, the Aggies won the Mountain West title last year, the first ever MWC crown for Utah State. USU won the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in 2012 and then moved to the MWC the following season.

While USU won the league last year, the Aggies were not selected to repeat per the media this year. The Aggies actually were selected third in the Mountain Division behind Boise State and Air Force. But USU was selected fifth in the 2021 media poll and wound up with the title.

Having this Week 0 game at home against UConn though might be a good starting point to get back to another MWC trophy. The team has much of the same group as it did last year.

Last year, the Utah State offense got a spark from the the new coaching staff to a team that averaged 446 yards and 33 points per game. QB Logan Bonner came over with the coaches from Arkansas State last year and took the starting reigns to throw for 36 touchdown passes with just 12 interceptions.

The Aggie offense does lose its top three WRs in Deven Thompkins, Brandon Bowling, and Derek Wright. Justin McGriff is really the lone veteran target but the team also will have transfer Brian Cobbs from Maryland to help in the passing game.

The Aggie defense was not as sharp as the offense many times had to plain outscore its opponents but Utah State only allowed offenses to come up with touchdowns 45% of the time which was the tenth best in this statistic in the FBS.

Key Player: QB Logan Bonner

Bonner will have this game to try to find his new receiving targets. He probably will not put up the best statistics in this game but it will be a key game in a real game situation for him and his new receivers to get on the same page.

Fearless Forecast:

While UConn under Coach Mora will likely be better than a one-win team this year, the Huskies have a long ways to go to be competative against strong FBS opposition. And playing this game on the road will not help matters for UConn.

Utah State on the other hand will get a chance to iron out any wrinkles it might have in this game and get a leg-up on some of its competion by having a Week 0 game under their belts.

The Aggies might struggle early in this game to get things going but by the middle part of the second quarter, they should have many of the kinks worked out to get to a comforable lead and then will coast to a rather easy victory . Utah State 38 UConn 13