This is an exciting time for Akron Zips football. The Zips haven't been bowling in ten long years, and have a chance to notch their first ever bowl win in program history. With just a few days to go before the Zips suit up against the Utah State Aggies in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, we talked to Jake Vaughn from our sister site Mountain West Connection to learn a little bit about the Aggies.
Hustle Belt: So, pretend we know nothing about Utah State (which we really don't). Tell us a little about how their season went compared to what was expected. The Mountain West is usually a pretty strong conference, but seemed to be without a dominant team this year.
Mountain West Connection: This season was incredibly dissatisfying based on expectations. Utah State entered the season picked second in the league, with a chance to win the conference if they could knock off Boise State. The Aggies did get the win over the Broncos, which made the three conference losses down the stretch even harder to stomach. The season ending loss to in-state rival BYU was a bitter punctuation mark to a disappointing regular season.
HB: Who should Akron fans be looking out for? I think most people will have heard of Chuckie Keeton, who will be playing his last game in an Aggie uniform in Boise. Is there a player that will give Akron fits offensively or defensively?
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MWC: Utah State's greatest strength since the resurgence under Gary Anderson has been the linebacking corps. Kyler Fackrell and Nick Vigil carry on that proud tradition and they are one of the most underrated duos in the nation. Vigil is a tackling machine, recording double digit tackles in 8 of 12 games this season. He ended with 9 in each of the other 4. Fackrell is the more explosive of the two, and lives in opponents backfields. He has registered 4 sacks on the season and brings pressure every play.
HB: What type of offense does Utah State play? Based on run vs. pass yardage statistics, they seem to pass a little more than run which feeds into Akron's weakness (pass defense) on that side of the ball.
MWC: Utah State operates out of the spread, and mixes the run and the pass. QBs Chuckie Keeton and Kent Myers are equally capable of running zone reads, while Keeton is a more accomplished passer downfield. Hunter Sharp is a big time wide receiver, hauling in 60 receptions this season, 8 of them for touchdowns. The passing game lacks a definitive second option however, the Aggies next leading receiver only has 24 catches.
HB: Utah State enters the game losing four out of their last six games while Akron comes into Boise on a four-game winning streak. Does this momentum swing in either direction concern you at all? Or do you think with the time off between games that this won't really be a factor?
MWC: Hopefully the time off will nullify the momentum factor, but I'm sure Utah State would much rather be headed into this one with a four game winning streak. This senior class is talented and experienced though, and I expect them to be prepared for their final game. This is the third time in the Potato Bowl for the Aggies, and that familiarity with the surroundings may be a small factor.
HB: Finally, what's your prediction?
MWC: Aggies win in a close one, 24-17