Washington has only played Utah State twice in its history, both big wins. The last time they played was in 1998 (a game of which I remember sitting in the stadium but remember nothing of the game) and Washington walked away with a 58-12 win.
But this is a different Washington team. That Washington team was still reeling from sanctions handed down from the (then) Pac-10, and had a Rose Bowl birth just two years out.
This Washington team is dealing with no sanctions, and we have no idea where this program will be in two years. But just because Washington won big a decade and a half ago, it doesn't mean Washington will make it three big wins over the Aggies.
The Utah State program is different, too. It's since moved into the strong football league of the Mountain West, and has a quarterback, Chuckie Keaton, the university was trying to bill as a Heisman candidate last year.
Keaton and Utah State is going to give Washington a little bit of everything offensively: power run game, spread down-field passing attack, mobile quarterback, etc. It will be a bit like Boise State's offense, which could play into Washington's hands with familiarity and everything.
Utah State's defense, though, will be an interesting matchup. The Aggies run a 3-4 scheme that freshman quarterback Jake Browning hasn't seen yet. The Aggies have three big bodies starting on the down line, and four athletic line backers — think Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks — but the secondary is the one potential weakness.
Washington has some serious athletes on the perimeter. Even without dynamo John Ross III, senior Jayden Mickens, senior Marvin Hall, freshman Chico McClatcher and others are than capable of blowing the top off any defense.
But, like seemingly every Washington team for the past decade, will come down to line play. Part of the reason Washington's offense looked as good as it was had to do with Myles Gaskin (another freshman) and the running game. He and Dwayne Washington looked really strong, gaining the edge or running tough between the tackles. They'll have to maintain that running game the stout Aggie front seven if they want Browning to look good again, too.
But here's the one thing about Washington that bodes well for this season and seasons to come: the Dawgs have depth now.
True, back-ups on an FBS team are generally better than the starters on an FCS team. But in no way are FCS players bad. Vernon Adams earning the starting job at Oregon is proof enough of that, and FCS guys do make it into the NFL. Sometimes it's a senior-year injury or grade issues that keep a guy from getting to the highest level. So after the game I called my dad, as usual, and his point was this: even the back-ups "imposed their will," he said, on the Hornets.
That's depth. That's two strong recruiting classes finally showing up. That's not like Steve Sarkisian's recruiting classes that infamously featured just two seniors (the only two still on the team) from his first recruiting class.
I like Washington in this game. I like the difference between Week 1 Jake Browning and Week 2 Jake Browning. I like the emergence of the running game (regardless of opponent caliber) and the defense hasn't allowed a point in six quarters (regardless of opponent caliber).
But the Dawgs can't have their collective eye on conference play. The Aggies are dangerous. Keaton is dangerous. Jordan Nielson, David Moala, Ricky Ali'ifua, Kyler Fackrell, LT Fillaga, Nick Vigil and Torrey Green (the guys who make up the Aggies front seven) are all dangerous.
I'll be in the stadium this game, too. The stadium is different, now. The Huskies are different, now. The Aggies are different now. Here's to hoping the result will be the same.