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2019 College Football Rankings: No. 76 Utah State hopes Gary Andersen’s returns brings more wins

Gary Andersen returns to Utah State for his second stint as the Aggies’ head coach after Matt Wells departed for the Texas Tech head coaching job. Andersen will try to keep the momentum going after last year’s success at the place where he began his Football Bowl Subdivision head coaching career.

Orlando Sentinel insider Matt Murschel ranked all 130 FBS teams entering the 2019 season. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 130 to our projected No. 1 team.

Today at No. 76: Utah State

Coach: Gary Andersen (26-24, entering fifth season and second stint, 57-61 overall)

2018 record: 11-2 overall, 7-1 Mountain West; tied for first in Mountain Division

Look back: The Aggies entered their matchup against division rival Boise State last season on a 10-game win streak. However, Utah State lost 33-24 and missed out on a chance to play in its first Mountain West Conference Championship Game since 2013.

The Aggies ended the season with a 52-13 win over North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl. Quarterback Jordan Love led a dynamic offense, which topped the Mountain West Conference last season, averaging 497.4 yards per game.

Offensive starters returning: 2

Offensive starters lost: 9

Defensive starters returning: 7

Defensive starters lost: 4

Key losses: RB Darwin Thompson, WR Ron’quavion Tarver, WR Jalen Greene, WR Aaren Vaughns, TE Dax Raymond, OL Roman Andrus, OL Rob Castaneda, LB Chase Christiansen, S Gaje Ferguson

Top returnees: QB Jordan Love, RB Gerold Bright, WR/KR Savon Scarver, OL Alfred Edwards, LB Devin Woodward, DE Tipa Galeai, CB DJ Williams, DL Fua Leilua, K Dominik Eberle

Strengths: Love burst onto the scene last season as a sophomore, throwing for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns, both single-school records. Love set three other single-season school records in 2018 with seven 300-yard passing games, 234 points responsible for and being named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week five times.

Running back Gerold Bright will be the primary bell cow after rushing for 888 yards and 13 total touchdowns.

Savon Scarver is one of the top kick returners in the nation.

Junior linebacker Devin Woodward had a breakout season in 2018, garnering third-team All-American honors by the Associated Press after tallying 134 total tackles (12.5 for loss), five sacks and two interceptions.

Woodward will lead a defense, which was 51st in the nation last season allowing 379.5 yards per game, that should be solid once again with seven starters returning.

Kicker Dominik Eberle returns after making 22-of-28 field goal attempts last year.

Weaknesses: The Aggies have to replace nine starters on offense, including four offensive linemen, running back Darwin Thompson and all of their top receivers. Utah State’s offense, which ranked 11th in the country last season, is expected to take a step back because of attrition.

Outlook: Protecting Love will be paramount for the Aggies. The team also needs new passing options to emerge for the junior quarterback. The defense should be one of the top units in the Mountain West, but the Aggies might take a step back as they learn new schemes and adjust to the start of Andersen’s second stint with the program.

2019 Schedule:

Aug. 30 at Wake Forest

Sept. 7 Stony Brook

Sept. 21 at San Diego State

Sept. 28 Colorado State

Oct. 5 at LSU

Oct. 19 Nevada

Oct. 26 at Air Force

Nov. 2 BYU

Nov. 9 at Fresno State

Nov. 16 Wyoming

Nov. 23 Boise State

Nov. 30 at New Mexico

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