When the Utah State Aggies visit the No.24 Utah Utes on Friday night, there will be one familiar face, leading the road team onto the field. Entering the game, the Aggies are a 12 point underdog, according to CBSsports.com, but they have an x-factor in Chuckie Keeton.
It’s been five years since Utah State’s Keeton made his debut with the Aggies against the Auburn Tigers in 2011. In his first appearance, Keeton led the Aggies to a four point loss against the defending champions, but there was plenty of evidence, Utah State had a star quarterback in their program. Over the first two and a half years, the Aggies were trending in the right direction.
Keeton played 24 games in his first two seasons with the Aggies. By his junior season, Keeton was ready to ascend into the national debate, about the best quarterbacks, in the country. Unfortunately, a torn ACL curtailed a dominant performance, ending his season with 18 touchdowns and two interceptions. At that point, Keeton had thrown 56 touchdown passes, and 13 interceptions in his career. He has never been the same since.
During his comeback attempt in 2014, Keeton only played three games, before finishing his season senior season with a whimper. Luckily, he was granted a medical red shirt to get a mulligan for what has turned into an injury plagued career.
The Utes are coming off of a strong performance against the Michigan Wolverines, and seem to be a contender for the PAC-12 South title. However, before the Utes can win the big games, they must take care of their instate rivals.
Offensively, the Utes had their struggles with the Wolverines’ defense, but they made enough plays to earn the victory. Devontae Booker only gained 69 rushing yards in the season opener, but quarterback Travis Wilson added 53 yards on the ground. Although the Utes aren’t concerned with Booker’s performance, they want to get him going early in the game. He’s a dynamic player in the passing game, so it will be difficult for the Aggies’ defense to complete contain the Utes’ best player.
The Utes held Southern Utah to 1.7 yards per carry in the season opener, but they will face a huge step up in competition. Can Utah State match up physically with the Utes up front? They should be able to, but they’ll need some big plays defensively. A couple of turnovers may lead to easy points for Utah State. If they are unable to force Utah into mistakes, it will be difficult to pull off the upset.
Keeton had a bad game last week, so he’ll be looking to improve dramatically tonight. For the Aggies to be victorious, Keeton and the offense must play flawless football. The Utes forced three interceptions against Michigan. Their defensive backs are always looking to make aggressive plays. In addition, the Utes will look to control running back Lajuan Hunt. He gained 80 yards on 23 carries, while Utah held Michigan to 76 rushing yards last week.
In the end, Keeton has an opportunity to reclaim his spot on the national scene. It will be an incredible feat for Utah State to win this game. It would also be a crushing loss for the Utes.