Utah State Odds vs. Alabama
Mountain West champions Utah State Aggies take on defending SEC champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama opens its season against a Mountain West foe and the Crimson Tide are also the favorites to win the national title in January. Alabama is in an anticipation position with a big game against Texas in Austin looming, so there’s a chance it could overlook Utah State.
The Aggies started their season in poor shape, beating Connecticut by just 11 at home in Week 0. Blake Anderson has work to do with the amount of production he has to replace.
Facing Alabama in Week 1 isn’t what the doctor ordered, which is why the Aggies are 42-point underdogs.
Anderson has his work cut out for him after winning a title at Mountain West.
He picks up starting quarterback Logan Bonner, which is important because Bonner averaged 8.6 yards per attempt and posted an 81.4 PFF passing rating in 2021. He was sharp in Week 0 , going 20 for 29 with 281 yards and three touchdowns.
Of course, facing Alabama is a little different from UConn.
The problem for Anderson and Bonner is that the Aggies are losing their top three pass catchers in Deven Thompkins, Brandon Bowling and Derek Wright. Those three combined for 206 catches, 3,328 yards and 31 touchdowns last season.
Oh, starting tight end Carson Terrell is also gone.
A season ago, the Aggies featured a skyrocketing or slumping passing offense, ranking 52nd in pass completion rate and eighth in explosiveness. So with all of Bonner’s guns gone, it’s hard to see how the Aggies won’t back down massively in the passing game.
The rushing offense was pretty much non-existent a season ago, as the Aggies ranked outside the top 100 in rushing completion rate, offensive line yards, trick rate allowed and completion rate in power.
They return four starters with a total of 102 starts down the line, but if they can’t find a stable ground offense, that offense will regress. And against the Alabama defense, it’s going to be extremely difficult to move the ball consistently.
Utah State lost four of its top five tackles, including first-team All-Mountain West linebacker Justin Rice.
The Aggies ranked in the top 20 in defensive yards, stuffing rate and power passing rate allowed last season. Now they’ve also lost their top two defensive linemen, so there’s going to be some regression for the top seven.
It’s also concerning when a team has a lot of new faces and faces Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.
The high school is where Utah State should improve this season. He brings back four starters from last season and adds Miami transfer Gurvan Hall to safety.
The Aggies finished 2021 ranked 97th in passing completion rate allowed with 7.4 yards allowed per attempt. The secondary will improve those numbers from last season, but this is just an average FBS secondary.
Alabama should have a field day.
Crimson Tide Offense
What else to say about Young? He had a historic 2021 season that would only have been better with a national championship. His pass mark of 92.0 PFF was bested only by Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett, and his 36 great throws were bested only by Bailey Zappe.
This season, he will have entirely new weapons around him. Jermaine Burton is from Georgia, Tyler Harrell is from Louisville and four-star rookie JoJo Early will be a downgrade from what Alabama has had the past two seasons.
However, that probably won’t matter in this game against an average Utah State secondary.
Alabama loses star running back Brian Robinson, but everyone behind him is back, and what’s even more surprising is that the likely starter will be Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs, who had a rating rushing of 86.2 PFF and an average of 5.2 yards per carry last season.
Alabama has three returning starters on the offensive line and a total of 11 top class men in the positional group. Depth and skill are there to dominate the line of scrimmage in this game.
Defense of the Crimson Tide
Alabama’s defense has the potential to be one of the best defenses of the last 5-10 years.
A big reason for this is Will Anderson Jr., who is an absolute freak. Anderson had 107 tackles, 17.5 sacks, 17 tackles for a loss and nine quarterback hits last season. That’s crazy.
In addition to Anderson, Alabama is bringing back its top four tacklers from the 2021 season.
Where Alabama struggled last season was against the pass. He finished 41st in EPA/Pass, 40th in Passing Success Rate Allowed, and 46th in Explosive Passing Allowed.
The Crimson Tide are losing four starters in the secondary, so there could be some growing pains.
Utah State vs Alabama betting picks
That line opened at -38.5, but rose to -41.5 after Utah State’s lackluster performance against Connecticut.
With Alabama’s weakness being in its secondary and Utah State having an experienced quarterback in Bonner, the potential is there for the Aggies to cover that number.
Plus, Alabama can pull starters quicker than usual with Texas on deck.
I only projected Alabama at -31.8, so I’m going to take Utah State’s value at +41.5 and scale it down to +37.