Three Keys with Keegs: Colorado State vs. Utah State

Keegan Pope

Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins escapes a Utah State defender during last season's game. (Collegian File Photo)
Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins escapes a Utah State defender during last season’s game. (Collegian File Photo)

Colorado State and Utah State face off in a key, early-season matchup Saturday at Romney Stadium in Logan, Utah. The Rams (2-2) enter the game coming off a heart-pounding 33-31 win over UTSA last Saturday, while the Aggie (1-2) are licking their wounds after two straight losses to Utah and Washington, respectively.

Here are three key matchups to watch when the Rams and Aggies take the field at 5 p.m. MT on ESPN3.com.

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CSU offensive line vs. Utah State front seven

Colorado State’s offensive line has been impressive through the first third of the season, helping pave the way for CSU’s running game to average nearly 200 yards per game. But the Rams will likely be without starting tackle Zack Golditch, and could be without starting guard Fred Zerblis, who sported a knee brace at practice Tuesday. Utah State’s front is led by a three-headed monster at linebacker, led by Kyler Fackrell, LT Filiaga and Nick Vigil. The trio has already combined for 75 tackles and 8 tackles for loss in three games, and could present big problems for CSU’s shuffled front line.

Utah State QB Kent Myers vs. CSU secondary

With oft-injured quarterback Chuckie Keeton injured for the third time in as many years, the Aggies offense will be led by Kent Myers, who led USU to a 5-1 record as the starter last season. Due partly to Keeton playing at less than 100 percent for the first three games, the Aggies have struggled mightily on offense, ranking near the bottom of the FCS in every statistical category. CSU’s secondary is yet to face an elite passing attack, and still won’t when they face the Aggies, but the Rams have a tendency to give up big plays. USU wide receiver Hunter Sharp is among the best receivers in the Mountain West, and the Rams will have to be aware of him at all times.

CSU punter Hayden Hunt vs. USU returner Andrew Rodriguez

In a game that will likely not feature a lot of scoring, field position will be of the utmost importance to help out each team’s offense with a shorter field. Hunt is one of the best punters in the country so far this year, and he has been invaluable for the Rams’ defense, including pinning UTSA on its own 2-yard line last week, which eventually resulted in CSU forcing a safety. Saturday, he’ll go head-to-head against one of the better punt returners in the Mountain West in Andrew Rodriguez. The junior from Allen, Texas is averaging 17 yards per return and has already taken one punt back for a touchdown. A big game from either could be the turning point in this one.

Collegian Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at kpope@collegian.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.