Utah State vs. Alabama Odds & Picks: Aggies Can Cover This Week 1 Spread
Chris Gardner/Getty Images. Pictured: Logan Bonner.
Utah State vs. Alabama Odds
The Mountain West champion 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 a look-ahead spot with a big game against Texas in Austin looming, so there’s a chance it could overlook Utah State.
The Aggies started off their season in poor fashion, as they only beat Connecticut by 11 at home at Week 0. Blake Anderson has some work on his hands with the amount of production he has to replace.
Facing Alabama in Week 1 is not what the doctor ordered, which is why the Aggies are 42-point underdogs.
Anderson has his work cut out for him coming off of a Mountain West title.
He does get starting quarterback Logan Bonner back, which is big because Bonner averaged 8.6 yards per attempt and posted a PFF passing grade of 81.4 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 bit different than UConn.
The problem for Anderson and Bonner is the Aggies lose 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.
The Aggies featured a boom-or-bust passing offense a season ago, ranking 52nd in Passing Success Rate and eighth in Explosiveness. So, with all of Bonner’s weapons gone, it’s hard to see how the Aggies won’t take a massive step back in the passing game.
The rushing attack was pretty much non-existent a season ago, as the Aggies ranked outside the top 100 in Rushing Success Rate, Offensive Line Yards, Stuff Rate Allowed and Power Success Rate.
They do return four starters with a combined 102 starts across the line, but if they can’t find a stable rushing attack, this offense is going to regress. And against Alabama’s defense, it’s going to be extremely difficult to consistently move the ball.
Utah State lost four of its top five tacklers, including First Team All-Mountain West linebacker Justin Rice.
The Aggies ranked top-20 in Defensive Line Yards, Stuff Rate and Power Success Rate Allowed last season. Now, they’ve also lost their best two defensive linemen, so there’s going to be some regression for the front seven.
It’s also concerning when a team has a lot of new faces and is going up against Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.
The secondary is where Utah State should improve this season. It brings back four starters from last season and adds Miami transfer Gurvan Hall at safety.
The Aggies finished 2021 ranked 97th in Passing Success Rate Allowed with 7.4 yards allowed per attempt. The secondary will improve on those numbers from last season, but this is just an average FBS secondary.
Alabama should have a field day.
Crimson Tide Offense
What else is there to say about Young? He had a historic 2021 season that only would have been better with a national championship. His 92.0 PFF passing grade was only bested by Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett, and his 36 big-time throws were only bested by Bailey Zappe.
This season, he will have entirely new weapons around him. Jermaine Burton comes over from Georgia, Tyler Harrell comes over from Louisville and four-star recruit JoJo Early will be a downgrade compared to what Alabama has had the past two seasons.
However, it’s likely not going to 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 the likely starter is going to be Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs, who had a 86.2 PFF run grade and averaged 5.2 yards per carry last season.
Alabama has three starters back on the offensive line and a total of 11 upperclassmen in the position group. The depth and talent is there to dominate the line of scrimmage in this game.
Crimson Tide Defense
Alabama’s defense has the potential to be one of the best defenses in the past 5-10 years.
A big reason for that is Will Anderson Jr., who is an absolute monster. Anderson had 107 tackles, 17.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and nine quarterback hits last season. That’s insane.
Will Anderson leads all Edge Defenders with 141 pressures over the last three seasons…
But he's only played two seasons 😳 pic.twitter.com/nrPb7j6rgt
— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 27, 2022
In addition to Anderson, Alabama is bringing back its top four tacklers from the 2021 season.
Where Alabama did struggle last season was against the pass. It finished 41st in EPA/Pass, 40th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and 46th in Explosive Passing Allowed.
The Crimson Tide lose four starters in the secondary, so there could be some growing pains.
Utah State vs. Alabama Betting Pick
This line opened at -38.5, but has gone up 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 this number.
Plus, Alabama may pull the starters quicker than usual with Texas on deck.
I only have Alabama projected at -31.8, so I am going to take the value on Utah State at +41.5, and would play it down to +37.