"I used to think there was no team on the same level as USC," he said Monday. "But now, coming to Utah State and watching our program change completely around in the last four years, I like this opportunity to play them and get a W versus them."
The Aggies (2-1) are headed into one of the biggest opportunities in their history. winning at USC (2-1) would mark a level of success the program has never achieved. Coach Matt Wells said if his team can pull off the once-unthinkable, calling it a "program milestone" would sell it short.
Utah State was long the punching bag for programs such as USC, as the series history shows. In four victories over the Aggies, the Trojans have outscored them 213-29, with an average winning margin of 46 points.
Contrast that with this week, when USC opens up as a mere six-point favorite on Saturday afternoon. With the Aggies boasting the No. 8 scoring offense in the nation (49.3 points per game) and the Trojans' own offense being scrutinized early this season, Utah State fans and players alike are starting to think this could be the year.
Respectful? Yes. Intimidated? No.
"You're going into a place that's got the tradition of SC and all the teams they've had," Wells said. "It'd be great. It's going to be on a national stage."
The top concern for Utah State should be USC's defense. The Trojans are a top-10 unit in many relevant categories, including run yardage (43.5 ypg), total defense (212.3 ypg), interceptions (6 total), and scoring defense (10 ppg). Lineman George Uko is one of the team's top pass rushers, while safety Dion Bailey has a pair of interceptions already.
The Aggies defense will also have a priority on stopping the run: USC back Tre Madden has three 100-yard games to start the season. Receiver Marqise Lee is widely regarded as one of the best in the nation.
Coming off a 70-6 win over Weber State last weekend, the Aggies have had some time to tune up execution issues and clean up penalties that plagued them in the first two games. But the true test will be Saturday, in front of a national TV audience.
The Aggies say they are up for it.
"I feel Utah State is a team that plays some of its best ball in the biggest games," junior safety Brian Suite said. "It's something we expect to do because we feel we can play and we can beat any team in the country."
Utah State by the numbers
The Aggies are ranked nationally in a handful of statistical categories entering Week 4
• No. 4 in third-down efficiency (65.2 percent)
• No. 4 in first downs (29.0 per game)
• No. 8 in scoring (49.3 ppg)
• No. 13 in total offense (550.3 ypg)
• No. 13 in total defense (286.0 ypg)
• No. 13 in passing defense (148.0 ypg)
• No. 36 in scoring defense (18.7 ppg)
Utah State at USC
P Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
TV • Ch. 4