Utah State football coach Matt Wells feels the teams in the Mountain West Conference present significant weekly tests, and says today's opponent, the University of Hawaii, fits that description as well, despite being winless this year.
"Don't look at the record, don't believe it, all you've got to do is flip on the tape," Wells said earlier this week. "These guys play hard. I think it's a great testament to coach (Norm) Chow and their staff in the way their players play and the culture he's creating there. I'm very impressed with that. I've got a lot of respect for him in that area because these kids play hard, they play down to the wire."
The Rainbow Warriors (0-7, 0-5 Mountain West) are off to their longest winless start to a season since finishing 0-12 in 1998. They will also try to snap a 10-game road losing streak that dates to 2011.
Sean Schroeder will start for Hawaii today against Utah State. The Rainbow Warriors are 0-7 — their worst season-opening losing streak since 1998.
Hawaii lost 39-37 at Nevada-Las Vegas on a field goal as time expired on Oct. 12, and had a fourth-down pass in the closing seconds fall incomplete in the end zone in last week's 35-28 home loss to Colorado State.
"We just can't put ourselves in situations where we have to make something miraculous happen in the end," Chow said after the loss to the Rams. "We have to stop doing that."
Utah State (4-4, 3-1) shares first place in the MWC Mountain Division with Boise State.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL ON TV
6 a.m.-Wisconsin at Iowa, ABC
6 a.m.-Mississippi St. at South Carolina, KFVE
6 a.m.-Illinois at Penn St., ESPN
6 a.m.-Army at Air Force, ESPNU
6 a.m.-Virginia Tech at Boston College, ESPN2
6 a.m.-Bethune-Cookman at at N.C. Central, ESPNN
6 a.m.-Southern Miss at Marshall, CBSSN
6 a.m.-Ohio St. at Purdue, BTN
6:30 a.m.-Wake Forest at Syracuse, FSWP
6:30 a.m.-Pennsylvania at Brown, FCSC
6:30 a.m.-Stony Brook at Maine, FCSP,
7 a.m.-Middle Tennessee at UAB, FSW/FCSA
9:30 a.m.-Michigan at Michigan St., ABC
9:30 a.m.-Florida at Georgia, CBS
9:30 a.m.-Navy at Notre Dame, NBC
9:30 a.m.-Clemson at Virginia, ESPN
9:30 a.m.-West Virginia at TCU, ESPNU
9:30 a.m.-Iowa St. at Kansas St., FS1
9:30 a.m.-Arizona at California, PAC12
9:30 a.m.-Northwestern at Nebraska, BTN
10 a.m.-Hawaii at Utah St., CBSSN
10 a.m.-Wisconsin-Platteville at Wisconsin-Whitewater (in progress), FCSC
Noon-Auburn at Arkansas, ESPN2
1 p.m.-Oklahoma St. at Texas Tech, FOX
1 p.m.-Tennessee at Missouri, ESPN
1 p.m.-Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech, ESPNU
1:30 p.m.-Colorado at UCLA, FS1
2 p.m.-Miami at Florida St., ABC
2 p.m.-New Mexico at San Diego St., FSWP
2 p.m.-Boise St. at Colorado St., CBSSN
3 p.m.-UTEP at Texas A&M, ESPN2
3:30 p.m.-North Dakota at N. Arizona, FCSP
4:30 p.m.-Nevada at Fresno St., ESPNU
"It's just way tougher," Wells said when comparing the league to the Aggies' former home, the Western Athletic Conference. "Competition week in and week out is at a higher, better level top to bottom. From coaching staffs to programs to players, it's better. I've said it before, but I think it's the best non-BCS conference in the country right now."
Utah State's original starting quarterback, Chuckie Keeton, suffered a season-ending knee injury last month. Wells used both Craig Harrison and Darrell Garretson in the following game, a loss to Boise State, then went almost exclusively with Garretson in the Aggies' last game, a 45-10 win over New Mexico State on Oct. 19. Garretson completed 15 of 23 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown in that game.
"Hopefully we see a gradual increase in confidence and productivity as each week goes on," Wells said of Garretson.
Utah State's Joey DeMartino rushed for a career-high 144 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 carries against New Mexico State and also caught a scoring pass.
The Rainbow Warriors have also used multiple quarterbacks this year, but have gone primarily with Sean Schroeder for the last month.
Schroeder was 28-for-49 for 349 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for UH last week, while Taylor Graham completed three of seven passes for 37 yards with an interception - he threw the final pass of the game.
"I thought Sean was stuck in mud a little bit and I wanted to see Taylor play some," Chow said. "He hadn't played in a while and thought it may start a spark."
Schroeder, who has thrown for more than 300 yards in the Rainbow Warriors' last four games, is today's starter.
"I see a guy who is accurate and throws the ball well," Wells said of Schroeder. "They've played a few guys at quarterback. To me it's still the scheme and what coach Chow is going to do on the offense."