Due to a wealth of new starters and what on paper is a much more challenging schedule than 2018, I was hesitant to predict how the 2019 college football season would go for Utah State.

Going into the season I was pretty confident the Aggies would do well enough to qualify for a third straight bowl berth. After watching USU blow a golden opportunity to beat Wake Forest on the road last Friday, I’m still convinced this team will go bowling for the eighth time in the last nine years.

Forecasting how successful the Aggies will be throughout the course of the season is a bit more difficult, especially with how well a handful of teams from the Mountain West performed last weekend, but I will give it a whirl. It’s something I promised myself I would do after watching USU square off against Wake Forest.

Without further ado, here is my best guess as to how USU’s season will transpire.

A motivated group of Aggies won’t waste any time getting back on track this weekend against a solid FCS program in Stony Brook. The Sea Wolves have made back-to-back appearances in the FCS playoffs, but aren’t explosive enough offensively to pull off the upset Saturday at Maverik Stadium. USU will score at least 42 points and roll to its eighth straight home victory.

The Aggies will then have a full two weeks to prepare for their Mountain West opener at San Diego State. USU will take advantage of that extra preparation time and terminate a 10-game losing streak to the Aztecs, who struggled mightily offensively in last Saturday’s 6-0 home victory over Weber State.

Granted, SDSU always seems to falter every season against an opponent it should handle, but I expect the Aztecs to be in much better form on Sept. 21. Nevertheless, USU will score enough points and do a good enough job of containing standout SDSU running back Juwan Washington — Weber State limited him to 55 yards on 22 carries — to leave The Golden State with a victory.

Up next for USU is its home conference opener against Colorado State on Sept. 28. The Rams hung tough with Colorado for three quarters in their opener before falling apart late. CSU signal caller Collin Hill will give the Aggies fits — he threw for 382 yards against the Buffaloes — but the Rams aren’t good enough defensively to escape Cache Valley with a win.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, USU’s three-game winning streak will come to an end the following week in Death Valley against SEC power LSU. I am very intrigued to see how Jordan Love will fare against a loaded Tiger defense that limited Georgia Southern to 98 yards of total offense last weekend.

Even if the Aggies have some success offensively, it won’t be enough against an improved Tiger offense. LSU always has outstanding running backs, and QB Joe Burrow completed 23 of 27 passes for 278 yards and five touchdowns in his team’s season opener.

USU’s second bye week will take place the following week and it will give the Aggies some much-needed time to lick their wounds and get ready for a good Nevada team. Because the Aggies are at home, I give them a slight edge against the Wolf Pack, who stunned Purdue at home last week, 34-31, on a game-winning 56-yard field goal as time expired.

USU’s defense will play just well enough to hold off Nevada and help their team improve to 3-0 in conference play.

One of USU’s biggest games of the season will be contested the following week in Colorado Springs against an experienced Air Force squad. Because of their depth in the defensive trenches, I believe the Aggies will emerge victorious in nailbiting fashion at Falcon Stadium.

It won’t be easy, but the Aggies will extend their winning streak to three games the following week at home against BYU. The showdown will be much closer than it was last year in Provo, but I don’t think BYU’s receivers are quite good and polished enough to fully take advantage of USU’s suspect secondary. The Aggies are more well-rounded offensively than the Cougars, plus they are very good on special teams, and that will make the difference.

Unfortunately for USU, the momentum gained by beating BYU for a third consecutive year won’t be enough the following week at Fresno State. Jeff Tedford has done an exceptional job of turning around FSU’s program, and the Bulldogs are already better offensively than I anticipated they would be. FSU racked up 462 total yards in last week’s competitive loss at USC.

The Bulldogs are very good and experienced defensively, and they will slow down Love and company enough to hand the Aggies their first Mountain West loss.

I do believe USU will bounce back a week later at Maverik Stadium against a very tough Wyoming team, which picked up a huge 37-31 victory over Missouri last Saturday at War Memorial Stadium. QB Sean Chambers gives the Cowboys a weapon they were sorely missing a year ago, but the Aggies’ rush defense is good enough to make Chambers beat them with his arm. Because of that, USU will grind out a hard-fought W at home.

That triumph will give USU the chance to compete for a Mountain Division title the following week on Merlin Olsen Field against what will surely be a ranked Boise State squad. The Broncos don’t play SDSU and FSU during the regular season, and will likely be 11-0 when they come stampeding into Logan.

BSU amassed 621 total yards in last Saturday’s thrilling come-from-behind win over Florida State, and the Broncos have too many weapons for the Aggies to contain. USU will keep it close, but I believe BSU is destined for a “New Year’s Six” bowl game.

The Aggies will take their frustrations out on New Mexico the following week on the road in the regular season finale for both squads. The Lobos haven’t been good for a few years, and I have a difficult time thinking they will turn a corner in ’19. I mean, UNM gave up 558 total yards to Sam Houston State at home last weekend.

So there you have it folks, Utah State will finish the regular season with an 8-4 record, including a 6-2 mark in MW play.

The Aggies must improve in the secondary to reach eight wins, but they won’t face many — LSU and maybe BSU — wide receiving corps at talented as Wake Forest’s. USU is explosive enough offensively and has a stout enough run defense to be a factor in the Mountain West race.

jturner@hjnews.com Twitter: hjtrebek

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.