Utah State Background:
Utah State became a Division 1 program in 2001 and had an 8-22 record during two years as an Independent team.
Utah State then joined the Sun Belt conference for the 2003 & 2004 seasons, where the Aggies went 5-8 in conference games. The Sun Belt was, without question, the weakest conference in Division 1 football.
In 2005, Utah State joined the WAC. Prior to Gary Anderson’s arrival in 2010, Utah State was 11-29 in WAC games.
In Gary Anderson’s first year, Utah State went 2-6 in conference games. After Anderson’s first year, the WAC lost Boise State to the Mountain West. By Anderson’s third year, the WAC had also lost Nevada & Fresno State. In other words, the WAC had become one of the worst conferences in the country.
Enter Matt Wells:
Matt Wells took over for Utah State’s first season in the Mountain West, easily the toughest conference it had ever been in. During Matt Wells’ tenure, and despite playing the toughest conference schedule in program history, Utah State went 30-18 in Mountain West Conference games. Only Boise State won more games within the Mountain Division during Matt Wells’ tenure, an incredible accomplishment to say the least.
From 1979-2009, Utah State went 2-23 against in-state rival BYU. Under Gary Anderson, Utah State was 1-2 against BYU. Matt Wells was 3-3 against BYU, including multiple wins in Provo which had not been done since 1978. Another incredible accomplishment.
Here’s a closer look at Utah State’s 32 regular season losses under Wells:
- 10 of those losses were on the road to Power 5 conference teams (including one to BYU), where Utah State averaged being +14 (or two touchdown) underdogs.
- 2 losses were at home to in-state rival BYU, who Utah State had only beaten 3 times in 26 chances prior to Wells.
- 4 losses were on the road @ Boise State or San Diego State. Utah State was, on average, more than a +7.5 underdog in those games.
- 3 losses at home to Boise State or San Diego State. Again, Utah State was, on average, more than a +7.5 underdog in those games.
- Of the remaining 11 losses, 5 were road games that Utah State was an underdog in.
Objectively, there are only 3 “bad” regular season losses during the Matt Wells’ tenure, all of them one-possession games on the road:
- 2016 – L 38-37 as a 7-point favorite @Nevada
- 2016 – L 31-24 as a 6-point favorite @ Colorado State.
- 2015 – L 14-13 as a 20-point favorite @ New Mexico State.
(1) Utah State was one of the worst D1 programs before 2011 (mainly because it was such a new program);
(2) Utah State played the toughest schedules in program history after Wells took over in 2013;
(3) Only Boise State was better within the Mountain division during the Matt Wells’ tenure; and
(4) Utah State coaches not named Matt Wells won 10% of the time against BYU, while Matt Wells won 50% of the time.
Simply stated, the Wells’ tenure was the most successful Utah State’s program has ever been, by any metric you could possibly think of.