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Vandals face potent Aggies

MOSCOW, Idaho – Their quarterback is in the midst of a record-setting season, their coach is suddenly on other schools’ wish lists and they’ll go down as one of the best teams in program history.

All this describes the nationally ranked Utah State Aggies. But it must sound vaguely familiar to Idaho fans, too.

This time three years ago, diehard Vandals followers were dreaming up bowl matchups and wondering if Robb Akey would be tempted by job offers come the offseason.

But as Idaho has regressed, Utah State has ascended to the top of the Western Athletic Conference. The two programs will meet in a regular-season finale this afternoon at Romney Stadium in Logan, Utah. Kickoff is 12:05 (PST).

The 25th-ranked Utah State Aggies, in the Associated Press poll for the first time since 1961, nipped Louisiana Tech last week in a WAC championship showdown. With a victory today, the Aggies (9-2, 5-0) will own their first outright conference title since 1936.

The Vandals (1-10, 1-4) are at the other end of the pecking order in the WAC’s final football season. If they lose to the 38 1/2-point favorite Aggies, this will be their second one-win season in the last six years – and third since 2001.

But in the short term, it’s been a long fall for Idaho since dominating Utah State in 2010 in Logan.

“Last time Idaho was here they played very, very well,” Aggies coach Gary Andersen said. “They are going through a transition and there are a lot of things that go into that. Kids want to play and get prepared to have a good showing for the next coaches. They want to beat the champion. They’re competitors.”

Idaho fired Akey just over a month ago and could name his permanent replacement shortly after the season concludes today. One candidate is interim coach Jason Gesser, who was set to interview for the job earlier this week.

Although UI is 0-3 since Gesser took over, the 33-year-old offensive- minded coach thinks he’s done “a pretty decent job of keeping the guys engaged and putting a good product on the field,” he said.

“Really, the only times that we haven’t fought or competed was the first half of this last game and somewhere in the beginning of the BYU game,” he added.

But Gesser also knows with how well Utah State has played this game could turn into a rout quickly if the Vandals lapse like they did to start last week’s loss to Texas-San Antonio.