More than bragging rights and a traveling trophy is at stake for BYU when the Cougars visit Utah State in the Battle for the Old Wagon Wheel on Friday night.
No. 13 BYU (4-0) has opened back-to-back seasons with four straight victories for the first time in school history. The Cougars have a chance to insert themselves squarely in the College Football Playoff conversation with another victory over the Aggies this weekend. BYU is coming off a 35-27 victory over USF where it racked up 443 total yards and averaged 8.9 yards per play. The Cougars scored touchdowns on their first three drives and never trailed.
Utah State (3-1, 1-1 Mountain West) is smarting after suffering a 27-3 loss to Boise State in its conference home opener. Murphy's Law was in full effect for the Aggies against the Broncos. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Utah State committed three turnovers, botched a fake punt, and had a field goal attempt blocked. It kept the Aggies from improving on their best start to a season since 1978.
No. 13 BYU at Utah State
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 1 at 9 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: BYU -9
When BYU Has the Ball
Jaren Hall sat out against USF after suffering a rib injury on BYU's final drive against Arizona State a week earlier. Hall practiced with the Cougars earlier this week and is a game-time decision on Friday. If he can't go, Baylor Romney will get the call to make his second straight start. BYU's offense is in good hands either way.
Romney was electric in his third career start. He threw for a career-high 305 yards and three touchdowns against South Florida. The redshirt sophomore punished the Bulls' secondary with multiple deep passes in the first half. His favorite targets, Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua, both tallied more than 100 receiving yards in the game. Romney finished with 119 yards and a touchdown on five catches. Nacua had a career-best 102 yards on four receptions.
If BYU can generate similar passing numbers against Utah State, the Cougars may see Tyler Allgeier break loose and do some damage in the run game. Allgeier has been steady in the backfield through four games. He generated 81 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 15 carries against USF. For the season, Allgeier has tallied 351 yards and is on pace for his second consecutive 1,000-yard campaign.
When Utah State Has the Ball
Deploying a two-quarterback system worked out well for the Aggies in their first three games. It didn't produce favorable results against Boise State. The offense struggled to sustain drives when neither Logan Bonner nor Andrew Peasley could generate consistent rhythm behind center.
Bonner threw for 173 yards and a had pair of interceptions while only completing 44 percent of his passes. It was a rare down game for Bonner, who had completed at least 62 percent of his passes or better in his previous three games. Peasley did not fare much better. He tallied just 35 yards on 2-of-6 passing. If the QB duo can cut down on mistakes on Friday, they could benefit from facing a BYU defense that has shown a tendency to give up gobs of yards at times this season.
Calvin Tyler Jr. was a bright spot for Utah State on offense against Boise State. Tyler racked up 126 yards on a career-high 20 carries. It marked the second 100-yard game of his career. The junior leads the Mountain West with 414 rushing yards in four games. Tyler is averaging a robust 6.2 yards per carry and has emerged as the lead option in a crowded backfield that also features a pair of capable ball carriers in John Gentry and Elelyon Noa.
Utah State is 5-62 all-time against AP Top 25 teams. The Aggies are 4-8 in their last 12 games against ranked opponents, though, and one of those victories came over then-No. 18 BYU in 2014. Asking for Utah State to do it again might be a bit too much. The Cougars have a definite edge on both sides of the ball. They have an offense that can strike fast and a defense that can disrupt and force turnovers. Rivalry games between these two schools are usually a tense affair, but BYU will do just enough to keep the Old Wagon Wheel in Provo for another year.
Prediction: BYU 28, Utah State 17
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– Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports journalist based in Utah. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.