BYU (1-3) is coming off a much-needed bye week after going through one of the toughest three-game stretches you’ll find in college football this season, and Utah State (2-2) is feeling good after a near-perfect game in all three aspects against Mountain West Conference foe San Jose State.
Utah State head coach Matt Wells has felt his seat get a little warmer than usual in Logan due to heightened expectations that former Aggie head coach Gary Andersen created. Being an alum of Utah State, Wells knows that there’s no better way to cool off a hot seat and get Aggie fans feeling good about USU football than a win over rival BYU.
BYU at Utah State
Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS Sports Network
Spread: BYU -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Two shades of blue & two shades of offense
Utah State fans always get upset over BYU’s color change from royal blue to navy blue back in 1999. The Aggie faithful have felt for years that the Cougars tried to copy the Aggies’ navy blue look. BYU’s claim is that their version of “Navy Blue” is considered Darkest Shade of Royal Blue. Agree to disagree, right?
One thing the two in-state foes can agree on is that they will have different offensive attacks on Friday night.
BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer is still seeking an identity from his group in their pro-style attack, while first year Utah State play-caller David Yost (previously at Oregon) is coming off a 61-point effort where the Aggies showed their spread out attack that is up-tempo and has defenses on their heels.
Both teams have had their share of struggles on the offensive side against good competition this season, but the Aggies are feeling a tad more confident as BYU ranks 128th in total offense nationally out of 129 FBS teams.
2. BYU QB situation
Tanner Mangum was out with an ankle injury in the Cougars last game against No. 10 Wisconsin two weeks ago in Provo. Mangum is no longer on a scooter according to head coach Kalani Sitake, but his status for this week’s game is still up in the air.
The thought around Provo right now is that sophomore quarterback Beau Hoge will get his second start. Hoge showed off both his rocket of an arm and ability to run at times against the Badgers’ stiff defense. But ultimately, BYU was outclassed by a better Wisconsin squad.
3. This is feeling more like a rivalry
For decades, only one side of this game viewed the matchup as a rivalry and that was Utah State. BYU historically has dominated the Aggies, but since 2010 the Ags have won two games over the Cougars including a shocker in 2014 in Provo when BYU was undefeated and ranked in the top 20 nationally.
Since that upset three years ago, BYU has cruised to easy wins the past two seasons to hold off any talk of the Aggies being on equal footing as the Cougars. But this game more than ever before feels as important as ever for both sides of this matchup, and that hasn’t been the case for a very long time. BYU needs this one badly, and nothing makes the Cache Valley natives at Utah State happier than a win over BYU.
When making preseason predictions in August, this game looked like an easy one on the slate for BYU. Now, with a 1-3 record this is a must-win and a toss-up at best. I expect BYU’s offense to improve this week against Utah State, but my question is how big of an improvement do the Cougars make? This is an offense that has only scored two touchdowns against FBS foes this season. Can they keep up with Utah State’s offense? I don’t think they will as BYU’s defense has struggled to generate a consistent pass rush this year.
With little to no pass rush and nothing resembling an identity on offense, Matt Wells gets a signature win and pulls off the upset over BYU.
Prediction: Utah State 28, BYU 17
— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is BYU Insider for ESPN 960 Sports and Publisher of Cougar Nation, part of the Rivals network. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.