Tanner Mangum and the Cougars look to avenge last year's loss to the Aggies in the Battle for the Wagon Wheel
The big question around this game always ends up becoming, are BYU and Utah State rivals? For the Aggies, we’ve always known they covet a BYU win more than anything. In fact, the Aggies nearly stormed their home field in 2008 because they nearly lost by 14 instead of 21 against an undefeated and ranked BYU team. So we know where the Aggies lie when it comes to this question.
For BYU, the Cougars never took the Aggies serious for decades. They dominated Utah State year after year. But now, the Aggies are very good and BYU is ready to take this game and view it as a rivalry. One of the three goals for the Cougars this season is to defeat their rivals and Utah State was listed in those games.
Utah State at BYU
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 5 at 9 p.m. ET
Spread: BYU -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Utah State’s offense
This is the best Aggies team since their 2012 squad that finished the season 11-2 and nationally ranked. In large part because of the offense. Quarterback Jordan Love is the best quarterback in the state of Utah this season and he’s ready to take the Aggies' fourth-ranked scoring offense (51.5 ppg) into Provo and put up some big points, especially through the air.
2. Season-defining game for BYU
Will the Cougars be able to flush last week’s abysmal performance at Washington down the drain and bring their best effort against Utah State? If they don’t, the season could turn on BYU in a hurry and we might have to start talking about whether or not the Cougars get to a bowl game. If BYU does win, it gives the Cougars a shot at being bowl eligible by November because they have two more home games this month (Hawaii, Northern Illinois). A postseason berth was something the vast majority didn't think was possible entering this season, but Friday night's game against Utah State is the linchpin to that potential success.
3. Battle for the Wagon Wheel
This rivalry, which historically has always landed on the Friday before The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints General Conference, has seen Utah State win three times over the last decade. The two teams play for the Old Wagon Wheel, which is an actual wheel from the pioneer wagons that made the long trek to Utah in the mid-1800s.
This will be a really entertaining football game heading into the fourth quarter. BYU’s defense will bounce back this week with injured players Zayne Anderson (OLB) and Dayan Ghanwoloku (S) returning to the starting lineup. They were sorely missed in the loss at Washington. They will be able to contain Utah State’s high-powered offense, which in this rivalry the past few years, has seen Aggies head coach Matt Wells be very conservative on the offensive end against BYU. The Cougars squeak out a hard-fought home win to take home the Wagon Wheel for the first time since 2016.
Prediction: BYU 28, Utah State 27
— 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.