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Utah State Aggies vs. Utah Utes Preview and Prediction

Author:
Devontae Booker

Devontae Booker

Utah's oldest football rivalry could end after this season. The Utes play Utah State for the 112th time in the Battle of the Brothers this weekend — continuing a series that started in 1892. Unless things change, Friday's game will represent one final chance for the Aggies to challenge their Pac-12 rival for in-state supremacy.

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Utah State has no other games scheduled with Utah after 2015. The Utes are committed to making their rivalry with BYU a scheduling priority and have already filled out their non-conference schedules through the 2019 season.

Conquering Utah will be difficult. The Utes own a commanding 78-29-4 lead in the series. Utah has won 13 of the last 14 meetings since suffering its last home loss to Utah State in 1997.

Utah State at Utah

Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Utah -12.5

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Three Things to Watch

1. Will Booker make a bigger impact?

Devontae Booker had a quiet performance by his standards against Michigan. A tough Wolverines' run defense, bottled up the senior in the backfield. Booker tallied just 69 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in Utah's 24-17 victory. Booker also added 55 yards on seven receptions. Utah will need him to regain the dominant form he used to power the offense last season. With a big game, Booker can absorb some of the pressure on Travis Wilson and a cadre of inexperienced receivers.

2. Defense will rule the day

Neither offense has good odds of lighting up the scoreboard because both Utah and Utah State boast powerful defenses. Each team ranked in the top 20 nationally in several key defensive categories in 2014 and neither one appears to have taken a step back. Utah held Michigan to 76 rushing yards and forced Wolverines QB Jake Rudock to toss three interceptions — with Utah DB Justin Thomas returning the final one 55 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown. Utah State held Southern Utah to just 163 yards of total offense in its 12-9 comeback win. SUU converted just 1-of-18 opportunities on third down. It was the fewest by any USU opponent since Utah converted just 2-of-17 third downs in a 27-20 overtime loss to the Aggies in 2012.

3. Shaking off the rust

Last time Utah State played Utah in 2013, Chuckie Keeton threw for 314 yards and rushed for 85 yards in a 30-26 loss. USU will need to see similar numbers from the redshirt senior this week to have a chance against the Utes. Keeton struggled in the opener, throwing for 110 yards and an interception on 16-of-33 passing. Still, he's capable of doing special things when at full strength. Keeton ranks fourth among current FBS quarterbacks in career passing yards (6,497), pass completions (584) and total offense (7,738).

Final Analysis

Utah has dominated the Battle of the Brothers for a long time, losing just five times to Utah State since 1979. Nothing is likely to change in 2015. Utah has outgrown many former Mountain West Conference rivals — the conference where USU now plays. The Utes beat Fresno State and Colorado State by an average margin of 33.5 points last season. Utah State did not score an offensive touchdown while facing an FCS opponent a week ago. Those facts do not bode well for the Aggies in going up against one of the Pac-12's top defenses.

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Prediction: Utah 31, Utah State 10

Written by John Coon,who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.