Utah State dominated BYU in Provo on Friday night in what was one of the biggest wins in school history for the Aggies, and perhaps one of the most disappointing results for the Cougars.
For the first time since winning four straight from 1971-74, the Aggies have beaten BYU in consecutive seasons. It was also the most lopsided win for the Aggies since 1968.
With the win, Utah State is 4-1 on the year, only needing two more victories for a seventh bowl invite in eight seasons. With the loss, BYU dropped to 3-3 overall, just two weeks after being ranked No. 20 in the country.
For Utah State the win means progress, not just because it’s BYU, but by how they dominated the game. They held the Cougars to just 39 yards rushing. They forced three turnovers (two fumbles, one interception), committing none. If it weren’t for the penalties committed by the Aggies the score surely would have been even more lopsided. Utah State racked up yards on the ground, and through the air, as their redshirt-sophomore quarterback showed more composure in the pocket than a 25-year old senior.
It had to be frustrating for the Cougars. After all they were ranked No. 20 two weeks ago after an upset over then No. 6 Wisconsin. Things were looking up for BYU after a rough 2017 season, yet just two weeks later Cougar fans have to be wondering what happens next?
BYU has a tough schedule remaining. They play Hawaii, who is surprisingly 5-1, and has only scored under 40 points once this season. They then take on perennial MAC champion Northern Illinois and then take on Boise State on the road. That’s potentially three losses, and after two cupcake games (UMass, New Mexico State), the Cougars end the season against the rival Utes, who have won seven straight against BYU. It’s possible the Cougars end 5-7 and aren’t bowling for the second straight year.
On the other hand, the Aggies have one of the top offenses in the country, averaging 50.2 points per game, but the schedule is not as difficult as BYU’s.
The Aggies take on perennial Mountain West cellar-dweller UNLV, followed by games against rival Wyoming and New Mexico. After a tough game against Hawaii, Utah State plays San Jose State, but ends the season with a road game against Boise State.
The Aggies could potentially be looking at a 9 or 10 win season after three straight losing seasons (two due to bowl losses).
So is it possible that for the first time since the early 1970’s, that Utah State has surpassed BYU in terms of the rivalry victories and just overall season expectations and performance?
While the Battle for the Old Wagon Wheel doesn’t necessarily make or break a season, it can change momentum for the team that wins not only during the season, but perhaps the direction of the program as a whole.
From 1994 to 2009 BYU beat Utah State every time the teams matched up, as the Cougars were a perennial bowl team and contender for WAC and Mountain West titles, while the Aggies were a perennial loser who changed conferences more than they won meaningful games. Then in 2010 the Aggies finally beat the Cougars, and it sparked success that the program hasn’t seen since the 1970’s.
Now I’m not saying back-to-back losses to Utah State is the end of the world for BYU, but could it signal a possible change in the pecking order for recruits and in-state supremacy? It very well could as we’ve seen before on both sides of the rivalry.
Luckily for both sides there is still half a season left, and only time will tell who will respond. Will Utah State’s hot start and momentum continue? Can BYU turn it around or is there another losing season coming?
We will just have to wait and see.