USU vs BYU Preview: Keys to Defending the Dairy Farm
Aggies aim to keep the Old Wagon Wheel exactly where it belongs for third straight year
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USU vs BYU: How to Watch, Keys to the Game, Prediction
WEEK 10: BYU (3-4) vs. UTAH STATE (4-3, 3-1 MW)
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 • 8 p.m. (MT)
WHERE: Logan, Utah • Maverik Stadium (25,100)
RADIO: AGGIE SPORTS NETWORK
SERIES RECORD: BYU leads the all-time series 48-37-3
Utah State hosts BYU Saturday in one of November’s sauciest matchups. The Aggies (4-3) enter this weekend badly needing to right the ship after a loss at Air Force effectively silenced any hope for a conference title. The opposite sideline will feature a confusing but dangerous BYU team (3-4) fresh off a home win against ranked (but Bachmeier-less) Boise State.
Two teams still in the hunt for bowl eligibility colliding for in-state bragging rights shapes up to be one of the tighter contests in recent years. Last season’s 45-20 drubbing in Provo somehow looked even more lopsided on film than on the scoreboard, as Utah State flexed on the road for its third victory over BYU in five years.
It’s been an up-and-down season for both squads, but only one will emerge late Saturday night with the Wagon Wheel in tow.
SPOILERS: It’s the Aggies, guys. I’m talking about the Aggies.
Three Keys to an Aggie Victory
1. *sigh* Establish the Run
The most misunderstood cliche in the big book of footballisms will be on full display Saturday night. As anyone who watched even one-quarter of last week’s Air Force game can attest, Utah State hasn’t exactly dominated the ground game as it has in years past, surrendering 181 rushing yards per game this season. BYU is somehow even worse, and by a fairly significant margin (217 rushing yds/game allowed).
In any contest between teams struggling to contain the run, the team that runs the ball best wins the game. Leaning on QB Jordan Love to take mid-to-deep shots and keep the Cougar defense honest will still be a factor, but the Aggie RB stable will be asked to shoulder most of this week’s offensive responsibility. If Gerold Bright and Co. can collect 200 rushing yards in this one, the Aggies are likely to be happy with the scoreboard.
2. Turnovers Turnovers Turnovers Turnovers
Fun fact — if you attended every USU vs BYU game for the past 12 years, you’d have sat through 10 games decided by 15-plus point margins.
There’s a good reason this series doesn’t see many close games, and it has a lot to do with turnover margin and momentum. Utah State’s recent back-to-back wins over BYU owe much to the 10-1 turnover differential in those games — not to mention, winners of the turnover battle in this series are 7-1 since 2010.
Utah State’s turnover margin is a troublingly low -1 ten weeks into the season. After ranking No. 5 in the country last year in takeaways (29) some regression was to be expected, but 12 forced turnovers haven’t been enough to counteract 13 Aggie giveaways, derailing an entire dimension of Utah State’s once-stingy defense.
As impressive as Utah State’s offense looked last season in Provo, Tipa Galeai’s early pick-six and Jontrell Rocquemore’s strip sack-fumble recovery headlined the victory. Considering the current state of Utah State’s offense and BYU’s mounting injuries to key skill positions, don’t be surprised if defense steals the show again.
3. Make the Warp-speed Offense Work
The philosophy behind Utah State’s quick-strike offense has backfired severely against strong defenses this season, costing the Aggie offense lightning-fast three-and-outs and exhausting their own defense.
Simply put, it’s only good when it works. What can be a major strength of this Jordan Love-led attack has transformed into a significant flaw against the likes of LSU and Air Force, and BYU is stout enough up front to prevent extended scoring drives if the Aggies play undisciplined. Love’s receiving corps will also need to finally get over a bad case of the drops this season to keep drives alive.
Even in light of its recent struggles, Utah State has managed 29 points per game while allowing just over 24 through seven games. The Cougars represent almost the exact inverse of these marks, scoring an average of 23 points per game while allowing just under 30.
It’s tough to see a banged-up Cougar squad with a 1-2 road record steal one at Maverik, where the Aggies have been excellent as of late. Defense will define this game, and the combination of Utah State’s Tipa Galeai and David Woodward is enough to overpower anything BYU throws at them.
Utah State 35, BYU 20