LOGAN — Because this is an election year, when polls are especially important, it seems only natural that a certain small but influential poll would reappear. And so it has.
Move over CNN, Gallup and Harris, the Rock Report is in the house.
But unlike many polls, the Rock Report has no agenda except maybe finding a place to get a good fish taco.
Anyway, this time the Report took a new and adventurous approach. Rather than polling students on who will win Friday's Utah-USU game, this one focused on a broader question: Whom do USU students dislike the most among their instate rivals? Is it the suddenly uppity, we-hang-with-Stanford Utes, or is it BYU, the traditional target of sagebrush-loving Aggies?
By a mile.
Nine of 10 USU students interviewed this week would rather beat BYU. The only dissenting vote came from Ali, an economics major from Saudi Arabia, who admitted he doesn't closely follow football, but he's into the Utah-USU soccer series. On that basis, he'd rather beat Utah.
Otherwise, it was a landslide. Beating Utah is wonderful, but beating BYU is better than Aggie Ice Cream with sprinkles on top.
"I'm sure BYU is a great school," said Mary, a family and consumer science major from Salt Lake, "but I'm not a big fan."
The impetus behind this week's Rock Report was that both Utah and BYU play the Aggies this year, just as they once did on an annual basis. Not anymore. There is speculation Friday's game will be the final game in Logan for the Utes, at least for the foreseeable future. That's too bad. It is the 12th-longest series in America.
Utah is said to be pushing for a 2-for-1 arrangement, something USU coach Gary Andersen says he can't abide.
Then there's BYU, which stopped playing USU annually for a few years, but resumed in 2008. For a while, the prevailing attitude was what's in it for the Cougars? Right now, a lot, considering BYU's scheduling worries.
At the same time, both Utah and BYU have dominated the Aggies in the last quarter century. Utah has won 20 of the last 22 against USU and a dozen in a row. BYU also won 12 straight in one stretch and 20 of 22, until 2010 when the Aggies administered a shocker. Last year it took a late-game rally led by — who else? — former Aggie Riley Nelson before the Cougars eked out the win.
Which raises the question: Is it something personal with Aggie fans?
Darn right it is. As John, a Logan native and liberal arts major at USU put it, "My least favorite and (yet) favorite quote is from my grandfather, who's a BYU fan. He said, 'You don't root for the Lord's team?' and I'm like, 'Yeah, I know BYU is playing but it's against Utah State,' and he's like, 'What, you're not rooting for the Lord's team?' "
Since Aggie fans in Cache Valley figure they live in God's country, they have a problem with that.
That doesn't mean John is all that enamored of Utah, either. He said that when he was in the LDS Missionary Training Center in Provo, one of the Elders was an over-the-top Utah fan.
"That kind of ruined it for me," he said.
In any event, there were several reasons cited for the anti-BYU sentiment in Logan, this week. Mainly it was the Cougars' winning. Add the fact that BYU made off with USU's dark blue uniform color, and toss in some religious overtones, and there you have it — a pretty serious case of bad blood. Some respondents cited family rivalries that drive their passion.
Mandy, a social work major from Salt Lake, extended the olive branch somewhat when she admitted she likes the University of Utah's campus and added, "I don't necessarily not like BYU; it's just that I like Utah."
Meagan, a freshman chemistry major from Cache County, noted that all her mother's family attended BYU except her mother, who kept the Aggie spirit alive.
"Definitely, I'd rather beat BYU," Meagan said.
If the Utes win, the poll numbers might shift. Utah could become the Aggies' least popular opponent. But don't count on it. More likely the stats will stay the same, right on through the BYU game on Oct. 5, when even soccer fans from far away lands will have a hard time admitting they'd rather beat the Utes.
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