As BYU prepares to travel to Logan to face Utah State on Friday, it's time to ask the question:
Is Utah State BYU's new principal rival?
This question would have been unthinkable just four years ago. The Cougars owned a 10-game winning streak, and the average score of these games was 39-20. The Aggies have beaten the Cougars only four times since LaVell Edwards took over as head coach.
Since Utah State hired Gary Andersen, everything has changed in this rivalry.
Three years ago, the Aggies put an end to BYU's winning streak in Logan with an impressive 31-16 victory. While Utah State still went 1-3 against the Cougars while Andersen was on the sideline, the rivalry has tightened considerably.
The average score during the Andersen era was BYU 21, Utah State 20.
Can't get much tighter than that.
There's no telling whether Matt Wells will be able to maintain the momentum that Andersen built before leaving to take the job at Wisconsin. However, the Aggies remain a formidable team this season without Andersen as they've taken USC and Utah to the wire, and both those games were on the road.
Now, BYU returns to Romney Stadium for the first time since its last loss to Utah State. It will be an intense, hard-fought battle if the Aggies' opening game against the Utes is any indication.
Of course, the basketball rivalry has been hot for some time now. BYU leads 3-2 over the last five seasons, and all of the past five games have been decided by 10 points or less. BYU won last year's game 70-68, in Provo no less.
It's only just now that the football rivalry has caught up.
Yes, BYU's most-hated rival is and always will be Utah. However, that rivalry is going on a hiatus as the Cougars won't face the Utes until 2016. Even though BYU and Utah have a three-game agreement from 2016-2018, this rivalry won't be the same.
And let's face it: Utah State fans want to see BYU lose just as much as the Utes do.
Now, BYU fans don't reciprocate the same kind of animosity toward the Aggies as they do against the Utes. After all, Max Hall didn't rant on about how Utah State fans are "classless." The Cougars will probably be more upset with their own team and coaching staff than Utah State should the Aggies beat BYU this season.
However, that can certainly change by the time BYU plays Utah again.
So, while BYU's 20-13 loss to Utah on Sept. 21 closed a major chapter in that rivalry, could Friday's game be just the beginning of a new intensity in the BYU-Utah State rivalry?
Only time, and the scoreboard, will tell.
Lafe Peavler is a sports writer intern at the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @MasterPeavler
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