PROVO — Utah State is to be respected. Folks should not make the mistake of thinking this is the regular old Aggie football team that is often taken for granted in the Rockies.
Jordan Love is an excellent big-play quarterback. The Aggies' uptempo attack has caught many a defense off balance. Their performance in a near upset at Michigan State was no fluke, and the offensive numbers posted by USU are very impressive. This team fights hard, comes with intensity and has a major chip on its shoulder.
BYU cannot afford to bring its 'B' or 'C' game to its home field Friday night, like it did last week at Husky Stadium. The Aggies, coming off a bye, have had a week of rest and preparation; the Cougars are on a short week coming off the embarrassing loss to Washington. It has all the makings of an outstanding Friday Night Lights battle.
Utah State coach Matt Wells has stirred the pot with this USU team. Key transfers, solid recruiting, talented athletes at skilled positions in the backfield and the secondary have made USU dangerous.
Plus, there’s the syndrome.
Utah State is simply sick of not being respected.
You see it in local attention given to the Utes and Cougars on a daily basis by a myriad of media outlets. Utah refuses to play them, opting for Weber State, a road trip to Northern Illinois, a clash with SUU and on and on. That is disrespect for a traditional and historic in-state rival.
There are also USU players who were not recruited by Utah and BYU, another motivating factor.
USU’s offense has been averaging 50 points a game and watched BYU climb to a No. 20 national ranking. Aggie players heard all summer that Utah may have its best team in years and could win the Pac-12 South. Listening, watching, hearing all the hype, the Aggies wonder when they will get their pub.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake knows all this. He understands the syndrome and he does respect Wells and what he’s accomplished.
“They have a high-scoring power offense and a good defense, too. I know a lot of coaches on that staff and they’re going to be ready,” Sitake told reporters this week.
“This is going to be a big game for them just like it is for us. There is a lot going into this game. They’re a well-coached team. They have good players and a good scheme. I like what they do on offense.
"They go really fast and we’ll have to be ready for that. Defensively they tackle well and do the fundamental part of the game really well. I’ve just been really impressed with their team and they’ll be ready to go when we play them."
Well, for the Aggies, Friday night is the time, the stage and the opportunity to win in Provo and make it two in a row. That is a huge angle for Wells and his staff. It means a lot for recruiting to show they building.
You can see how serious USU can make this trip to Provo on an ESPN2 stage. According to former USU quarterback Riley Jensen this week in a radio interview, Aggie coaches have riders in their contracts that earn them bonus money with a win over BYU.
BYU’s trip to the best team in the West gave Sitake and his two coordinators plenty to throw at the team in a short week. They’ve had the opportunity to challenge, put an edge to practices and get attention.
USU’s point explosion has come against a strength of schedule that is ranked 148th by Jeff Sagarin (USA Today), while BYU's schedule is ranked the fifth toughest in the country. That has to mean something, that BYU has spent four of five weeks playing Power 5 teams, two of which were ranked near the top 10.
Jeff Grimes has to fix drive-killing penalties that surfaced at Washington and a fumble just before half that gifted UW points.
Ilaisa Tuiaki must find a way to disrupt Love and his pocket even if he’s firing passes quick in the Aggie system. His defense cannot afford to give a gifted thrower six seconds to pass the ball as we saw at Washington, which resulted in a near Pac-12 record for accuracy by Jake Browning.
The Aggies? They need to bring what they did in Logan a year ago against the Cougars. It was plenty.
Week 6 picks:
Oklahoma 28, Texas 21: Kyler Murray needs a big game.
LSU 24, Florida 21: The Tigers' defense is the difference.
Air Force 34, Navy 28: Falcons protect the landing base.
Boise State 34, San Diego State 28: Big MWC showdown.
Colorado 24, Arizona State 21: Time for Buffs to prove themselves.45 comments on this story
Texas A&M 37, Kentucky 31: Aggies too stout on line of scrimmage.
Notre Dame 34, Virginia Tech 28: Irish might be special.
California 38, Arizona 34: Bears make a key comeback.
Washington State 48, Oregon State 21: Mike Leach sails.
Fresno State 34, Nevada 31: Bulldogs find a way in fourth.
Hawaii 42, Wyoming 28: Warrior firepower reigns.
Auburn 27, Mississippi State 21: QB play is difference.
Stanford 24, Utah 21: Cardinal finish better in fourth quarter.
Utah State 34, BYU 31: Not enough rest for BYU.
Last week: 12-1 Overall: 49-20 (.710)