Utah State: A measuring stick for BYU

Photo by BYU Photo
This season isn't the first time the BYU Cougars have looked bad early in the season. For example, BYU started 1991 with an 0-3 record, only to finish the season 8-3-2. In 1974, BYU was 0-3-1 before running off seven straight wins. Just last season, BYU fell to 1-3, but finished with a 9-4 record. Knowing that slow starts happen sometimes, it is difficult to accurately assess where the 2017 team stands.

There have been two ugly losses to LSU and Wisconsin, but the latter was Beau Hoge's first career start. The rivalry game with Utah the last several years has always been close and gone down to the wire, so little can be gleaned from that game. Portland State is an FCS school, and it is expected that BYU would have given them more of a beat down. However, the BYU defense did play up to par, and it appeared the offense was more concerned about evaluating weaknesses than racking up as many points as possible.

When can a better assessment of BYU football be made? Well, the game at Utah State this Friday should be a good measuring stick.

Utah State has either been blown out by Power 5 (P5) schools, or steamrolled doormats from Group of 5 (G5) conferences. There has been no middle ground for the Aggies. One of those P5 schools was Wake Forest. Historically, the Demon Deacons are one of the weakest P5 football programs.

The BYU fan base contends that, while it may not be an elite program like the strongest P5 schools, it is above the likes of Wake Forest. Utah State has given P5 schools scares in recent memory, but those were some of the best teams in Utah State history. The 2017 Aggies lost to Wake Forest by 36 points.

Can BYU be put anywhere on the P5 spectrum? Does BYU belong with the dregs of college football, as the current statistics indicate? The Utah State game can answer these questions.

Besides the overall standing of the program, this game may be helpful for setting bowl expectations.

Over the last 35 years, BYU has dominated Utah State more than any other opponent. On the rare occasion when Utah State has won, BYU has still gone to a bowl game, but the results have not been very good. Since 1982, the Cougars are just 1-3 in bowl games after losing to Utah State earlier in the season.

1982: Lost Holiday Bowl to Ohio State, 47-17
1993: Lost Holiday Bowl to Ohio State, 28-21
2010: Won New Mexico Bowl against UTEP, 52-24
2014: Lost Miami Beach Bowl to Memphis, 55-48 2OT

The only time BYU won its bowl game was against a 6-6 opponent. Losing to Utah State doesn't bode well for the bowl game if BYU faces a quality opponent.

After four games with circumstances that make it challenging to evaluate the BYU football team, this week's contest with Utah State should bring some clarity. It will show whether is BYU still on the same grounds as a mid-level P5. If BYU loses, it will help set expectations for bowl season once the bowl opponent is known.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com