Big Brother, Little Brother: A BYU and Utah State relationship

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As sure as summer leaves change to fall colors, BYU students and LDS church members anticipate the church’s October semi-annual general conference, the BYU Cougars prepare for their annual football matchup with the Utah State Aggies.

The Old Wagon Wheel, symbolic of the Mormon pioneer trek across the American plains, has been a competitive tradition between the Cougars and Aggies since 1948 and is demonstrative of the two schools’ long rivalry. The wheel makes its home each year on the campus of the respective game winner.

BYU line backer Ezekiel Ansah puts pressure on Utah State quarterback. (Luke Hansen)
Former BYU defensive lineman Ezekiel Ansah puts pressure on Utah State’s quarterback. (Luke Hansen)

The BYU-USU game is considered a big rivalry by the media, since the two neighboring universities commit to play annually the Friday night before General Conference. However, some may question the degree of media and fan hyperbole because the difference in skill level between the two teams.

The rivalry could be analogous to a big brother, little brother relationship. Big brother, BYU, is currently ranked No. 18 in the AP poll and enjoys national recognition. Little brother, USU, seeks the opportunity to measure its skills against BYU’s notoriety and prove that it is just as competitive.

Former Aggie student, Kelly Moffett, feels that the excitement generated for the game may come from a USU desire to compete well against BYU.

“People get excited about the game,” Moffett said. “They (Utah State) do consider it a huge rivalry, because they know that BYU and Utah are better programs. Utah State is becoming a better program with their new coach choice and better players, but their goal is to prove that they are just as good.”

Perhaps the in-state aspect of the matchup boosts the rivalry. BYU Alum and Draper resident, Jeff Peo, sees the BYU-USU game as an opportunity for neighbor bragging rights.

“It is more a rivalry from the fan perspective,” Peo said. “When your neighbor is a fan of the other school, you want to be able to hold a victory by your team over their head.”

For many Utahns, the game is just a fun tradition; two local college teams facing off across the scrimmage line, but not necessarily as meaningful a competition as other teams BYU faces during the season.

“I think that they are an easy fall back as far as a rivalry would go and that’s a fun football game, a fun team to play,” said Taysom Hill, BYU’s quarterback.

BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall thinks that schedule placement could have an impact on the intensity of the rivalry.

“If Utah doesn’t want to play, then I would possibly love to put Utah State at the end of the year,” Mendenhall said. “I think that would be really fun.”

While few would argue that the BYU-Utah State game is as fiercely debated and defended as a BYU-Utah game, both the Cougars and Aggies would like to strengthen the rivalry and continue the tradition well into the future.

Next Friday night, the Old Wagon Wheel will once again be up for the taking at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Either Big Brother will continue his winning streak, or Little Brother will claim the prize and glory for the year to come.

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