End of an era for the Wagon Wheel series

BYU’s rivalry with Utah State spans back 100 years. The two schools have played football against each other since 1922, but this annual rivalry meeting is coming to a close as BYU looks ahead to its future in the Big 12.

“This may be the last time BYU plays Utah State ever again,” Aggies head coach Blake Anderson said.

BYU’s football program kicked off in 1922, with its first scheduled game played against Utah State. The Aggies won 42-3 to begin the longstanding rivalry. 

Beginning in 1948, the old Wagon Wheel was introduced to this in-state showdown. The name says it all— the prize is the wheel of a wagon that is passed between the teams each game and awarded to the game’s winner.

The wagon wheel idea originated from the roots of Utah itself. With Utah being established by the pioneers who traveled across the country on wagons, a wagon wheel seemed to be the most fitting representation of both schools’ heritage. 

Utah State dominated the rivalry for the first 50 years with a commanding 27-17-3 record. However, this changed when BYU hired LaVell Edwards as head coach in 1972. Edwards’ first three seasons resulted in losses to the Aggies, but over the next 29 years BYU lost only three times against Utah State.

The Cougars lead the all-time series over the Aggies 50-37-3. BYU also holds the largest victory — a 65-6 rout in 1977 — and the longest winning streak of 10 wins which it achieved both from 1983-1992 and 1994-2009.

BYU has been the proud owner of the Wagon Wheel since 2019, and there are high hopes from Cougar nation to see if the award will remain in Provo for another year and beyond.

It’s no secret that the state loves watching this rivalry game, but it’s beloved by the team as well. “I love the in-state games,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said.

“It’s always fun to play in-state rivals, and that’s something we may miss for a couple of years,” defensive end Tyler Batty said.

Utah State is not the only squad BYU will be concluding its games with, as Boise State will also be leaving the Cougars’ season lineup for the foreseeable future. Their last game may very well be on Nov. 5 in Boise.

The Big 12’s requirements for its teams involve playing nine conference games and three non-conference games. Within the non-conference games, one must be from a Power Five league. The University of Utah fulfills this requirement and gives hope for an in-state rivalry continuation with BYU.

Despite the sadness surrounding the idea of no future games with Utah State or Boise State, BYU fans are excited to enter this new chapter in the Big 12.

No. 19 BYU will take on Utah State Thursday at 6 p.m. in Provo.

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