BYU will face another Beehive State rival on Friday night hoping that things turn out better than they did a couple of weeks back when they faced the University of Utah at Lavell Edwards Stadium. The Cougars turned the ball over seven times en route to a lopsided 54-10 loss to the Utes in an early season version of the ‘Holy War’ necessitated by Utah’s move to the Pac 12. On Friday night they’ll face the upstart Utah State Aggies, a program that has shown some incremental improvement in the past few seasons.

UTAH STATE AT BYU SEPTEMBER 30, 2011 5:00 PM PACIFIC

Utah State and BYU have traditionally played on the Friday before the beginning of the LDS Church General Conference in Salt Lake City. That’s the case this year, and ‘outsiders’ may not realize what a distraction the General Conference can be for players at the Mormon church run institution. Many of the players will attend and otherwise be involved with the Conference itself, and even those who aren’t directly participating will feel its impact. It’s a weekend that brings a lot of family and friends to town from out of state. More significantly, it’s a big recruiting weekend for the Cougars program with many promising LDS high school players from around the Intermountain West making the trip to the ‘big city’ of Salt Lake for the conference and to be feted by the BYU football program.

The Aggies have covered 6 of the last 8 head to head in this series against BYU and until the past couple of years this had little to do with anything Utah State was doing right. It was more a function of the distraction posed to the Cougars’ football team by General Conference weekend. The fact that Utah State now has some talent on the roster just compounds that dynamic as evidenced by the Aggies 31-16 win in Logan, Utah last year.

BYU isn’t a very good team right now and their offense in particular is struggling. They didn’t so much win last week’s game against Central Florida as much as their opponent lost it with a meltdown in the third quarter, particularly on special teams. Subtract the kick return for a BYU touchdown in that quarter and the Cougars have scored 17 or fewer points in every game this season. Their defense has performed better, but there were some distressing signs against Central Florida—BYU allowed UCF to pass for 318 yards against the Cougars but were bailed out by three turnovers.

The Aggies have a couple of bigtime playmakers on offense—freshman QB Chuckie Keeton quickly put himself on the national football radar with his impressive performance on the road against Auburn in Utah State’s first game of the year. As good as he is, he might not be the most dangerous threat on the team—that is very likely running back Robert Turbin who ran for four touchdowns last week in a loss against Colorado State.

BYU has struggled not only against Utah State but against the entire Western Athletic Conference, at least from a pointspread perspective. The Cougars are 3-8 ATS against the WAC since 2009 and are in a price range that has been equally as problematic—since 2009 BYU is 4-7 ATS as a home favorite of -7′ to -10 points. Utah State, meanwhile, has been a very solid ATS investment particularly as an underdog (11-5 ATS since 2009), on the road (10-4 ATS) and out of conference (7-3 ATS).

Last week’s win over Central Florida may be misinterpreted by some fans as a ‘buy’ sign on the Cougars when in reality things are still a mess in Provo. The Cougars may pull of the outright win, but look for Utah State to be in this game from wire to wire.

Bet Utah State +8 over BYU

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