Monson: Best in state? Try Utah State
Whether anybody around here under the age of 85 actually knows the Beehive Boot from the Old Wagon Wheel from the Old Oquirrh Bucket from the Fatman's Whiskey Cabinet, almost anyone of any age in Utah cares about what they represent.
Especially that first one.
Especially this week.
It annually represents college football supremacy in the state, and its owner for this year could be determined on Friday night, when Utah State plays BYU. The boot is well over a century old, and that's how long it's been since Utah State won the thing.
No, that's a lie. The Aggies got the boot when they were awarded it by media vote in 2010, the year they beat the Cougars, 31-16, and Utah nipped BYU, 17-16. Utah State and Utah did not play that season, necessitating the vote.
USU has won the boot just seven times since it became the state's trophy in 1971, and four of those were earned in the boot's first four seasons.
That frames up the extraordinary nature of what Gary Andersen is pulling off in Logan, where the Aggies are 4-1, and probably should be 5-0. They beat the Utes in overtime in an impressive showing at Romney Stadium and just missed taking Wisconsin at Camp Randall by the width of a wayward chip-shot field goal.
Sprinkled in, they made like a Ginzu knife, slicing and dicing Southern Utah, Colorado State and UNLV.
So dominant has Utah State been to this point, it has spent all but 21 minutes, out of a total of 300, either tied or ahead of its opponents. It never trailed against SUU, Utah and Colorado State. It fell behind UNLV for only three minutes.
Now, USU not only gets 3-2 BYU, which already lost to Utah, it gets to answer the question of the week: Are the Aggies the best team in the state?
There are doubters. Some observers, including Vegas odds-makers, who have listed BYU as a seven-point favorite, look at the Aggies as a cute, little outfit that has improved, but not enough to win a game like this at LaVell's Place. But it nearly happened last year.
One sure thing: USU has the best quarterback in Utah. Chuckie Keeton is coming off a performance in which he passed for 404 yards and four touchdowns. He's completed 106 of 155 passes for 1,283 yards and 11 touchdowns. And Keeton's got weapons around him, foremost among them Kerwynn Williams, who has rushed for 519 yards and caught 18 passes for 262.
Defensively, the Ags rank 11th nationally in total defense, allowing just 280 yards, and 18th in scoring defense (14 points per game). They've yielded less than 21 points in each of their first five games, and the last time that happened to start a season was in 1962.
BYU also plays some defense, presently ranking fifth in total D (226.6 yards) and fourth in scoring D: 10 points per. The Cougars' defense hasn't allowed a touchdown since the Utah game.
On offense, BYU has been spotty, looking horrible against Boise State, although it prospered last week against a bad Hawaii defense. And while the Aggies are as settled as an afternoon nap at quarterback, the Cougars, at least publicly, are double-talking about who their guy will be.
Riley Nelson, who was not good against Utah or Boise State, is trying to rehab a bad back. Bronco Mendenhall is hopeful that his senior might return. Brandon Doman is indicating that freshman Taysom Hill will play, but he uttered confusing, contradictory comments on Monday:
"I would say that Riley is just not healthy. When you are hurt the way he was hurt, man, he just wasn't able to be who he needed to be for this football team."
But, later, Doman said: "He came out and was throwing the ball mad, and throwing it fast. He wanted to prove he was back to normal. He looked fine today, but I don't know yet."
Compare that with what Utah State receiver Chuck Jacobs said about Keeton on Monday:
"Chuckie is always good, he is a great player. â¦ He is a sophomore playing like a senior. If he keeps this up, he will be a great player. It is in him, I see it in him."
We all see it in him. Here's a wild guess, then, that Chuckie and the Aggies get the boot on Friday night.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM and 97.5 FM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson. Hardware collection
Beehive Boot • Pioneer boot signifying in-state football supremacy (Ags can clinch award with win at BYU Friday).
Old Wagon Wheel • Wagon wheel awarded to the winner of the BYU-Utah State game.
Old Oquirrh Bucket • Bucket given to the best college basketball team in the state.
Fatman's Whiskey Cabinet • A cabinet where my good friend Bill's overweight father keeps his liquor.