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SALT LAKE CITY — Many are overlooking 24th-ranked Utah's matchup against Utah State this Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. It might not be the most glamorous game, but the in-state rivalry is worth watching.
Here are three things to consider about the Battle of the Brothers' 112th meeting.
The in-state rivalry between Utah and Utah State is the 14th most played series in NCAA FBS history. It started in 1892, when the Aggies won 12-0. Since then, the Utes have won 78 times — the series record being 78-29-4. Utah's head coach Kyle Whittingham isn't paying attention to those stats. Instead he insists his team must perform its A-game to get the W.
"It's been a heck of a rivalry. It's been very competitive; I can tell you that, especially as of late," said Whittingham. "Our guys look forward to it. We better be at our best if we're going to have a chance to win this football game."
The Utes pulled off a victory the last time they played the Aggies in 2013. The game hero was kicker Andy Phillips, who made three PATs and three field goals to help Utah come from behind to win 30-26. Let's not forget Phillips' onside kick that led to a five-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown. Mind you, it was his first football game
"Oh man, what a thriller," Phillips said after the 2013 game.
As for Friday's chapter in the Utah-Utah State saga, Aggies head coach Matt Wells knows a victory at Rice-Eccles won't come easy.
"It may be the most talented team I've seen at Utah from top to bottom in all three phases since I've been at Utah State," he said. "They're very deep and you can tell they've done a good job recruiting and retaining guys."
Keeton is ready to shine
Utah State's quarterback Chuckie Keeton has had a wild ride the past couple seasons. After two consecutive years of season-ending injuries, Keeton wants to prove the third time is the charm.
The Aggies played Southern Utah last week in a punt-tastic 12-9 win. Keeton finished the game completing 16 of 33 passes for 110 yards, including one interception. The game's only touchdown was on an Aggie punt return.
"Chuckie, who is a phenomenal player, was a little bit off," Whittingham said.
Wells agrees, but acknowledges the team's offensive line and receiving corps struggled, too. He and the Aggies are addressing what went wrong against the Thunderbirds. They don't want to be "a little bit off" when they walk on the field Friday.
"We'll work really hard as coaches and players to make it better this week," said Wells.
After the first week of the season, it's easy to see the in-state rivals have dominating defenses.
Utah's defense is responsible for putting the team in the nation's top 25. The Utes allowed just 76 rushing yards against Michigan and intercepted the ball three times. Justin Thomas' 55-yard pick-six secured the win for the Utes, but it was also Devontae Booker who helped pull off the 24-17 victory. Utah State's defense seeks to halt Utah's weapon running back, who had 69 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries last week.
"Something Utah State's defense has prided itself on over the last couple years is people don't run on us," said Aggie linebacker Kyler Fackrell.
Utah State's defense ranks seventh nationally and second in the Mountain West Conference. The Aggies held Southern Utah to convert a mere 1-of-18 in third-down conversions and allowed just nine first downs.
Holli Joyce is a University of Utah communications graduate and enjoys keeping up with the Utah Utes, Utah Jazz and Seattle Seahawks. In addition to covering Utah football for KSL.com, she is a Seahawks Correspondent for 12thManRising.com. Follow her on Twitter @Holli_Alexa.