College football recruiting in the state of Utah is pretty simple. There are BYU and Utah, and then all the other in-state teams are left to pick up players that those two passed on.
The Utes and Cougars usually go back and forth for in-state recruiting supremacy, with neither coming out the clear victor. Take the Class of 2012, for example, where the state had two highly rated recruits in DE Troy Hinds and QB Chase Hansen. Hinds signed with the Cougars, Hansen signed with the Utes and the battle for in-state recruiting supremacy was once again a wash.
Looking at the current slate of commits, it would be easy to conclude that Utah is easily winning this year's recruiting battle. The Utes have verbal commitments from five different in-state players and just Monday got a verbal commit from DT Kyle Christiansen, who chose Utah over BYU.
BYU, on the other hand, has only two in-state commitments so far.
However, reality is rarely as simple as it seems, and the truth is that BYU actually isn't losing the in-state recruiting battle to its heated rival right now.
Of Utah's five commitments, only Christiansen had been offered a scholarship by BYU. Meaning the other four didn't pick Utah over BYU because the Cougars weren't even offering them. The same is true of both of BYU's commits, neither of whom had been offered by Utah.
It's not as if the two schools are simply going after lightly recruited players and hoping for the best. Of the seven in-state commits between the two schools so far, only Christiansen was rated lower than three stars. While rankings don't always adequately capture a recruit's abilities or potential, it is telling that these in-state recruits are not exactly unknowns or lightly recruited. Utah beat out Oklahoma and Michigan for 3-star OT Jackson Barton, while BYU beat out Arizona State for 4-star DE Isaiah Nacua.
So what is it that's causing the normally bitter recruiting rivals to pass on each other's recruits? It's certainly not some sort of gentlemen's agreement. The two have been going after the same recruits for a long, long time, and there are several in-state recruits who haven't committed yet that both are pursuing.
The most likely explanation is that each school is just looking for particular qualities in recruits that would make them a good fit for their system, and almost all of the committed recruits so far just happened to be a good fit for one school's system and not the other's.
So while neither school is actually winning the in-state recruiting battle right now, expect to see more competition for recruits between the two as the recruiting season carries on.