BYU-Utah Preview: An Irrational Rivalry
It's been said that sports rivalries make rational people irrational.
But maybe that's the point.
Blind passion is what makes rivalries so great. Irrationality is the lifeblood of college football.
Which brings me to the BYU-Utah game.
While I’ll be the first to admit that the BYU-Utah rivalry isn’t the most widely-known in the country, I'll also warn against underestimating its intensity.
Every rivalry involves a healthy measure of dislike—but when the Cougars and Utes are involved, the mood turns outright ugly in a hurry.
Why the fierceness?
To be honest, I’ve been around the rivalry my whole life, and I still can’t quite nail it down.
BYU hates Utah because...well, it’s Utah.
And Utah hates BYU...well, just because it’s BYU.
There's certainly an element of Church vs. State at work here. BYU is a private religious university, while Utah is a public university.
Appropriately, the rivalry has been dubbed “The Holy War.”
Saturday will mark the 90th meeting between the two teams, with Utah leading the series 53-32-4. Both sides will have plenty to play for, as they always do.
BYU (8-2) has rattled off 14 straight conference wins, with their last conference loss coming at the hands of (you guessed it) Utah, back in November of 2005.
The Cougars currently stand at No. 23 in the national polls.
After struggling early in the year, meanwhile, Utah (8-3) has rallied with seven straight wins.
Utah will be led by QB Brian Johnson, who hasn't lost a game after returning to the starting position after recovering from a shoulder injury.
Johnson will be assisted by RB Darrell Mack, who has racked up 1,095 yards rushing on the year.
The Utah attack will be countered by a high-powered BYU offense, which ranks 12th nationally through the air. The matchup between BYU’s offense and Utah’s defense may well determine the outcome.
The Utes D ranks fifth in the nation, and has held opponents to 13 total points in their last three games.
The play of BYU QB Max Hall will be especially key. The sophomore has yet to play in the rivalry, and will certainly be tested by the stingy Ute defense.
Hall has thrown for 3,125 yards and 21 TDs this year. He's had plenty of help from freshman RB Harvey Unga, who's just 91 yards away from 1,000 on the season.
However you size it up, in another words, this one has the makings of another great BYU-Utah game.
BYU has the chance to wrap up the outright conference crown with a win—and wouldn’t it be sweet to get it over Utah.
Then again, how sweet it would be for Utah to deny it.
In the spirit of “rational” judgments, I’m picking the Cougars to win 33-26 before a sold-out home crowd. Utah won't go down easy—but the Cougars will hang on for the victory.
You might accuse me of bias here—but that’s exactly what college football is all about. And if you don’t believe me?
Come on down to Provo on Saturday and check it out for yourself. Just be sure to be “rational” and wear blue.
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