The Holy War. It's one of oldest and fiercest rivalries in college football. It is also one of the most underrated rivalries in the nation. In recent years it has become extraordinarily intense with opposing fans doing "a whole bunch of nasty things" to each other.
The 2011 edition of the Holy War will have a new twist due to the fact that it will be the first time since 1922 that the Utah Utes and the BYU Cougars won't be competing against each other for a conference championship. Anyone familiar with this rivalry knows this won't make a difference come September 17th because there is always something at stake in this game.
Utah has held a slight advantage in the battle over the past decade, winning six of the past 10 contests. But with a new season, a confident quarterback, and a vengeful fandom, BYU will look to get back to their winning ways.
This article will explain why this will not happen for BYU.
After a season of ups and downs that ended on a high note, super-hyped BYU quarterback Jake Heaps will be looking to live up to huge expectations now that he has a full year under his belt and is the unquestionable starter for the Cougars.
But will he be able to live up to the hype surrounding him? The answer is no, for a few reasons:
First, he has to adjust to a brand new, inexperienced offensive coordinator in Brandon Doman.
Second, playing Ole Miss and Texas right out of the gate gives Heaps zero room for error. Sure, these are two teams that have seen better days, but both teams are in powerhouse conferences, and both teams (especially Texas) bring in blue-chip recruits year in and year out. They both have extremely fast defensive units that will terrorize the young QB.
Third, the pressure of playing on national television each week will prove too much for Heaps, and his shortcomings will be well publicized not only for BYU fans, but college football fans throughout the country as well.
BYU returns only one of four starting defensive backs from last season. Included in the losses is 2010 First Team All-Mountain West Conference selection, safety Andrew Rich, who was the team's leader in tackles and interceptions last season.
With less than two weeks remaining until the start of the season, BYU has also yet to name starters at the two cornerback positions.
Accompanied by a plethora of talented wide receivers, seasoned Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn should have a field day against this inexperienced and unproven defensive backfield.
Junior college transfer John White is prime for a breakout year as a running back for the Utes. He set numerous L.A. Harbor College records in 2009 including touchdowns in a season (25) and yards per carry (8.1).
ESPN's Bruce Feldman ranked him at number eight overall for JC transfers this season. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has compared White to former Oregon State star running back Jacquizz Rodgers because of his running style and size.
Standing at 5'9" and 190 lbs, coupled with a 4.4 second 40-yard dash time, White should be the quickest running back that Utah has had in years. He is a good complement to bruising running backs like Tauni Vakapuna or Harvey Langi.
Last year, quarterback Jordan Wynn battled through injuries all season. In October against Iowa State, Wynn injured his throwing shoulder. He missed three games but came back to play against BYU in November. During that game, he re-injured his shoulder, but still managed to throw a clutch 37 yard touchdown pass to Devonte Christopher in the fourth quarter to mount an amazing comeback.
Now a junior and having had plenty of time to heal his shoulder, Wynn will be healthy and ready to play BYU this year, unlike the situation last year.
Since 2005, when both men became the head coaches for each of their respective teams, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall (56-21) and Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham (58-20) have nearly identical records. The difference, however, is that Whittingham has led his team to an undefeated season and a BCS Bowl win (two if you included the 2004 Fiesta Bowl where he was "co-head coach"). Mendenhall is good coach. Whittingham is a great coach.
BYU fans should remember how masterful current Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow can be. Having developed BYU legends such as Ty Detmer, Jim McMahon, and Steve Young during his time at BYU from 1973-1999, he also mentored former Heisman Trophy winners Reggie Bush, Carson Palmer, and Matt Leinart.
Here's a comparison between the two teams' offensive coordinators:
Offensive Coordinator experience by years: Brandon Doman, BYU - 0. Norm Chow, Utah - 29.
Currently, BYU does not have a defensive coordinator as coach Mendenhall will continue calling defensive plays instead. Six coaches at BYU will be coaching new positions. Yet the co-offensive coordinators last year for Utah, Dave Schramm and Aaron Roderick, remain with the Utes, and have 14 years of experience between them coaching at the university. Kalani Sitake begins his third year as defensive coordinator for the Utes.
With a much more experienced and successful coaching staff, a more experienced quarterback, and more talent on both sides of the ball, Utah should be primed to knock off BYU once more in this legendary rivalry.