Saturday, Nov 27, 2010, 12:30 PM PST
TV: The Mtn & CBS College Sports
Today's matchup of BYU vs. Utah in the Holy War will be the last one as we know in its current form. The two have always been in the same league and have played the game Nov. 17th or later since 1978, and has almost always been the regular season finale. While the game has only once been a defacto conference title game in 1981 which BYU won 56-21, the game is always heated and usually close regardless of the other teams record. There was the year when BYU had Doak Wlaker Award winner Luke Staley and needed Staley to hold off a bad Utah team, the 4th 18 game where Max Hall found Austin Collie free down the sideline to set up the game winning score, Utah's two wins in 2004 and 2008 to secure a BCS bid (both blowouts) and the game where 'Harline is still open' where John Beck had so much time and finally found tight end Johnny Hariline open in the corner to win with no time remaining.
Then there are the quotes where BYU wide receiver said (paraphrase really) when you do things right on and off the field God helps you and magic happens, or the one where Lenny Gomes says that Utah players will be pumping his gas while BYU players will be making $60,000 a year. Then Utah's quarterback Alex Smith and defensive back Morgan Scalley saying pretty much the same thing that they hate BYU and that they are arrogant. Now, the most famous one from last year where Max Hall had the infamous rant about how he hates everything about Utah.
Now, all of that smack talk and even the significance of the game will be largely reduced to almost as just another game. Yes, some smack talk will still go on, but not as much since the game will not be able to be played at the end of the season. The new Pac-12 wants all non-conference games to be played by the third week of the season which means that the BYU-Utah game which has always been each teams last regular season game will be no more. Side note here, wonder how that will affect USC vs. Notre Dame since when the game is in Los Angeles it is the last game of the year. If the BYU-Utah game can not be played at the end of the season then why not move it to the open weekend like Miami vs. Florida State was for a few years when the Miami moved from the Big East to the ACC and they played Labor Day night.
For at least next year the Holy War will be the third game of the season right before Utah goes into conference play. Next year, Utah will play a heated rival game at BYU and then travel to USC for their first conference game in the Pac-12. With this being the last year that the Holy War will be shackled to the confines of The Mtn. and CBS College (hey Versus where were you on this game?) it should be expected that this game will be on one of the ESPN channels for the foreseeable future. Next years game will be in Provo it will be on an ESPN network and when the game is in Salt Lake City it should be on an ESPN channel. The uncertainty lies within what the new Pac-12 television deal will be whether they have their own network, but I think even if they have a Big 10 network plan that this game is big enough to be above that plan, but I am a little biased.
My opinion for the best way to keep this game relevant and a heated rivalry is to play the game like what Miami and Florida State did by playing this game at worst on the opening weekend or better yet on ESPN on Labor Day night. That way the game gets the exposure it deserves by being available to nearly everyone. The 2011 game was shoehorned in so that the rivalry will be able to continue and it could be played around the similar date for the next few years while contracts are being honored for non-conference games.
This years game will be on the last regular season weekend and will be lost in the shuffle on The Mtn, but at least it will be on CBS College as well. Utah is no longer in the discussion for a BCS bowl and BYU has been down this year and on the line is possibly a Las Vegas Bowl bid. That last part depends on who you believe, BYU fans feel a five game winning streak and their past ability to sell out Sam Boyd Stadium should be enough to warrant them to go to Vegas or say the New Mexico Bowl. Win or lose Utah should be the choice because they have the better record and the distance between Las Vegas is a decent six hour drive. Plus, the fact that just maybe Boise State could be heading to Las Vegas Bowl to create a better matchup for both teams. The Pac-10 will not have enough teams for the Las Vegas Bowl or the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, so perhaps a deal like the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl could be in place where TCU was matched up with Boise State for a good matchup. That can be post game fodder.
In today's game BYU is the streaking team while Utah just stopped the bleeding after two embarrassing loses by needing a big comeback to beat San Diego State. All of the heralded BYU freshman recruits have finally started showing their worth, and none other then quarterback Jake Heaps or running back Josh Quezada.
Expect Utah's defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake to throw some very different looks at the freshman quarterback, but I also expect Jake Heaps to have a handful of down field plays against the Utah secondary that has been suspect this year.
I have no idea how this game will play out. BYU has turned it around and well to be nice, Utah has struggled and is no longer thought as an offensive power that rolled through the first three-quarters of their schedule. I give the edge to Utah, and that may be my Ute bias slipping in, but Utah is the home team and over the course of the season has been the better team.
The (sports) hate will still live on this rivalry but may be just a little bit less if this game is played mid-season.
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