Preview: BYU at Utah
by Staff, with excerpts courtesy of the Mountain West, Utah and BYU
November 18, 2008
The computer's preseason forecast, based on the Congrove Computer Rankings, said this contest would determine the Mountain West conference championship and, indeed, Utah can gain sole possession of the title with a win on Saturday over BYU. It has already clinched at least a share of the crown.
To say a lot is riding on this game would be a major understatement.
If Utah (11-0, 7-0) wins, it is almost assured of an at-large BCS bowl bid. The Utes would also be hopeful that enough dominoes could fall to propel the 7th-ranked Utes into the top two by the end of the season. Its' fans are chomping at the bit to face former head coach Urban Meyer's Florida Gators, but know that is unlikely to happen.
A win by BYU (10-1, 6-1), together with an Air Force upset at TCU, would leave the Cougars and Utes as co-champions and clinch the conference's top bowl bid for BYU, but with no guarantee of a BCS at-large bid unless the WAC's Boise State failed to complete its' season undefeated. A third scenario is that BYU wins, but TCU (9-2, 6-1) beats Air Force (8-3, 5-2) and the conference ends in a three-way tie, leaving the fate of all three teams in the hands of the bowl selection committees. One of the three may still be ranked high enough to garner an at-large BCS bowl bid, but would still need Boise State to lose one of its' final two games.
The fact that the Mountain West has three teams ranked in the top 16 of the BCS Standings is a huge public relations coup for the conference. Now, it gets to stage one of the weekend's biggest games. Unfortunately, a lot of the nation won't see it as the only television coverage will be on "The Mtn.".
Of course, this is also one of the oldest state rivalry games. How old depends on which school you listen to. Utah says "The Holy War" dates back to 1896 when BYU was Brigham Young Academy. BYU dates the rivalry back to 1922.
We know for certain that BYU has won the last two meetings after Utah took the previous four, and the teams have split the last 20 meetings. Nine of the last ten meetings have been decided by 7 points or less with a 52-21 blowout by Utah in its' 2004 undefeated season standing as the lone exception.
Utah's coaching staff has three BYU graduates, including head coach Kyle Whittingham, who played linebacker for the Cougars from 1978-81. He was a first-team all-Western Athletic Conference pick and the WAC Defensive Player of the Year in 1981. Aaron Roderick (receivers) and Kalani Sitake (linebackers) also played for BYU. Roderick played receiver from 1997-98 and Sitake was a fullback in 1994-95 and 1999-2000.
The ties going the other way are not nearly as strong. BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi was a Utah assistant from 1994-2001; and outside linebacker coach Barry Lamb suffered a career-ending back injury while playing for Utah in 1975.
Utah is tied for the longest win streak in the nation with Texas Tech and Alabama. Dating back to last year's Poinsettia Bowl victory, the Utes have won 12 straight games, and 19 of its' last 20 games. They have won 10 in-a-row at home.
BYU is 22-1 in its' last 23 conference games, and 27-2 over the last 29 conference games. Overall, the Cougars are 32-5 over the last three seasons.
Quarterbacks Max Hall (BYU) and Brian Johnson (Utah) have the top two passer ratings in the conference. Hall has thrown for 3,424 yards, 34 TD's, and just 8 INT's. Johnson has passed for 2,333 yards, 20 TD's and 9 INT's. The Cougar offense has amassed 5,756 yards with the passing game accounting for 67.4 percent of the total. Utah has totaled 4,805 yards with 54.7 percent achieved through the air.
Both can be stingy on defense, but Utah has had the upper hand in that department over the last five games. During that stretch, the Utes have held their opposition to 16 or fewer points while the Cougars have coughed up 29 points per contest.
Kickoff is slated for 6pm eastern time and will be televised on The Mtn.