DICKSON: Whether you’re ready or not, the BYU-Utah rivalry (smack talk) is back | News, Sports, Jobs
DICKSON: Whether you’re ready or not, the BYU-Utah rivalry (smack talk) is back | News, Sports, Jobs

Courtesy of BYU Photo

The BYU defense makes a stop against the University of Utah in the rivalry football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2021. BYU – 26 Utah – 17 September 11, 2021 Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU © BYU PHOTO 2021 All rights reserved [email protected] (801)422-7322

One thing can be said about the renewed BYU-Utah football rivalry: It will come as no surprise to anyone.

Utah quarterback Cam Rising provided a “shots fired” moment at Big 12 Media Days in Las Vegas this week: “I want to go down there and really kick the crap out of them.”

Pretty strong words coming from a guy who wasn’t deemed good enough to face the Cougars in 2021 and who hasn’t played a game in over 18 months, but given the passion and emotion of the rivalry, that’s no surprise to anyone.

I guess someone should let him know the game is in Salt Lake this year, but you get his point.

His words weren’t as childish as Ute quarterback Tyler Huntley’s comments after a 2017 game win, when he chuckled and said “BYU sucks so much” (easy to say in hindsight, right?) or BYU’s Lenny Gomes in 1997: “All these guys think that’s all there is to life. But if I make $50,000 to $60,000 a year, they’re going to buy me gas.”

When players and coaches talk about the rivalry, there are usually two approaches: toe the company line (“We respect them and look forward to playing”) or be cocky. As media representatives, we have more to write about in the latter, so hats off to those who speak their minds.

The Cougars and Utes have played each other just once in the last four years, a 26-17 BYU win in Provo that ended a nine-game losing streak in the series. Just one day before that game, on Sept. 11, 2021, there was another key moment in Cougars history: the announcement that BYU would be moving up to the Big 12.

Now the Utes have left the defunct Pac-12 and are – somewhat reluctantly – rejoining the Cougars in the same league.

The rivalry is back.

We know that the games were particularly competitive, with a few exceptions. Utah won the 2011 meeting in Provo 54-10, but the other eight wins in the nine-game tournament came by an average margin of 6.3 points, all but one in single digits. Even with a 35-0 first-quarter lead in the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl, the Utes had to hold on to a seven-point lead (35-28).

There’s no doubt that Utah had a huge advantage in 2011 when it entered the Pac-12 while BYU was struggling on the independent path. More resources, more attention, more of everything for the Utes made the difference. That led to the nine-game winning streak. Now that the Cougars are in the Big 12 (and apparently willing to spend more money on coaches, players, etc.), can that even things out?

Over the years, BYU has accomplished more with less budget and resources than almost any other program in the country. On a level playing field, who dominates?

Texas and Oklahoma have brought the best rivalry in the Big 12 to the SEC. Can BYU-Utah be the rivalry in this league?

Big 12 Commissioner Brent Yormark seems to think so.

“There are big rivalries from top to bottom in this conference,” he said, “but at the top are Utah and BYU.”

The intensification of this rivalry between two teams in a power conference on a national level should make more college football fans aware of the (shudder) “Holy War” and all the hype and hoopla that comes with it.

Utah is the favorite to win the Big 12 and BYU is expected to finish a distant 13th (of 16), so it makes sense for the Utes to strut and boast.

Cougar coach Kalani Sitake said all the right things at Big 12 Media Days, but it was clear that he and his players are eager to prove the experts wrong. And that includes winning two games in a row against Utah.

You know, a lot of things about college football are unrecognizable today: the fluid nature of the conferences, the TV contracts, the transfer portal, NIL.

On November 9, the college football world will focus on BYU-Utah, Blue versus Red, for 60 minutes. It will be pure, unbridled adrenaline for both sides.

Sitake summed it up best in Vegas: “It just makes sense.”


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By Isla