Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BYU-Utah: The Holy War

It’s time for the Holy War. It should be called the Holier Than Thou War if we must go that route, but I don’t get to run the show. I am definitely biased when it comes to this matchup, so I should mention that up front. I hate the Utes. I also respect the U, but I hate everything about that team and I hope BYU pounds the crap out of them. I realize that’s not going to happen, and that is one of the things that makes this rivalry great.

I’ve been to at least 10 or 15 BYU-Utah games and it’s always crazy. I remember going to the game at Rice-Eccles in 2000 and thinking that I might not make it out of the stadium in tact. BYU and Utah fans hate each other. The fact that Boyd and I get along is an anomaly in this rivalry. It's probably because we look at things more realistically than most BYU or Utah fans. It’s hard being a Cougars fan because I often get lumped into the Embarrassment or My Cup Runneth O’er categories. But I’m still a die-hard Cougars fan (by the way, Utah lost to SW Baptist in basketball last week – at home. I know, I know, college hoops sucks, but it needed to be said).

Notice how great these teams have been over the past 2 years or so: Utah has won 19 of its last 20 and BYU has won 20 of its last 21. Both teams are winning at a 95% clip! The teams have split the last 12 meetings. In the last eleven games between BYU and Utah, only one has been decided by double digits (Utah won 52-21 in 2004, the year they broke the BCS under Urban Meyer). The last three games have been unreal, with one going into overtime, one decided on the last play, and the other being decided in the final two minutes. I’m stoked because the game on Saturday should be no different. In looking forward to Saturday, here are my big questions:

Can the Utah secondary keep Austin Collie from having a big game?
Will the U go about defending Collie with business as usual or will they specifically put McCain or Smith on him? Smith is bigger and more physical, but McCain is faster and the better cover man. The Ute defense will catch a break if Dennis Pitta can’t play, because they will be able to really focus on Collie. My guess is that Collie will extend his streak of 100-yard games to ten.

Can the BYU offensive line protect Max Hall?
Probably not. The BYU offensive line was shellacked by the TCU defensive line and Utah’s is almost as athletic. The Utah coaching staff will have some new wrinkles to throw at the Cougar line and will likely be able to force Hall to get happy feet. Seemed to work for the Horned Frogs...

Can the BYU defense slow down the Utah offense?
I’d be surprised. The BYU defense ranks 21st in scoring defense and has had two shutouts this year, but those stats are deceiving. This defense is just not very good. Utah runs an offense that uses a lot of misdirection to keep defenses off balance. The BYU defense has looked terrible against teams that run those kinds of offenses this year, so why would it be any different Saturday? Look for the Utes to put a big number on the board.

Will anyone choke?
I ask this question because both quarterbacks are so freaking clutch. Brian Johnson has led the Utes on some impressive fourth-quarter drives. He led an amazing comeback against Oregon State earlier this year, a last minute touchdown drive against TCU, and last year against BYU he took the Utes to the end zone to take the lead in the final minutes. Max Hall has done the same thing for the Cougars. Hall has led the team on game-winning drives against Utah last year, and UNLV, Colorado State, and Washington this year. Both are cool in the clutch and have impressive records as a starting quarterback (Johnson 24-7, Hall 21-3). I wouldn’t bet against either of them.

Which team will be more prepared?
Based on what I’ve seen in the past three years with Kyle and Bronco it should be about even. Here is where the edge comes in – Kyle appears to be much better at making adjustments. If BYU starts fast, expect Utah to counterattack by throwing something different at them. If Utah starts fast, expect BYU to make adjustments when it’s too late.

Who will win?
As a BYU fan I want nothing more than to see the U lose their BCS opportunity in a flameout. I think BYU has the better offense, but Utah has the advantage on defense and special teams. Throw in the home field advantage and the Utes are looking good. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m picking Utah 38-30.


Rich said...

It's on. Go Utes! Your assessment of both teams is well thought out and rational.
I have been a Ute at the Cougar stadium as well as the Marriot Center. I haven't been physically brutalized, but had plenty of verbal abuse from Cougs.

Jim said...

As a Ute fan I can't help but cheer for the old alma mater, but I have to admit that I'm a little worried about the game on Saturday as I always am.

On a side note, BYU should burn in hell if they take the BCS money away from the Mountain West Conference just so they can share a title for the self same crappy conference. If they win, congratulations for tying the Utes and going to the embarrassing Las Vegas Bowl for the fourth time in a row.

Here's a nickel's worth of free advice BYU: just roll over and die so that everyone in the conference can collect their BCS check and have a better chance at winning next year.

Anonymous said...

As a BYU fan, this post sickens me. How can you be objective in the Holy War? BYU wins on Saturday!