Here it is ladies and gentlemen; this is the big one. On Saturday night, the next chapter of The Holy War saga will be written as the Utah Utes face the BYU Cougars in Provo under the lights of the LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The two teams come into the game under very different circumstances. The Utes just suffered a brutal overtime loss in their PAC-12 season opener to Oregon State at Rice-Eccles Stadium. This is juxtaposed to the Cougars last game, which was a 40-21 victory at home over the Texas Longhorns who were ranked #15 at the time. While the Cougars are looking to keep rolling after their upset over the Longhorns, the Utes are keen to bounce back after their first loss of the season.
The Holy War is traditionally a very close game, and the game last year was no different. Three rushes of the field by the Utah fans and some narrow field goal misses resulted in a slim Utah victory. Although we may not see a game that was as crazy and inexplicable as last year’s, I am still expecting this one to be nail-biter.
The Utah offense looks to keep rolling against a tough Cougar defense. I have been thoroughly impressed with Travis Wilson and the Utah offense this year, which has yet to put up fewer than 30 points in a game. Wilson has shown he can run and throw with the best of them by putting up 279 yards through the air and an additional 142 yards rushing the ball.
Even with the absence of Kenneth Scott, Utah’s receiving corps has shown they are able to get the job done. Dres Anderson and Jake Murphy have been looking very good early in the season, and I expect them to keep putting up numbers week in and week out.
For the first time in years, it appears as if the Utah offense is stronger than their defense. Sean Mannion and the Oregon State receivers exposed Utah’s weak pass defense this past weekend, racking up 443 yards of receiving with 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. The Utes’ pass rush appeared to be almost non-existent on some plays and their secondary was unable to contain the Beavers’ wideouts.
The Utes’ run defense looked strong as it traditionally does, but the ease at which the Beavers were able to decimate the Utah secondary concerns me. Of course, I doubt Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill will be able to put the same sort of numbers against Utah’s defense that Mannion did, but the Utes will have to do a much better job of attacking the quarterback if they hope to come out with a W.
This meeting between the U and BYU holds more importance than it has in past years because the Holy War will not resume until 2016. This means that whoever wins this game has bragging rights for 3 whole years.
I think this fact will cause this game to be a fiery one. Players on both sides will realize that this is most likely the last time they will be able to play in this epic matchup, causing emotions to run high. I expect this to be a really good game and it will mostly likely come down to the last possession. I also expect the Utes to bounce back after that loss to the Beavers and beat the Cougars in Provo by a score of 28-24.