SPORTS

Don’t Kid Yourself. BYU vs Utah Is NOT ‘Just Another Game’

Nov 23, 2018, 4:13 PM | Updated: Nov 24, 2018, 11:24 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Kyle Whittingham held up 7 fingers when he exited the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium in September of 2017. Why? Because the rivalry game vs. BYU clearly means something more. In fact, it means a LOT to Whittingham.

Despite what he said at his weekly press conference on Monday, it’s not, “just another game.”

Utah football head coach and former BYU linebacker throws shade at Cougar fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium after the Utes won in 2017.

When no. 17 Utah (8-3) hosts BYU (6-5) this weekend, the Utes, a significant 11.5 point favorite, will try and make it eight straight wins over the Cougars.

Understandably, BYU and Head Coach Kalani Sitake would love nothing more than to end the losing streak to Utah just one week after the Utes clinched their first division title since joining the Pac 12 in 2011.

That said, the outcome of Saturday’s game won’t affect BYU’s bowl eligibility status, and has zero impact on the Utes goals of winning the Pac-12 and going to the Rose Bowl. So, what exactly is on the line for both sides?

What a WIN for Utah means

No. 1. That’s easy. Eight straight victories against your rival. Extended bragging rights… again. Plus, the ability for Coach Whittingham and his staff to walk into any in-state recruit’s living room and say, “we own the Beehive State.”

No. 2. How about keeping a good thing rolling with redshirt freshman quarterback Jason Shelley? He would then take a 3-0 record with victories over Oregon, Colorado, and BYU into the Pac-12 Championship game.

That’s some serious positive juju.

The Utes would at least maintain position or rise in the college football playoff rankings (currently No. 17), have a real shot at playing in a major bowl game, and finishing with another 10 win season.

What a LOSS for Utah means

For starters, it would be the ultimate momentum killer. Losing to BYU the week after the Utes clinched their first Pac-12 South division title, and on Senior Day??? Yikes! Cue the “Price is Right” losers horn.

Not only would Utah have to endure a long, drawn-out BYU celebration at Rice-Eccles Stadium, they’d have to process how a true freshman quarterback, who grew up dreaming of playing for Utah (Zach Wilson), ended up a legend in blue and white.

Streak over. Momentum killed. Senior Day spoiled.

The Utes would then likely be looking at a cap of 9 wins this season, with an accompanying trip to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl… or a trip to (GULP)… Las Vegas where they could face (GASP)… Utah State.

Do the Utes have more to lose than gain in this rivalry game? Probably.

What a WIN for BYU means

RELIEF TO THE UTMOST DEGREE. The season becomes an overnight success. Yes, it has come to this. A reason for most of Cougar Nation to show up for religious services early on Sunday and greet their Utah neighbors with a smile.

Talk about maximizing the role of spoiler! Not only would the Cougars end a torturous 7-game losing streak to the Utes, BYU would do so knowing they bested the Pac-12 South Champs, on Senior Day, in Salt Lake City, as a double digit underdog with a true freshman quarterback who until early this year was a die-hard Ute fan.

How’s that for a storyline?

It would also give BYU three Power 5 road wins (Arizona, Wisconsin, Utah). Suddenly the Cougars are looking at the potential of an 8-win season – doubling the win total from an abysmal 4-9 mark in 2017.

I imagine we’d see some “BYU – Pac-12 South Champs” flags as well.

What a LOSS for BYU means

Status quo with a major dose of disappointment. While nobody, outside of BYU coaches, staffers, players, and a relative few optimistic fans, expects the Cougars to win this game, the resulting frustration and sting from an 8th consecutive loss to the Utes will resonate just as hard as any of the losses in the current streak.

Defeated, discouraged fans mentally preparing for the social media onslaught that will undoubtedly come from Utah fans. “Eight straight… nine is coming.”

Another 9 months to endure until Utah visits BYU to kick off the 2019 season on Thursday, August 29, and present the Cougars their next chance to finally break the streak.

A loss also means BYU would have to win a bowl game to finish with a winning record. Can BYU fans stomach a 6-7 season after the dismal 4-9 record last year?

It doesn’t look all that appealing.

The game is scheduled to get underway at 8 p.m. mountain time and will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.

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Don’t Kid Yourself. BYU vs Utah Is NOT ‘Just Another Game’