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(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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2019 Is BYU’s Best Chance To Finally Beat Utah

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The August 29th season-opening matchup between Utah and BYU is now exactly 100 days away.

Counting the days in the early 1900s when BYU was known as Brigham Young Academy – a time which is not recognized in BYU’s record books – the 2019 matchup will be the 100th all-time meeting between the two programs.

Currently, the Utes are riding an eight-game winning streak in the series and will look to close out the decade with another victory over the Cougars. BYU has not won in the rivalry game since 2009, when they edged the Utes in a 26-23 overtime victory in Provo.

In 2019, Utah will be returning tons at talent at key positions, will be ranked in the Top 25 to begin the season and is undoubtedly the stronger team on paper.

However, the scheduling of this season’s rivalry game, called the ‘Holy War,’ gives BYU some big advantages and opportunities to break the trend and snap Utah’s winning streak.

Early-Season Matchup Favors BYU

Not only is it fortunate that the Cougars are facing Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium, it’s also encouraging that the game is early in the season. If the game was to be held at the end of the season, as has typically been the tradition, the Cougars’ chances of winning would be significantly reduced.

Generally speaking, good teams get better as the year goes on. While the Utes do have plenty of veteran, talented players that have learned to begin seasons and win games, there’s no denying the elevation in focus and execution that is required to go from fall camp to actual game reps. It shouldn’t be surprising if the Utes come out a bit rusty in the first game. BYU might have similar issues, but it’s both teams’ lack of being into a rhythm that greatly evens the playing field.

Utah’s Offense Could Be Rusty

Also, it’s been quite some time since a couple of Utah’s key offensive players have been in action. Quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zach Moss have not played in a game since Utah’s 38-20 loss to Arizona State. Huntley was injured in the game, Moss finished the game but was later ruled out for the rest of the season due to an injury he had the following week.

When the BYU game rolls around in August, it’ll be 299 days since Huntley and Moss have played in game action, together or separately. It’s not unreasonable to question whether they’ll have the same effectiveness they had prior to their injuries.

Utah’s offense will likely be the story of the team’s season. Over the offseason, the Utes replaced departing offensive coordinator Troy Taylor with Andy Ludwig. While Ludwig is a familiar face, having coached at Utah from 2005-08, the players are obviously different now. It’s possible that it’ll take some time and game action for the Ute offense to find itself in Ludwig’s system. That casts a doubt on Utah’s ability to score on BYU in Game 1.

Cougars Could Have Momentum

If momentum from one season to the next means anything, BYU also has that to hang its hat on heading into 2019. Not only did the Cougars win three of their last four games to finish 2018, they also started to figure out how to effectively run offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes’ offense. Along the way, then-freshman quarterback Zach Wilson became the clear-cut future of the program. Of course, the Cougars’ one loss of those four games was the Utah game, which they basically let slip through their fingers, but they were clearly getting closer to beating their rival.

The Utes on the other hand, weren’t playing super well at the end of the year and dropped their final games, the first in the Pac-12 Championship Game to Washington and the second to Northwestern in the Holiday Bowl. There’s no telling whether that could have any impact on 2019. Could be everything, could be nothing.

Key To Victory In 2019

The key for BYU to beat Utah is to be the better team for 60 minutes on game day. If there’s any window for the Utes to get rolling, the Cougars will likely suffer their ninth straight loss in the series. Last season, BYU was the better team for most of the game and held a 27-7 lead with 5:28 remaining in the third quarter. The rest of the game however, belonged to Utah and the Utes were able to sneak away with a 35-27 victory.

There’s no telling what will happen in the 2019 edition of the heated rivalry. For the Cougars, it’s the best chance they’ve had in quite some time to get the victory.

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