Despite Stacked Schedule, Local Rivalries Among BYU’s Most Important Games
PROVO, Utah – BYU’s 2019 football schedule is arguably its toughest ever. They open up at home against rival, and Pac-12 favorite, Utah, next they have Tennesse on the road, followed by USC at home and finally another Pac-12 contender – Washington – at home.
That is one of the toughest four-game stretches for any team in college football this season, according to Scott Mitchell and Alex Kirry of KSL’s UnRivaled.
The Cougars go on the road to face conference contenders like South Florida, Toledo, Utah State and San Diego State; plus Boise State is coming to LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Kirry and Mitchell combed through the BYU schedule and pinpointed two games each that have the potential to define the 2019 Cougar football team. There was plenty of material to work with.
Utah Is The Most Important Game
BYU has not defeated Utah since 2009 – a span of nine games – and currently the second-longest losing streak the Cougars have had in the entirety of the rivalry series.
If the Cougars fall again, the nine-game streak will tie the longest streak of losses to the Utes.
Mitchell picked the Utes because losing again to Utah could do some major damage to the psyche of the program.
“Utah is number 1. The reason is that they have put so much emphasis on this game. You have bet the ranch on this one, your entire offseason, all of fall camp, every waking moment and probably a lot of dreams where these players have been about beating Utah this year,” Mitchell said on KSL’s Unrivaled. “The reason it is so important is that I am really concerned if it doesn’t happen. If BYU loses, psychologically it is a major, major letdown.”
RIVALRY GAME SEASON OPENER: BYU Football head coach Kalani Sitake says the team is “hungry” and excited to start the season at LaVell Edwards Stadium against the Utes. Is that hunger enough to give the Cougars their first win over Utah since 2009?More from Coach Sitake on Cougar Sports Saturday at 12:20 p.m. on KSL Newsradio.
Posted by KSL Sports on Friday, June 7, 2019
Kirry agreed with Mitchell’s pick for a few reasons. Part of the equation is that this is a rivalry game but another reason is that Utah is expected to be a darkhorse playoff team.
“Utah has to be the number one game they have to win. Aside from the rivalry part and putting all of your eggs in a basket, Utah happens to also be the best team on your schedule,” Kirry said.
While Utah is expected to win, losing to the Utes again would be a bitter pill for the Cougars to swallow, according to Kirry. The losses for the Cougars have been happening for a few years since the Utah football program has been trending upward while BYU has been lagging behind.
The other team that Mitchell picks is the “other” BYU rival – Boise State – who the Cougars currently have a three-game losing streak against. Being at home game against the Broncos is what makes this particular matchup so important, according to Mitchell. The Cougars need to protect their home turf, even against a perennial top-20 team like Boise State.
“I think they will do well at Toledo, they will do well at South Florida, and I even think they will do well at Logan. Boise State, you have to win this game and win at home,” Mitchell added. “Only one of those four games is at home in that second four-game group. This is a critical, critical game. You are going to compete against those other teams in the mid-tier of your schedule but you have to win the home game.”
BYU going out and beating the OK teams on the schedule is not good enough, according to the duo. For head coach Kalani Sitake to take the next step in 2019 they need to start beating teams that are in the top 25.
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Utah State is another one of BYU’s most important games, according to Kirry. The Cougars currently have a two-game losing streak against Utah the Aggies.
“I am going to go with Utah State. It is on the road and BYU has lost two games in a row and it has not even really been close. The one up in Logan was a thrashing and it wasn’t close with bad turnovers,” Kirry said. “Last year, bad turnovers and an even worse drubbing at the hands of the Aggies. They are not returning as many offensive weapons but they are returning “the” offensive weapon that is Jordan Love, the one that really matters at quarterback.”
The Aggies are replacing their entire starting offensive line, running back Darwin Thompson who is in the NFL, and five leading pass catchers from last year. So, BYU could have Utah State’s number with the Aggies losing so much talent and implementing an all-new coaching staff.
BYU needs to come out of these games with Ws if the Cougars want to consider their 2019 season a success, according to the duo.
The Cougars do not want to take a step back and miss a bowl game for the second time in the Sitake-era.