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2019 Could Be Biggest Rivalry Game For BYU

Head coach Kyle Whittingham of the Utah Utes and head coach Kalani Sitake of the Brigham Young Cougars meet prior to their game at LaVell Edwards Stadium on September 9, 2017 in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – A lot is on the line for both BYU and Utah in tonight’s rivalry game.

The Utes are looking to make a statement to the nation that the preseason hype is warranted. Not to mention, they want to keep the winning streak over BYU intact and reach a record nine straight wins.

For BYU, it’s bigger. The messaging leading up to this game has been clear. BYU wants this game in the worst way possible.

Every huddle in spring practices, fall camp, and off-season conditioning was met with, “BEAT UTAH!” Signage on the doors at BYU’s Student Athletic Building read, “BEAT UTAH!”

Utah defensive end Bradlee Anae on the Kyle Whittingham Show earlier this week said, “For them (BYU), they can bring everything into this game and not care about the rest of the season. For us? We have goals and we’ve always had those goals.”

Goals have always been something that is tough to define for BYU as an FBS Independent that doesn’t have a conference affiliation. But one thing is for sure, beating rivals Utah, Utah State, and Boise State is close to the top of the list. With the Utes having a sizable advantage in terms of a rival hierarchy.

Is this the biggest rivalry game ever for BYU? I believe it is. Here’s why.

Need a win during Independent vs. Pac-12 era

It’s been a tough pill to swallow for BYU fans to see their rival leave for the greener pastures of a BCS/Power Five conference, but it’s been even tougher to see that rival win at every turn since Utah’s move to the Pac-12 took place.

BYU hasn’t defeated Utah since 2009. It’s been 10 years. Everything we know with college football today was a lot different in 2009. There was no Playoff back then, it was instead the BCS. Both programs were still in the Mountain West Conference. BYU had just completed their fourth consecutive season with 10-plus wins and a national ranking.

The Cougars have to keep up with the Utes, despite not having the windfall of Power Five resources and money. The only way for BYU to show that they are keeping up with Utah as an independent is by getting some victories.

Opportunity to eliminate Utah’s national buzz

Utah has never entered a season with more preseason hype and expectations than the one they are entering beginning tonight.

The Utes are the preseason No. 14 ranked team in the AP Top 25 and the favorite to win the Pac-12 Conference. To take it even further, ESPN’s Lee Corso has Utah playing in the National Championship Game this season. Expectations for the Utes are at an all-time high.

A loss to BYU would remove Utah from being a darkhorse candidate to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff and it could remove them from the national conversation early in the season.

The signature win for Kalani Sitake

If BYU pulls off the upset, and it’s a big if as BYU enters as a touchdown underdog, this would be the signature victory for BYU head coach Kalani Sitake.

Defeating No. 6 Wisconsin last season was great, but to defeat a nationally ranked rival in your home stadium would be the crown jewel victory of the Sitake era. Also, it would make the decision for BYU a lot easier (if it isn’t already) to extend a contract extension to Sitake and establish him as the leader of BYU’s program into the next decade.

*****

For more on this conversation, listen to gameday edition of the Cougar Tracks Podcast powered by KSLsports.com.

You can subscribe to the Cougar Tracks Podcast on AppleGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, and any other major podcasting platform.  After you subscribe to the podcast, feel free to leave a rating and a review of the show.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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