Best-Case Scenario For BYU If They Had Played Utah In 2020

Sep 3, 2020, 4:20 PM

Zach Wilson - BYU vs. Utah...

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson fires a pass during the Utah-BYU football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

(Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Tonight was originally scheduled to be the rivalry game between BYU and Utah in Rice-Eccles Stadium. Once the Pac-12 Conference decided to go Conference-only and then eventually postpone the season altogether, it canceled a much-anticipated game.

Was this the year that BYU was going to end the nine-game losing streak to the Utes? In a best-case scenario world, which is the complete opposite of everything we’ve seen in 2020, the makings were there for Kalani Sitake to pull off the upset against his old employer and mentor, Kyle Whittingham.

BYU is getting ready to play Navy in a Labor Day night game that is bound to get a large television audience for a football starved nation. But I can’t help but wonder what would have happened in Salt Lake City.

To draw up a best-case scenario for BYU against Utah is challenging. The usual cliches to winning a game such as a fast start, win the turnover margin, better quarterback play, have sometimes been in BYU’s favor at different points during this nine-game losing streak.

Kalani Sitake’s first rivalry game as BYU’s head coach featured Taysom Hill at quarterback and the Cougars forced six takeaways but still lost by one point. In 2018, BYU jumped out to a 27-7 lead before giving up 28 answered to fall 35-27.

You get the point.

BYU-Utah: Best-Case Scenario for Cougars

After the meeting in 2009, the last time BYU won a game in the rivalry, Kyle Whittingham pledged to his program that he would never lose to his alma mater again. He’s upheld that promise. Creating what has now felt like a pipe dream for some BYU fans to see their team get a win over the Utes.

But we’re looking at the best-case scenario for BYU, not the negatives.

With a hypothetical best-case scenario, this is how the 2020 rivalry game would have played out for BYU.

BYU finds success running the football

With an inexperienced Utah defense lining up against a veteran BYU offensive line, the Cougars with Lopini Katoa and Tyler Allgeier are able to provide a consistent ground attack that they haven’t seen in a rivalry game since the days of Havey Unga.

The successful ground game opens up Jeff Grimes and Aaron Roderick’s playbook to allow for healthy QB Zach Wilson to have a handful of big plays through the air that results in touchdowns.

Zero Turnovers

If BYU is to ever beat Utah, it’s going to have to be a performance where they cough up the football zero times. Winning the turnover battle is not enough, as evidenced by the 2016 outcome. Zero turnovers mean zero pick-sixes.

BYU scores a defensive TD

Since 2010, Utah has had nine Pick-Sixes. BYU’s last pick-six against the Utes? Go all the way back to 1987.


Troy Warner, Zayne Anderson, or Isaiah Kaufusi pick off a Jake Bentley pass and take it to the house for a score.

BYU pulls it out in the final minute

You have to go back to 1996 to find the last time BYU defeated Utah by more than a touchdown. BYU fans wouldn’t be picky. They’d take a 2-0 victory at this point over the Utes. But what that stat tells us is that when BYU wins, it’s coming down to the horn. History backs that up.

All six of BYU’s wins since 1996 against the Utes have come down to the final minute or two.

In this best-case hypothetical, the game-winning score has to come from Zach Wilson, right? Wilson, who grew up a die-hard Ute fan, gets the big victory with a TD run into the endzone to end the nine-game losing streak and etching his name in BYU lore for decades to come.

*Tomorrow, KSL Sports will have a best-case scenario from the Utah Utes perspective.

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

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Best-Case Scenario For BYU If They Had Played Utah In 2020