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Will Big 12 Invite Be Distraction For BYU Football Against Utah?

Sep 10, 2021, 5:20 PM
Kalani Sitake - BYU Football - Big 12...
BYU football coach Kalani Sitake is congratulated at a press conference announcing that BYU has accepted an invitation to the Big 12 Conference at BYU in Provo on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. BYU will play all sports provided by the Big 12 except for equestrian, rowing and wrestling. Men’s volleyball will continue to play in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, as the Big 12 does not offer the sport. (Laura Seita, Deseret News)
(Laura Seita, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – Now that the dust is settling on BYU football and the athletic department receiving a Big 12 Conference invite, the focus needs to shift to a big football game.

Of course, it’s not just any game either, “the in-state game” against rival Utah.

Will this new inclusion into the Big 12 Conference be a distraction for BYU?

It could, but I doubt it.

For underclassmen who see the potential of playing in the Big 12, maybe that’s taken their attention from film study against the Utes.

But honestly, the motivation to end Utah’s nine-game winning streak should be the ultimate motivation for this BYU team.

Utah has the chance to win a 10th consecutive rivalry game. With a win, it would set the record for the longest winning streak in the storied rivalry.

BYU starting quarterback Jaren Hall was asked on KSL’s UnRivaled if the Big 12 speculation was causing any distraction. He said it hasn’t. That’s coming from one of the leaders and captains of BYU’s team.

History of distractions for BYU against Utah

Distractions can throw a wrench into big games, and the BYU-Utah matchup is no different. In 2004, BYU was under a cloud of negativity, wondering about Gary Crowton’s job. While on the other sideline, Utah was ready to knock into the BCS. The uncertainty and distraction of the future head coach led to Utah’s BCS coronation with a 52-21 win.

In 2015 leading up to the Las Vegas Bowl, the entire BYU football coaching staff prepared to leave for Virginia. But they were granted the chance to stay on board for one final game.

The lack of preparation for the bowl game was evident as BYU found themselves in a 35-0 hole before anyone knew what hit them.

Those were negative distractions. The Big 12 is a positive one. In 2010, one day after announcing they were on a path of football Independence, BYU played the University of Washington in Provo. BYU won that game with a two-quarterback platoon system.

Utah, for the most part, has avoided distractions. In 2012, they had a quarterback change after Jordan Wynn suffered a devastating injury, then turning to Jon Hayes. But the Utah defense led by Star Lotulelei led the way as BYU had no answer for him and the rest of the Utes D that Kalani Sitake coached.

Kalani Sitake is excited for the Big 12, but all eyes are on the Utes

Sitake and Whittingham have similar approaches to the rivalry game, according to those who have seen both in action, such as offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick and BYU WR Samson Nacua. The sixth-year head coach, fresh off of a contract extension, didn’t spend much time himself at the BYU Broadcasting building celebrating the Big 12 invite.

BYU needs their stars in Hall, Tyler Allgeier, James Empey, Tyler Batty, Chaz Ah You, Keenan Pili and Payton Wilgar to be dialed in on Saturday night against the Utes. If those players are playing at their best, it will mean the distractions of the Big 12 Conference have been tuned out and BYU will have a shot to pull off the upset against the nationally-ranked Utes.

If any of these distractions creep in, it’s a 10th straight loss to the Utes in a series that nobody now knows for sure when it will return.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com 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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Will Big 12 Invite Be Distraction For BYU Football Against Utah?