Throw out the records because Saturday night’s game between No. 17 Utah (8-3) and BYU (6-5) will likely be another down-to-the-wire finish.
Over the past 24 meetings, 19 have been decided by a touchdown or less, including two overtime games and a stopped two-point conversion attempt to give Utah a 20-19 victory in 2016.
Since the Pac-12 era, BYU has been favored four times, Utah three, which includes Saturday night’s game at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Lastly, the last five games in the series has been decided by an average of 4.8 points.
Yes, the Holy War is one of the best rivalries in all of college football thanks to its dramatic plays and wild endings. From ““Harline’s still open” and “Burton is still unblocked!” to the the 2012 game that “ended” three different times.
Safe to say, fans will be in for another treat as No. 17 Utah looks to win its eight consecutive game in the series. Saturday’s game also marks the first time the Holy War has been played on the final weekend since 2010 — with Utah’s move into the Pac-12 in 2011.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 24
Time: 8 p.m. MT
Announcers: Guy Haberman, Evan Moore
Location: Rice-Eccles Stadium (45,807) — Salt Lake City, Utah
Social Media: #UtahvsBYU, #BYUatUtah, #GoUtes, #BYUFOOTBALL
If the Cougars want to end the losing streak, there are going to need to play mistake-free football. Over the seven game losing streak, BYU has consistently turned the ball over. In fact, over the past three seasons, BYU has totaled 11 turnovers, resulting in 52 of Utah’s 74 points in the process.
It’s no secret that Utah loves to bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks as it hopes to create a lot of turnovers. BYU freshman quarterback Zach Wilson will need to not only make quick decisions, but must do so without turning the ball over. The freshman has has a number of great moments since taking over as the starting position for Tanner Mangum, however, his never quit attitude has cost the Cougars on a number of occasions as he does not like to simply throw the ball away.
With temperatures in the low 30s and a chance of rain/snow making an appearance, the Cougars are going to need to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball if they want to come away with a victory.
The Cougar defense has been able to do this as it has not allowed more than 113 yards rushing in any of its last five games. If the Cougars can avoid getting off to a slow start and the defensive line can get a good push and force freshman quarterback Jason Shelley into making mistakes like he did against Arizona State, BYU will have a great shot and ending the losing streak to the “Team Up North.”
Lastly, BYU has played better on the road (3-2) than at home (3-3) this season and is 4-1 against the spread on the road. Playing as the underdog, BYU is 3-1 on the road.
For the first time since 2004 — when Utah defeated BYU 52-21 en route to its Fiesta Bowl as a BCS Buster — the Utes are a double-digit favorites. As of Saturday morning, Utah is a 10.5 favorite after opening up as a 13.5 favorite. The money line has also dropped from 592 to 435.
The money line involves simply picking the winning team. With Utah at -435, that means if the Utes end up winning, a fan would have to risk $435 to win $100. However, for BYU, one would win $240 for a for his/her $100 wager.
While Vegas still expects Utah to win, many expect the game to be closer than most people think as the line has dropped from 13.5 to 10.5 despite the Utes playing at home.
Despite seeing starting quarterback Tyler Huntley and starting running back Zack Moss go down with season-ending injuries earlier this month, its been the “next man up” philosophy for Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham.
“Our guys never backed down from anything,” Whittingham told reporters. “They just kept fighting and kept swinging. It’s great to see them write this chapter of Utah football history, because that’s what it is. The first South Division championship and these guys are the ones that did it.”
It helps that Whittingham has a stout defense as the Utes have every year. So far this year, Utah leads the nation in red-zone defense (19-of-32, .594) and also lead the Pac-12 in total defense (312.1 ypg), rushing defense (95.5 ypg), tackles for loss per game (8.1), opponent third-down conversion percentage (.325) and turnovers gained (18).
Anchoring the defense is Bradlee Anae who leads the league in sacks (7.0) along with Chase Hansen who currently ranks second in tackles for loss (19.0).
Prediction: Utah 20, BYU 13
It’s hard to pick against the Utes based on BYU’s sluggish performance this season and based on recent history in the Holy War. Also, Kyle Whittingham sure knows how to get his guys ready for the big game and until the Max Hall curse can be put to bed, it’s hard not to pick the Utes.
With that being said, expect the game to be low scoring due to the style of play from both sides as well as weather factors. Both sides have failed to score more than 20 points in the last two years and its likely that we’ll see that trend continue. Whatever the score is, fans can expect another classic showdown between both teams in what will likely be another down-to-the-wire game.
Who do you have winning? Comment below with your scores and predictions.