Officially, they are now calling this game the Desert First Duel, but unofficially, many still know this rivalry as the "Holy War." Utah has won six straight in the series, including a 20-19 thriller last year in Salt Lake City with the Utes stopping BYU's two-point conversion attempt with 18 seconds left. These games are always bitter and hard fought, and the 10:15 p.m. ET kick means the sure-to-be-classic finale will make for a perfect night cap to a huge evening of football.
While these two teams are historic rivals, the personal and professional connections make the current editions of Utah-BYU even more intense. Both Kyle Whittingham and Kilani Sitake played under Hall of Fame coach LaVell Edwards at BYU, and Sitake ascended through the coaching ranks as Whittingham's assistant at Utah for 10 seasons. BYU has three assistants that spent time on Utah's staff, and Utah has three assistants that spent time at BYU as either players or staff members. Everyone knows everyone, and it's going to get nasty when the competition starts on Saturday night.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 9 | Time: 10:15 p.m. ET
Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium -- Provo, Utah
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN
Utah: Sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley looked good in his debut as a starter but now comes a much better and more physical defense to test the new offense. For Utah fans who have become used to watching the team lean on the ground game, it's a huge change-of-pace to see Huntley connecting with Darren Carrington and a pretty solid receiving corps as the strength of the offense. Since it was North Dakota, we'll wait until after this game before any firm declarations about this new dynamic attack, but the rest of the Pac-12 better take note if they have success moving the ball through the air against the Cougars.
BYU: A popular assessment of BYU's offense coming out of a 20-6 Week Zero win against Portland State was that the Cougars wanted to keep it simple and get out with a win, but after the shutout loss to LSU, there is some real concern about the state of the offense. They couldn't win on first and second down, and they never had a chance in third-and-long situations against LSU's athletic defense. The short drives put BYU's defense on the field for a long time, and eventually, a game that was still 14-0 at halftime turned into a runaway win in the second half. Tanner Mangum is a talented quarterback with several highlight games on his college resume, but right now his play and the entire unit's execution is not at a level where BYU can be expected to compete in games against Power Five conference competition.
Six of the last seven games in this series have been decided by one score, and given the intimate nature of these two staffs, you can bet it's going to be well-coached and well-schemed. With a close line, I'm going to favor the more dynamic offensive attack, because it doesn't seem like BYU's issues are going to be a one-week fix . Pick: Utah -1.5