'Holy War' is going to feel different

September, 14, 2011
9/14/11
1:00
PM ET
The Pac-12 blog is worried about Utah.

Now that Utah is in the Pac-12, a member of the privileged class, is it going to forget how to properly dislike BYU? Is it going to eyeball the Cougars on Saturday and think, "You know, blue really brings out their eyes!"

This thought vexes the Pac-12 blog, which feeds on the often irrational passion of college football.

[+] EnlargeUtah Utes beat BYU Cougars
Douglas C. Pizac/US PresswireUtah rallied back from a large fourth-quarter deficit last season to beat BYU.
So, Utah, we've brought back a friend to remind you how you should feel about BYU because this is how BYU feels about you.

"I don't like Utah," former BYU quarterback Max Hall said after the Cougars beat the Utes in 2009. "In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, I hate their fans, I hate everything ... I think the whole university, their fans and their organization, is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year, and they did a whole bunch of nasty things, and I don't respect them, and they deserve to lose."

Utes, the Cougars are going to be gunning for you hard Saturday. There's the natural state rivalry, sure, but there's a third, highly-motivating color involved other than red and blue: green.

Green as in the money Utah is soon going to be making in the Pac-12. And green as in the green-eyed monster of jealousy: BYU isn't happy the Utes jumped to the Pac-12 and it wasn't invited.

And, by the way, BYU is pretty darn good, having won at Ole Miss and falling just short at Texas. Ten starters are back on offense, including quarterback Jake Heaps, from a team that went 7-6 in 2010.

Further, this game has been highly competitive in recent years. Five of the past six have been decided by a touchdown or less. Two of those went into overtime. Last year, Utah rallied from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 17-16. The game was decided when the Utes blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt as time expired.

Utes linebacker Chaz Walker didn't seem too concerned that BYU and Utah fans and players will start palling around. When asked if the so-called "Holy War" was a bitter or friendly rivalry, he spoke carefully but without much ambiguity.

"Probably a little bit on the dislike side," he said. "There's not many BYU players you see hanging out with Utah players."

The feel of the game will be different, though. For one, it no longer counts in the conference standings. In previous seasons, the matchup often had significant Mountain West Conference ramifications. Further, instead of the chill of a season-finale in late November, this one will feature the pleasant weather of mid-September.

For Utah, it also brings the grind of the new Pac-12 schedule front-and-center. The Utes must regroup and refocus after a tough, physical loss at USC. It's likely the bye week that follows will feel pretty good.

Perhaps the Pac-12 blog shouldn't worry. After talking to a few folks on the Utah end of things, it seems clear BYU has the Utes' attention. And always will when they go nose-to-nose.

Said coach Kyle Whittingham, "It's the biggest single sporting event in the course of a year. It's the biggest thing that happens in this state."

Ted Miller | email

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