State of the Rivalry: Utah vs. BYU
On Fridays, Ryan McGee will be previewing one of the weekend's top matchups by digging deep into the teams' rivalry and determining which one is set up for a brighter future going forward. From fan bases to coaching stability to recruiting success, he'll cover the rivalries from every angle.
1. Recent performance
With all due respect to every other major rivalry in college football, none can touch the Holy War (though we're not supposed to call it that anymore) when it comes to close games, wild finishes and genuine old-fashioned hatred.
Consider this: The past 24 games have been split 12-12. In the 14 games played since 1997, all but two have been decided by a single score, seven by three or fewer points. Two of the past six played went into overtime, and the outcome has been decided on the final play of the game the past two years. One year ago, BYU dominated for three quarters, gave up 17 points in the fourth quarter and had a potential winning field goal blocked as time expired.
The game annually divides the state of Utah down lines of alma mater and religious background. It has prompted both Utah's Alex Smith and BYU's Max Hall to use the phrase "I really hate them" and produced such quotable gems as "It was like we were running against air" from Fred Whittingham and "Even our cheerleaders are kicking your butt" from Steve Smith.
"Coach [Ron] McBride and Coach [LaVell] Edwards were friends," Smith said to me earlier this week after Carolina Panthers practice. "I think that's the only thing that kept everybody from getting into one giant statewide fight."
This year, the teams will meet as nonconference opponents for the first time since that first/not-so-first matchup in 1922. BYU is independent (for now), and Utah is coming off its first-ever Pac-12 loss.
Who holds the edge this weekend and beyond? Let's see whether we can sort this out, though it might take some prayers to do so.
To read Ryan McGee's full evaluation of the Utah-BYU rivalry, including his verdict on which program is better set up for future success, become an ESPN Insider today.