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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars at Utah Utes

The Brigham Young Cougars can Salvage, with a capital S, the season with a win against arch rival Utah. Winning the last four games to gain bowl eligibility has salvaged, with a small s, what was quickly turning into one of the worst rebuilding campaigns ever. Getting bowl eligible is not an achievement that should be laughed at. After all, Texas was in the BCS national championship game last year, but they will finish the year with a losing record, and most likely out of a bowl. However, no BYU fan, player, or coach should feel satisfied.

Utah surprised most everyone by starting 8-0, but the last three games have exposed Utah's weaknesses. The last four games for BYU has revealed the team's potential. In a matter of weeks, this game went from looking like another version of 1988, 2004, or 2008 to another heart stopper like the ones in 2000, 2006, or 2009.

With a win today, the Cougars 2010 season will be remembered with fond nostalgia similar to the 2000 season. In 2000, BYU had a down year in what was the final year of LaVell Edwards' illustrious career. BYU has had a down year this year in the final year of its affiliation with the Mountain West Conference. The pitfalls of 2000 are often overlooked. Many will overlook the 2-5 start to this season and remember the strong finish to the year and look with optimism to next year if BYU comes out on top of this one.

Things to watch for:
  1. The run game. The BYU run game has not faced much resistance from the Utah defense for several years now. It appears that Utah has put most, if not all, their eggs in the pass basket and banked on success by stopping the passing game. This year is different. It is no secret that BYU depends on the rush to be successful. Will this cause Utah to emphasize it in their preparations and shut down the rushing attack?
  2. The passing game. In three years, Max Hall never had a good day against Utah. Freshman Jake Heaps has a stronger arm and can stretch the field better than Max did, but will the BYU receivers be able to get open? Will Utah use a new blitz package to get to Heaps faster and disrupt his timing? TCU's Andy Dalton and San Diego State's Ryan Lindley had field days against Utah. However, those two Qbs are upperclassmen with a lot of experience. Heaps' play will probably be the biggest factor into whether BYU wins or loses.
  3. Winning record/Bowl Position. Besides the bragging rights that will come with a win, BYU can assure itself of a winning season by winning today. A win will also improve BYU's bowl stock. (That may or may not be a good thing depending on how you view the bowl situation.)
  4. Heaps' Freshman Legacy. After questioning during the bye week if Jake Heaps was the worst freshman quarterback ever at BYU, he is now making a push to be the best freshman quarterback ever. A win and a solid performance could wrap up that top spot for Heaps. He is currently 5-3 as a starter. A win over Utah and he will be guaranteed a winning record as a starter, and also will have the possibility of ending 7-3. His TD to Int. ratio is now better than 1:1, and he can surpass the 2,000 yard passing mark in this game.
All-time Series: Utah leads 31-50-4
Last: BYU won 26-23 OT (2009)
Streak: BYU won 1

KICKOFF: 1:30 PM (MDT)
TV: The Mtn. / CBS College Sports
RADIO: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, http://www.ksl.com/

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Remembering the Rivalry: BYU 34, Utah 27 (2000)
Thursday Trivia: Last Win Against Utah By More Than Seven Points
Remembering the Rivalry: BYU 45, Utah 22 (1990)
Remembering the Rivalry: BYU 38, Utah 28 (1985)
Remembering the Rivalry: BYU 56, Utah 6 (1980)
Poll Results: If BYU Wins The Last Two Games, Should Bronco be the MWC Coach of the Year?
Remembering the Rivalry: BYU 51, Utah 20 (1975)
Game Recap: Brigham Young Cougars 40, New Mexico Lobos 7

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