BYU, Utah football: Best. Matchup. Ever.
(This time, we really mean it)
Before the season began, many local fans, pundits and observers harbored dreams of both Utah and BYU being undefeated with a combined 22-0 record for their showdown Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
They dreamed of both teams being ranked in the top 10 and playing in a colossal winner-take-all for a Bowl Championship Series berth and a Mountain West Conference championship.
As it turned out, those dreams were dashed in October, when the Cougars fell to TCU.
Still, this week's annual grudge match is The Biggest BYU-Utah Game of All Time a Beehive State Super Bowl. This marks only the second time ever both teams are ranked going into the contest, let alone this highly ranked. And the two teams' combined record, 21-1, has never been better.
For No. 8 Utah (11-0), which has already secured at least a piece of the MWC title, there's a BCS berth on the line. For No. 16 BYU (10-1), which moved up to No. 14 Sunday in the latest BCS standings, there's a shot at a share of the conference championship and an opportunity to shake up the postseason landscape on a national scale.
Funny thing is, just a year ago, a Deseret News headline proclaimed last year's rivalry game as the biggest ever, as both teams were riding seven-game winning streaks and had a combined 16-5 record.
In terms of records, rankings and national implications, that one pales in comparison to this year's battle, which features two teams with a combined winning streak of 16 (Utah 12, BYU 4).
Here's a look at other big games in rivalry history, in chronological order:
Combined records:16-4-1 (BYU 10-0, Utah 6-4-1)
National rankings: BYU No. 3, Utah unranked
Combined winning streaks: 24 (BYU 21, Utah 3)
What was at stake: The undefeated Cougars were looking to keep their national championship hopes alive.
Result: BYU 24, Utah 14. Two days after vanquishing the Utes, the Cougars jumped to the No. 1 spot in the polls for the first time. After a Holiday Bowl victory over Michigan, they claimed the national title.
Combined records: 17-4 (BYU 9-2, Utah 8-2)
National rankings: BYU No. 20, Utah No. 21
Combined winning streaks: 2 (BYU 2, Utah 0)
What was at stake: Ironically, even though this was the first time that both teams were ranked going into the game, there was no conference championship hanging in the balance. Colorado State had already all but wrapped up the title.
Result: Utah 34, BYU 31. The Utes went on to win the Freedom Bowl while the Cougars won the Copper Bowl. Both teams finished the season ranked in the top 10 in the UPI poll.
Combined records: 19-3 (BYU 11-1, Utah 8-2)
National rankings: BYU No. 8, Utah unranked
Combined winning streaks: 10 (BYU 9, Utah 1)
What was at stake: The Cougars had their sights on earning a spot in the WAC championship game and a Bowl Alliance (precursor to BCS) berth to the Fiesta Bowl.
Result: BYU 37, Utah 17. The Cougars won the WAC championship game in Las Vegas but were snubbed by the Fiesta Bowl. They beat Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl to finish 14-1. The Utes lost in the Copper Bowl.
Combined records: 17-2 (BYU 10-0, Utah 7-2)
National rankings: BYU No. 8, Utah unranked
Combined winning streaks: 12 (BYU 10, Utah 2)
What was at stake: The Cougars were in contention for a BCS bid and looking to earn their first outright MWC championship in then-coach Gary Crowton's inaugural season.
Result: BYU 24, Utah 21. The Cougars were snubbed again by the BCS bowls. They went 1-2 in their final three games, including a loss in the Liberty Bowl. Utah beat USC in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Combined records: 15-5 (Utah 10-0, BYU 5-5)
National rankings: Utah No. 5, BYU unranked
Combined winning streaks: 14 (Utah 14, BYU 0)
What was at stake: ESPN's College Game Day was on hand for this one.
The Utes needed one more win to earn a BCS berth and become the first non-BCS school to accomplish that feat. The Cougars needed a victory to become bowl-eligible and avoid a third straight losing season.Result: Utah 52, BYU 21. The Utes received a bid to the Fiesta Bowl, which they won handily. In the coming weeks, then-Utah coach Urban Meyer took the job at Florida, and Crowton resigned, opening the door for the two teams' defensive coordinators to take over Kyle Whittingham at Utah and Bronco Mendenhall at BYU.
The BIG game
No. 16 BYU at No. 8 Utah
Saturday, 4 p.m.; Rice-Eccles Stadium
TV: The mtn.; Radio: 700 AM, 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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