PROVO — Charles Kano, senior writer for truebluecougars.com, spoke with University of Utah insiders Kyle Gunther, on-air host of "The Red and Blue Show" on 97.5 and 1280 The Zone, and James (Deuce) Dyer from the "Dog and Deuce" podcast on TornBySports.com. We asked them a series of questions to help Cougar fans get some insider views on University of Utah football in anticipation for the Utah-BYU game in Provo this weekend.
What is the buzz around Ute camp and the campus about the matchup against BYU?
Gunther: The Utes see this as a unique matchup because it is being played week 3 instead of the end of the year with a conference championship on the line. Most of the Ute players are viewing this as just another non-conference game, but also see is as part of a storied rivalry which typically goes to the wire. The players are also excited to play in Lavell Edwards Stadium because they have had quite a bit of success on the road there.
Dyer: There is a different vibe on campus surrounding this game, but it is not necessarily related to playing BYU. BYU this year is really just another non-conference team. There isn’t the feel of playing for a conference championship or keeping your rival from winning it either.
First year in the Pac-12, what are Ute fans' expectations for the season?
Gunther: Most Ute fans are pretty understanding of the long-term goal, which is to win, but build the program up over the next few years and then compete for a conference championship. There are some Ute fans that have drum and feather tattooed on their arm that aren’t realistic and want to win all their games and the conference championship right now. I think eight or nine wins would mean a tremendous season for the Utes.
Dyer: Most Ute fans have high expectations of nine to ten wins and being in the running to win the Pac-12 South. Before the season I said 7-5 to 8-4, and after a few games now and watching how other teams have been playing I think I will stick to that prediction.
Has the rivalry changed now that Utah is in a BCS conference and BYU is independent?
Gunther: I think they see this as just another non-conference game. The Utes will not look down on an independent BYU team, but there just isn’t the same buildup to the game as there is when they play at the end of the regular season. I think BYU will be playing harder because they want to prove that they should have been the ones that were invited to the Pac-12. Utah will play harder to prove they were the right choice.
Dyer: The rivalry game has changed, and it’s disappointing. I think the game should go on forever. Here, after a few years it might end and never be played again. The thing is, even if you had a bad season, if you beat BYU it felt better and at least you had bragging rights in-state for the year.
Does playing the game so early in the season change the importance of the rivalry?
Gunther: I think you will see the same passion from the fans. I am interested to see how the mentality and level of play from the Ute players, given this is being played at such an awkward time and not as the natural culmination of the season ending in rivalry week. I think if you don’t play this at the end of the season, play it week 1 as the kickoff to the season instead of week 3.
Dyer: It’s awkward, and I don’t think coaches or players from either team know how to address it. This game used to be the climax, and now it is just game 3. Once the ball is in the air, who knows how the players will respond.
Both Coach Whittingham and Coach Mendenhall have called for more civility in the rivalry. Do you see that happening?
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