Mike Sorensen: Little known facts for a rivalry game

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 13 2015 4:18 a.m. MDT

Unless you've been living on another planet and just barely returned, you know what this week is.
Every year, Utah-BYU football is the most anticipated game of the year, regardless of each team's record. It's called a war by some folks, even a certain kind of war (which I get a little weary of, so I won't mention it).
But this year is different. Never before in the long history of the rivalry have the stakes been higher. A BCS berth is on the line for Utah and possibly for BYU if things break just right.
Without getting into any discussion of who has the best long snapper or best nickel back or which team will be more motivated — we have all week for that — the following are a few fun facts about the rivalry to get your week started: • If you don't count 1937 when each team was 1-0 going into the annual game, the two teams' combined record of 21-1 this year is the best ever heading into the big game — but not by much. In 2001, Gary Crowton's first year, the two teams were a combined 17-2 going into the game.
• The most common score in the rivalry is not 34-31 as some fans might assume. It's actually 27-0, a score Utah won by in 1925 and 1957 and BYU won by in 1979.
• The lowest-scoring game in the series, aside from the 3-0 Ute victory in 2003, was the 0-0 tie in 1928, one of four ties in the series (for you younger folks, yes, they actually used to have tie games).
• Only twice in the past 40 years have both teams come into the game with losing records. Coincidentally, both games featured the final game for one of the coaches, who emerged victorious in both cases. In 2000, the 5-6 Cougars staged a miracle comeback to beat the 4-6 Utes in LaVell Edwards' last game, while in 2002, the 4-6 Utes beat the 5-6 Cougars 13-6 in Ron McBride's last game.
• The most common date for a Utah-BYU game is Nov. 20 with six games being played on that date. This year's date of Nov. 22 is tied for the second most common date at five.
• The tradition of playing the BYU-Utah game as the last game of the regular season didn't begin until 1981, although every BYU-Utah game since 1969 has been played in November. From 1930 until 1963, except for three years, the annual game was played in October, usually early or the middle of the month.
• Utah's media guide lists the all-time series record at 52-33-4 for Utah, while BYU's has it 49-30-4 for Utah, because it doesn't count six games before 1922 when it was known as the BY Academy. It makes no difference in the margin of the series, however, since the six games that Utah counts were split 3-3.
• Between 1922 and 1964, BYU beat Utah a grand total of two times, 12-7 in 1942 and 14-7 in 1958.
• Between 1972 and 1992, Utah beat BYU a grand total of two times, 23-22 in 1978 and 57-28 in 1988.
• In 1942, when BYU beat Utah for the first time (according to the Cougars' record book), the Cougars' head coach was 31-year-old Floyd Millet, who was filling for a year while coach Eddie Kimball was in the service. The Cougars finished just 2-5 that year and shut down the football program for three years until World War II ended.
• The most successful coach in the rivalry was Utah's Ike Armstrong, who went 18-1-3, although Jack Curtice and Urban Meyer were both unbeaten at 7-0-1 and 2-0, respectively, along with BYU's Millet (1-0). BYU's most successful coach, of course, was LaVell Edwards, who was 22-7 against Utah.
• BYU's largest margin of victory was the 56-6 win in 1980 behind Jim McMahon. Utah's largest margin was a 49-0 victory in 1922.
• Utah's highest score in the series came in 1988 when Scott Mitchell led the Utes to a 57-28 victory. Just a year later, BYU put its highest scoring total on the Utes with a 70-31 victory behind future Heisman winner Ty Detmer.
• Since 1988, the series stands 10-10. Since 1998, it is 5-5.
• Aside from Utah's big victory in its unbeaten 2004 season, the other 10 Utah-BYU games since 1997 have been decided by a touchdown or less.
I have no idea who will win this year's game. But it should be another epic BYU-Utah battle Saturday, perhaps the best ever.

E-mail: sor@desnews.com

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