Edwards, McBride, Gomes, Yergensen, Kaneshiro, Harline, Burton, Whittingham and Meyer just some of the many names that make this my favorite week of the year. Granted with it being mid-September this week doesn't feel quite the same as it has over the years, but it's still rivalry week in the state of Utah and that means something special.
This will be my 12th Utah vs. BYU game and the thing that I think I love most is that they all have a unique storyline. Whether it was Gary Crowton's one and only win in three tries, Ron McBride's last game as head coach of the Utes, Kyle Whittingham pitching a shutout with his defense against his alma mater to honor the loss of his father just weeks before, Harline's catch or Burton's block. I've been lucky to see some of the best this series has ever had to offer.
This year should provide its fair share of drama and storylines. Heck, we already have some of that and we haven't even reach game day yet. Let's start with the quarterbacks. Once again the Utes are in the midst of a quarterback quandary, with the end of the career of starter Jordan Wynn. Now it's the Jon Hays show once again. How much better is Hays this season? (By the way, he was 6-3 as a starter last year, a fact that is sometimes forgotten by Ute fans.) How much playing time should talented freshman Travis Wilson now get? Utah native Riley Nelson gets a chance to start against Utah for the first time in his well-traveled career. Can his body and aggressive play stand up to the physical nature of the Utah defense?
Oh, we start with the quarterbacks, but there are certainly other storylines worth mentioning. Just how good is that BYU defense? Can Utah solve its leaky offensive line issues? How much will the Utes miss Eric Rowe if he can't play? Who's got the advantage if the game comes down to a kick that needs to be made? These are just some of the pre game storylines. Who knows what will develop as the game begins on Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium?
Here's what I do know, this is far and away my favorite sports week of the year. Sure a little bit of the luster of the rivalry game has been taken away by moving it from November to September and it doesn't feel quite the same since Utah has joined the Pac-12 Conference. But it's still the game that means the most here where we live in the state of Utah. It still divides families, friends, neighborhoods and workplaces for seven days and to me this is exactly what college football is all about. I know that it won't ever be the same as it was when Utah and BYU shared the same conference. But as a fan of history, tradition and great storylines, I hope that Utah and BYU can continue to find a way to play this game as often as their schedules allow.
I can't wait for Saturday night under the lights at Rice-Eccles Stadium and look forward to bringing you every play of what I think will be a closely-contested game. I will talk to you from Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday night on ESPN 700 at 8. Here's hoping for another name to add to the list above, a name that will forever be linked to one of the greatest rivalry games in all of college sports.
Bill Riley is the co-host of the Bill and Hans Show weekdays from 2-6 p.m on ESPN 700 AM. You can follow Bill on Twitter @espn700bill.
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