Conventional wisdom suggests Utah doesn't have much chance this Saturday. Facing injury and uncertainty, the Utes enter the annual (for now, anyway) rivalry showdown as underdogs after last week's tough loss to Utah State. Much of the uncertainty surrounds the career-ending injury of Jordan Wynn, who went down not even halfway through that loss to the Aggies. But don't count out Utah just yet. Though the Utes face a difficult task ahead of them, the prospects of victory for the Crimson & White are still very much alive. Here are five reasons why you shouldn't count out Utah Saturday night.
Sean Reynolds (also known as JazzyUte) is the managing editor of Utah Utes fan blog Block U.
Kyle Whittingham is still an exceptional head coach, and that alone could give Utah an edge Saturday. He will surely have his team ready after a tough, and at times embarrassing, defeat last week. And the Utes generally do play better with their backs against the wall, which is a position they find themselves in this weekend.
It's not a guarantee, and Bronco Mendenhall is a very good coach in his own right, but Whittingham is 4-3 against BYU and has, more than once, led Utah to a stunning defeat of the Cougars.
They say you can throw the records out the window when two rivals meet, and you can pretty much do that with Utah and BYU. Though both teams have been competitive the last eight years (regardless of record and talent), this game almost always seems to come down to the final play. The only three times that hasn't happened the past decade were in 2011, 2008 and 2004...all Utah wins.
In 2005, big underdogs and battling injuries, the 5-5 Utes went down to Provo and knocked off the surging Cougars in overtime to salvage their season. A year later, with BYU much improved and having already locked up the Mountain West Conference championship, Utah again nearly upset the Cougars, though this time it was John Beck and Jonny Harline creating a bit of magic of their own.
Ultimately, if history is a template, this game will come down to potentially one or two plays and if that's the case, the Utes have just about as good of a shot at winning as the Cougars.
Just ask Brandon Burton.
The Utes' defense is very capable of delivering a Utah victory Saturday. They're talented, deep and experienced at certain spots, especially the defensive line. BYU's offensive line has had some issues already this season, and that could prove costly in a game like this.
Riley Nelson is a good quarterback, but how he handles the pressure of an imposing defensive line might dictate the overall outcome. He's a scrambler, and that certainly can have its benefits, but if the Utes take that away from him -- forcing him to throw instead of run -- it could make things difficult for BYU.
In the past ten years, Utah has only lost once to BYU at home: 2006. While home-field advantage isn't always a hint to the outcome, the Utes, wounded as they are, could be lifted by a mostly partisan crowd of 45,000 red-clad faithful.
The addition of a wild student section, and Utah's history of having a tough home environment, might give them the edge they're looking for in this one.
Utah has to fight if they want to save their season, and it begins this weekend. They are not going to be intimidated by the Cougars, but more importantly, they very well could enter this game with a laser-like focus. They're battered, but they're not out. And what better way to get things back on the right track than defeating your arch-nemesis?
Utah very well could come out swinging, and there is nothing more dangerous than a team looking for a fight.