You'd think that with the even-bigger-than-usual atmosphere for this year's Utah-BYU basketball game there might be a certain amount of hedging when it comes to predicting the outcome.
But along comes the annual Benson Poll/Educated Guess - the definitive, almost-infallible, gauge of human emotion and opinion that each year polls students on each campus and then predicts the game's outcome - and the students, again, have clearly demonstrated anything but wishy-washyness. Once again, on both sides of the Point of the Mountain, there has been no hedging.There might be some lingering confusion as to just who discovered cold fusion first, or who didn't discover cold fusion first, but when the subject is Utah-BYU basketball, undecideds are pretty much a dead species, in Salt Lake or in Provo.
This year's Educated Guess: Utah by seven.
The swing vote was strong.
Nobody from Utah voted for BYU.
More than half of the students at BYU voted for Utah.
The fact that tonight's game is at Utah, that the Utes are ranked 13th in the country, that the Utes are 23-2 and that braggadocio, after-A&M, isn't at an alltime high in the shadow of Y Mountain, seemed to figure into the strong pro-Utah sentiment in Provo. Shawn Bradley or no Shawn Bradley.
Students were polled this year at popular off-campus hamburger hangouts - Stevenett's Malt Shoppe, "Home of Heavenly Hamburgers," in Provo and B. & D. Burgers, "the B. & D. stands for Big and Delicious," in Salt Lake.
Both specialize in shakes and do a rather brisk business on the college level. At either place you can order an oreo-peanut-butter-hot fudge-banana-pralines-and-caramel shake and the waitress behind the counter won't bat an eye as she turns around to make it.
On warm days, Stevenett's has been known to crank up the shake machine as early as 10 a.m. "Often you'll get the coeds in here early. You know, the early morning shake-craving thing," said Joel Stevenett, an assistant manager and son of the owner, not necessarily in that order.
Joel was one of the few in Provo who did not genuflect in the direction of the Huntsman Center. He predicted a BYU win, "I'd say by 15 or 20," he said."Yeah the Utes are ranked," he continued, "but does that really matter? You know what I'm saying?"
Many didn't. Including McKay Hansen, a BYU senior from Alpine who ordered some chili fries and said, "I'll bet you Utah wins, but I'll bet BYU keeps it close." He said he'd like to forecast a seven-point Utah win, and he also said he had a confession.
"First year I've ever cheered for Utah, in anything," he said. "But with that record they have, that's pretty impressive."
He said he felt better, getting that off his chest.
"I think Utah will win by 10," said Russ Richards, a BYU senior from Salt Lake City. "Why? Because it's there." Richards, by point of fact, was not at Stevenett's, but eating at a place nearby called the Bamboo Hut, where they don't have mint oreo shakes but they do have bamboo pork ribs.
Meanwhile, at B. & D. Burgers, located just off the Utah campus, Dave Leo, a law student in search of brain food, adjusted the collar on his red shirt and said, "No question. It's going to be Utah by five. The U. pretty much plays up to the level of the competition. We don't blow anybody out."
At the next table, Don Cannon, a Ute senior from Cupertino, Calif., said, "You even need to ask? Utah by 25. BYU will be lucky to keep us under 80. Bradley will probably be out after the first half."
Although Steve Wilson, a junior from Salt Lake City, countered the above by saying, "Utah will win but probably by only a few points. They get so nervous when they play BYU."
On and on like that it went. Between bites of fries and shakes in a place Walter Watts dreams about, the support in Salt Lake was unanimous for the home team. Only the point spread varied.
Add it all up, and it goes into the books as Utah by seven.
Considering the BP/EG's track record - a mere one season wrong in the past 12 years - that poses as extremely good news for the Utes. Getting the nod from the Educated Guess is like getting news that Steven Spielberg has agreed to do your movie.
Then again, the poll has never experienced wartime conditions nor has it experienced Cougars cheering for the Utes.
The management does admit to a certain leeriness on this whole deal. Betting with your heart is one thing, betting with the other guy's heart, that's another thing. As the pollsters who did Dewey-Truman and, more recently, Marriott-Atwood, are well aware, if you're not careful, those cross-over votes can make you look real bad.