Every year, the Utah-BYU football game is a big deal no matter what the two rivals' records are. Matchups such as the past two years when each game was decided on the final play on a John Beck pass, one incomplete and the other complete only add to the intrigue.
But never have two hotter Utah and BYU teams met each other in the annual battle. Never in the 88-game history of the rivalry have the two teams each come into the game on seven-game winning streaks.
For that matter, never has each team met with as much as six-game winning streaks, or five, or four.
Amazingly, never have both teams come into the game with winning streaks better than three games.
It's happened three times, including last year when BYU had a seven-game winning streak and Utah had a three-game string coming into the big game. It also happened in 1998 (BYU 6, Utah 3), 1995 (BYU 4, Utah 3) and 1984 (BYU 10, Utah 3).
That doesn't necessarily mean these are the two best teams ever to meet in a BYU-Utah matchup. Five times over the past 26 years, the combined records of the two teams has been better than this year.
The best was in 2001 when the 10-0 Cougars hosted the 7-2 Utes and came from behind in the final four minutes on a pair of Luke Staley touchdown runs. Second-best was 1981 when for one of the few times over the past three decades, Utah came into the game with a better record 8-1-1 to BYU's 9-2.
Arguably the best two Utah and BYU teams to match up were the 1994 teams that both finished the season ranked in the UPI top 10, Utah at 10-2 and BYU at 10-3.
However, coming into that famous 34-31 game in Salt Lake, the Utes had lost two straight, while the Cougars had won their two previous games.
One reason for the lack of long winning streaks in the U.-Y. series is that for many years, neither team had a chance to compile long streaks.
That's because the Utes and Cougars used to play early in the season with Utah meeting rival Utah State at the end of the year.
From 1930 to 1963 the Utes and Cougars, with a couple of exceptions, played in October every year, usually the first or second Saturday of the month. The games were moved to early November until 1969 when for the second time in history, the Utes and Cougars played each other in their last game of the season (the first was the televised Thanksgiving Day game in 1953).
Since 1980, the Utah-BYU game has been the regular-season final game for at least one of the two teams every year but four.
Switching gears from Utah-BYU, you have to be happy for the Utah State football team and coach Brent Guy. After 16 straight losses over a two-year period, the Aggies finally picked up a W Saturday against New Mexico State.
It would be terrible to go through a whole season without a single victory, but thankfully the Aggies still have those other Aggies to kick around. Since 1968, USU has beaten NMSU 24 of 27 times.
As for Guy's future, I don't know if it will make any difference to make a change and start over after this season. The Aggies have shown improvement over last year and I've always thought in football, coaches need four years to get their program going.I still wonder how different the Aggie program might be if it hadn't given up on Dave Arslanian after just two seasons. Although his record wasn't great, he came close to beating both BYU and Utah and both years lost to Boise State in the final minutes.
E-mail: [email protected]