Saturday marks the return of the BYU-Utah rivalry as part of the regular season after a short hiatus. However, the Cougars faced off against the Utes sooner than expected in last year's Las Vegas Bowl, but both BYU and Utah should do their part in making this series last as long as college football is still around.
Why? Because it benefits both teams.
This rivalry game gains all sorts of national attention. While plenty of games are still listed as TBA, only one game on both schedules holds a primetime Saturday spot on a major network. Fox scheduled this game at 5:30 p.m. MDT because it has confidence people across the nation will watch it.
Remember, neither team is ranked at this point. This game doesn't have major bowl, playoff or even conference championship implications as of right now. Both the Cougars and Utes have bigger names on their respective schedules, including Michigan State and UCLA for BYU and Washington and Oregon for Utah.
Despite all that, this game is getting national attention in a primetime slot. Why would either team give that up?
And it's not just the TV networks giving this game special attention. National outlets like Athlon Sports, CBS Sports and ESPN have written about the BYU vs Utah game. Stewart Mandel of Fox even went so far as to say, "I honestly believe this has become the sport’s nastiest rivalry outside of Alabama-Auburn."
That's a huge statement, given rivalries like Ohio State-Michigan, Florida-Georgia and Texas-Oklahoma weren't mentioned.
Some fans on social media have claimed that playing this game only benefits BYU as Utah is in a Power 5 conference. The truth is both teams benefit from the kind of national attention this game gets. What player doesn't want to be part of a great rivalry and bask in the national attention?
Perhaps Utah should look at fellow Pac-12 member Colorado. The Buffaloes have been a member of a Power 5 conference for much longer than the Utes and they haven't seen any reason to stop their series with Colorado State of the Mountain West. That's because both teams recognize the value of keeping such a longstanding tradition going.
College football, after all, is all about the pageantry. Strip away the pageantry and traditions that make college football unique and all you have is a glorified semi-pro league where the players don't even get paid. Perhaps schools and conferences should think carefully about that before they place those traditions in jeopardy.
Do fans, players and even coaches get carried away sometimes? Sure. We're all human. Emotions run high during rivalry games. Perhaps we should all take a long hard look in the mirror before we jump to criticize the other side.
Plus, there seems to be a much-needed change in tone coming to the rivalry with the hiring of Kalani Sitake at BYU. Sitake made all sorts of respectful comments about his former team and head coach Kyle Whittingham, and Whittingham and a few Ute players made respectful comments as well.
That isn't to say both teams don't want to utterly dominate the other come Saturday. There will be plenty of emotion on the field and in the stands. That said, this rivalry appears to be heading back to the days of LaVell Edwards and Ron McBride, and that is a welcome change.
Like many others here in Utah, I have a good friend who is a fan on the other side of the rivalry. We have frequent chats about the rivalry and exchange our share of smack talk. We have a lot of fun, and frankly the rivalry has brought us closer together rather than driven us apart. It's been good fun, and I hope to have plenty more of it for years to come.
Too many good rivalries have been lost due to college football realignment and plain old shortsightedness. I mourn that Thanksgiving no longer features Texas vs. Texas A&M, or that Nebraska no longer plays Oklahoma every year. BYU and Utah shouldn't let their nationally respected rivalry become yet another casualty.
Lafe Peavler is a sports strategist for the Deseret News and KSL.com. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.