PROVO — Much has changed regarding the BYU vs Utah rivalry game over the years with fans from both sides questioning if the game means as much as it used to. As for BYU coach Kalani Sitake, however, he left little question as to what it means for his side during Monday's press conference.
"We've had this game circled for a long time and everyone asks about this game, whether we're playing week one or in week 11, and now we can talk about it," Sitake said. "You know it's there. You're excited about the game and now it's here. It's time to go. It's the same thing about Christmas...It's something that we've been really, really looking forward to."
This year's rivalry game will be the final game of the regular season for both sides, something that used to happen every year yet hasn't been the case since 2010 which was the year before Utah joined the Pac-12 Conference.
Having the game played the last week of the season means there's no reason to hold anything back, according to Sitake.
"Let's empty the tank. We have nothing to save it for," Sitake said. "We're going to be able to recover after this game for a couple of weeks...really this is all that matters."
With regards to his preference on when to play the rivalry game, Sitake didn't state one.
"Next year it's the first game of the year and we're going to have the same approach," Sitake said. "There's going to be a lot of excitement for it."
FINE WITH NOT BEING FAVORED: BYU goes into Saturday's game against Utah as underdogs with the Las Vegas line opening at Utah being favored by 13.5 points. It's a spot this year's BYU team is not unfamiliar with, having gone into games against Arizona, Washington and Wisconsin with big lines posted against it.
"We're really excited for this challenge," Sitake said. "Not a lot of people are picking us to win and that's okay. I don't mind being in this position, so we'll see what happens."
ACCOUNTING FOR KAUFUSI: BYU defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi was announced as being finished for the season due to injury just prior to last week's 45-10 win over New Mexico State. While the senior's loss likely didn't affect the outcome against the Aggies, this week's game brings a much stiffer challenge.
Kaufusi has been used in a variety of roles this season and has been central in helping defend dynamic rushing-type quarterbacks, much like Utah quarterback Jason Shelley.
"His brother (Devin Kaufusi) is the starter now and we can have others come in and fill that position," Sitake said. "We use a bunch of those guys, but it's been nice having Corbin with all his experience. He's the guy we've kind of groomed into this position, so it's those guys turn to step in and play, and I think they did a good job last week."23 comments on this story
AVOIDING CROUTONS: As has become typical during Monday's press conference, Sitake took time to crack jokes, usually at his own expense. When asked about how the team celebrates Thanksgiving and how players may need to be careful of eating too much just two days prior to Saturday's game, Sitake shrugged it off.
"Have you seen these (players) eat? Thanksgiving is every meal for them, so they can burn all the calories. It doesn't really matter," Sitake quipped. "For us coaches, we have to watch what we eat because we're getting older. I could look at a crouton and gain a pound. I'm at that point now. It's not fair."