This is the 94th meeting between Utah and BYU but the Beehive State rivalry just doesn’t have the intensity it once did. For years, BYU was the dominant force in Intermountain West football but they were long ago passed up for that distinction by Boise State and Utah. It’s tough to say where BYU stands in the football hierarchy of the region these days. They always field a competitive team and Kalani Sitake has done a nice job in his four years at the helm. Maybe they realize that times have changed and maybe they don’t want to play the game at the highest level of college football.
At any rate, the University of Utah will make the short trip down I-15 to LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo to take on BYU this Thursday night. At one juncture, handicapping this matchup was simple: bet the road team. Over the past decade, however, it’s been all Utah. It’s hard to discern whether this is simply a function of Utah’s maturation as a Pac 12 entrant and the resulting higher level of talent that they attract to the program. Last year, BYU led 20-0 at halftime in Salt Lake City only to be outscored 35-7 in the second half losing outright but covering as a +10.5 point underdog. The last time the teams played in Provo the Utes earned a workmanlike 19-13 win and narrow cover as a -5 point favorite.
Early line movement has been to BYU but that could be the technical move of taking the key number of 7 as much as any enthusiasm for the Cougars. Utah has now won eight straight in the series and have covered 5 of the last 7 meetings including 4 straight in Provo. Utes are currently on a 9-3 SU/10-2 ATS run on the Cougars’ home field. Utah has become a very good road team overall in recent years and enter this matchup on a 13-7-1 ATS run going 6-4-1 in their last 11 as a road favorite. Both teams have tough games on deck–Utah faces a tricky matchup against MAC champs Northern Illinois at home a week from Saturday while BYU travels to Neyland Stadium in Knoxville to play Tennessee.
In most circumstances, BYU is a team that I like to play as an underdog. That’s not the case here. Utah is absolutely loaded this year returning 7 starters each on offense and defense along with quarterback Tyler Huntley and leading rusher Zack Moss. BYU always played good, sound fundamental football but the qualitative gap between the Cougars’ program and the Utes’ program grows wider by the year.