Sometimes I don’t think I’ve given enough respect to the Utah football team. Before the season began I thought they’d lose four, maybe five games this year. Even when they continued to win, I still didn’t think they were as good as advertised.
The truth is, and it's hard for me to admit this, they’re a very good team. The fans are all low-class losers, but the Utah football team is very good. As evidenced by their undefeated season.
The Utes have speed and toughness on defense, and while their offense hasn’t been overly impressive, they always seem to make the big plays when they need to.
BYU is a 7-point underdog to the Utes. I think that’s about right. Vegas has every reason to make Utah the favorites and BYU the underdogs.
If we’re going to win this game, BYU needs to make sure to play their best game of the season on both sides of the ball. Here are my keys to the game.
1. A fast start. If there’s one thing I remember from Rice-Eccles in 2006, it’s the crazy loudness that comes with the rivalry game. Utah fan is going to be bouncing off the walls, and the sea of red will be pulsing with fury. BYU desperately needs to take the crowd out of the game early with two quick scores in the first quarter. If we take a 14-0 lead into the second quarter I like BYU’s chances a lot.
2. A long field. For Utah, that is. BYU’s defense is designed to give up yards—not points. The more distance we can put between Utah and the goal line, the better. Utah won’t be able to sustain long 80-yard drives all game, and I would rather trade field goals for touchdowns. BYU needs to kick the ball out of the endzone, pin the Utes behind their 20 on punts and cover kickoffs with the precision of a KGB marksman.
3. A prime-time blitz package. Air Force taught us a valuable lesson on Saturday, I thought. They, like BYU, run a 3-4 defense and when they rushed the Falcons either brought only three, or six or seven. BYU can’t rush four guys and expect to get pressure on Brian Johnson. We need to blitz with six or seven guys, or drop everyone into coverage. Rushing four is not only ineffective, but it gives us one less defender in the middle of the field. Getting pressure on BJ is key.
4. A protective offense. Want to know the real reason we lost to TCU? Turnovers. Turnovers killed our momentum and gave TCU short fields. We simply cannot give Utah any turnovers this year. Be smart, Max Hall. Hold on to the ball, everyone else.
5. An opportunistic defense. Brian Johnson is going to make mistakes. Our defense needs to capitalize and take the ball away wherever they can.
6. A new scheme and attitude. If I know Utah, they’ll be fired up more for this game than any other. BYU needs to exceed that intensity. They need to play like this is the most important game of their lives. BYU needs extra emotion inside their execution. BYU also needs to employ some new schemes and plays to keep Utah guessing. I’m expecting BYU to throw things at the Utes that we’ve never seen before this season.
If BYU plays the game I’ve described above, we’ll be partying in Provo tomorrow night.
My official prediction? Dreams comes true: BYU 26, Utah 24.