Editor's note: This originally appeared as a post on Cougarboard.com, but I liked it so much that I wanted to put it on the blog. My thanks to my brother Andy who has helped me shape this opinion.
I am one of those rare Cougar fans who can admit that Utah has passed BYU in football prominence. They've left us in the dust, in fact, and now we're playing catch up.
As it stands right now, January 30, 2009, Utah is the best football program in the state. We ask ourselves "Why is Utah winning the in-state recruiting war?" "Why is Utah able to pull guys right out of our own backyard?" The answer is simple: They have a better program.
Not only that, but Utah knows how to beat its rival, which helps establish that in-state dominance. They play BYU competitively every year, even when we clearly have the better team. In fact, they play us so competitively that our best teams can only barely beat them, while their best teams clobber us mercilessly.
This has to do with the current philosophy at BYU. The "One game at a time" theory of treating each game on the schedule as the biggest game of the year.
I'm not going to say we haven't been successful with that philosophy because we clearly have. It's gotten us all the way to Vegas... four years in a row.
I am saying, though, that in order to make the jump into greatness we need to put our foot down and establish ourselves as THE premier football program in the state of Utah. This isn't a two-pony show any more; we need to be the only big-time football school in the state and every in-state recruit should jump at the chance of playing at BYU. BYU should make other schools in the state look like IUPUI.
How do we do this? We beat our freaking rival every single year. We not only beat them, we destroy them. We demoralize them. We beat them by 4 TDs. Every year. We put their helmets on our tackling dummies and we circle that game on our calendars. Our coaches drill it in our minds that we do not lose to our dang rival. Ever. That's where it starts.
Say what you will about Urban Meyer, but he understood this concept. He understood the importance--as it pertains to team morale, team unity, recruiting and myriad other components of a successful team--of soundly beating your rival.
I'll tell you another coach who understands this philosophy: Jim Tressel. Right now he has Michigan thinking they will never beat the Buckeyes ever again. Ohio State is the power of the Big Ten and the owner of the "biggest rivalry in the country." Think that has an effect on recruiting? That man knows the importance of rivalries, and the dividends success in those rivalries will pay.
To sum up: Beating Utah should be the focus of every BYU football season.
That way when kids like LT Filiaga commit to the Utes we can smile, shake their hands and say "I guess we'll be beating your yewt up and down the field in November, then."
Great programs don't start with "The Quest to become bowl eligible." They start by beating their rivals every year.