When you consider that BYU is owned by the Mormon church, while Utah is a state-funded public school, as well as the proximity (Salt Lake City and Provo are separated by only 45 miles), and just the cultural differences between the two schools, well, it all blends together for some fun, old-fashioned hatred between the fan bases. Even if that hatred is a bit more polite than you might find elsewhere.
This season’s meeting will be the 97th meeting between the schools in football, and the first meeting since the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl. In that game, Utah stormed out to a 35-0 lead in the first quarter, and then held on for its life as BYU spent the last three quarters battling back, but ultimately fell short as the Utes won 35-28.
This time around the folks in Vegas seem to believe the Utes will emerge victorious again, as they’re favored by 3.5 points over the Cougars.
Utah Storyline: We’re still learning about Utah in 2016. The Utes had to replace the biggest parts of their offense in Travis Wilson and Devontae Booker, and in their places are Troy Williams at quarterback, as well as Joseph Williams and Troy McCormick (so many Troys and Williams could get confusing) at running back. All played well enough in their starting debuts last week, as Utah beat Southern Utah 24-0, but the key part of that sentence is Utah played Southern Utah.
You never want to read too much into anything you see on opening weekend, particularly when it comes against Southern Utah.
So while the Utes defense posting a shutout is a nice sign, the offense only managing 24 points is somewhat troubling. This game against BYU will give us all a better idea of how capable the Utes are of replacing so much lost production.
BYU Storyline: BYU had a much more difficult test in Week 1 than Utah, holding on to beat Arizona 18-16 thanks to a 33-yard field goal from freshman kicker Jake Oldroyd with four seconds left. Whereas Utah enters the game with relatively unknown quantities at quarterback and running back, that’s not the case for the Cougars.
Taysom Hill is back for another year leading the offense, and he has a fantastic backfield partner in running back Jamaal Williams. The duo combined for 401 total yards in last week’s win, and odds are they’ll both be the focal point of BYU’s attack on Saturday night as well.
Not that it really needs the extra motivation, but BYU is also looking to put an end to its losing streak to Utah. The Cougars have lost the last five meetings with the Utes, and six of the last seven, with their last win being a 26-23 overtime win in Provo in 2009.
Game Pick: BYU +3.5. It’s hard to get a solid read on this game going either way, as both teams are evenly-matched. The reason I’m taking the points with BYU is, when it comes to rivalry games featuring teams on the same level, I typically lean toward the underdog. Add in the familiarity with Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams on the BYU offense, and I just trust the Cougars more right now.
For full Week 2 picks against the spread, check out our Expert Picks page.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / BYU at Utah line, game pick: The newest chapter of The Holy War