The 2011 rivalry game has all the makings to be an ugly one. Not as ugly as the 2003 game. Nothing could be that ugly. And no, it wasn’t the bitter cold and snow that made it an ugly game, thank you very much, Gary C.

This match-up presents a different kind of ugly. The kind that should produce a low-scoring battle, slugged out in the trenches with field position and turnovers setting the table for the few points that will make it on the board.

If being battle-tested means you know how to dig your way out of a foxhole, then I like BYU’s chances in this game.  They’ve had two good weeks beyond preseason camp to get battle-tested on the road against the SEC and the Big 12.

Call it 17-13 in favor of the Cougars, unless …

Bronco Mendenhall

 

Unless either quarterback starts living up to their promise and they are able to see the entire field with laser vision and work it with a golden arm. If that happens – and it won’t happen to both Jordan Wynn and Jake Heaps in the same game – then we could have a rather lop-sided score.

Conventional wisdom says that home field advantage is worth between 3 and 7 points. But there’s nothing conventional about the BYU-Utah rivalry, and you can usually throw home field advantage out the window, even though the home team has won 7 times in the past 10 years.

Home field advantage will make a difference this year. The real home field green looks mighty inviting to the Cougars after playing on the fake stuff in Oxford and Austin.  And 60,000 fans cheering for you in your own crib beats 5,000 drowned out voices on the road on any given Saturday.

The Key to The Game

Don’t worry about the defense. Unless the offense keeps misfiring and throwing their buddies back on the field, Bronco’s troops will take care of business on their side the scrimmage line. The key to this game is BYU’s offense. In fact, it’s even more simplistic than that. Brandon Doman and Jake Heaps need to get in sync and show us what we’ve been waiting to see for the past nine months.

They have all the tools they need at their disposal:  a solid, dependable line, a bevy of gifted receivers, and running backs who can chew up yardage if the right plays are called.

The Cougars don’t need any extra motivation to win. What they need is a quarterback who takes command of the field and an offensive coordinator who sees beyond what his QB can’t see, adjusting his play-calling on the fly to exploit what the opponent is giving them.

Former BYU linebacker Kyle Wittingham

 

Of course, there are a lot of variables that can throw this game off-course from what it might be. Momentum changers like turnovers, busted plays, and big gain plays.

But, if Doman and Heaps are in lock-step on Saturday night, look for the BYU offense to get untracked and help engineer a decisive win, 34-17.

# # #

Some numbers to chew on that won’t mean jack after this game …

  • Bronco Mendenhall’s 6-year win-loss record vs. Kyle Whittingham: 3-3
  • BYU enters the game ranked 107th in the nation in Scoring Offense. Utah is ranked 93rd.  (It’s the first time in modern history both programs have been ranked lower than 90th in the nation at the same time).
  • BYU is ranked 76th in Passing Offense and Utah is ranked 95th.
  • BYU is ranked 108th in Total Offense and Utah is 97th.
  • Jake Heaps and Jordan Wynn are not ranked among the top 50 QBs in the nation heading into this game.
  • Heaps is ranked 99th in the nation is Passing Efficiency. Wynn is ranked 93rd.
  • BYU is ranked 29th in Scoring Defense, and Utah is ranked 34th.
  • BYU ranks 38th in Turnover Margin, while Utah is ranked 10th.
  • BYU is ranked 48th in Rushing Defense, and Utah is ranked 46th.
  • BYU is ranked 22nd in Total Defense and Utah is 45th.