Once a November staple with conference-titlehopes usually on the line, the Utah-BYU game now is a non-league Septembermatchup with little more at stake than Beehive State bragging rights. Thelatest installment of the Deseret First Duel is set for Saturday in Provo asthe Cougars host the Utes.
This will be the fifth straight September game inthe regular-season series – the teams also played in the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl –after a run of 92 straight October, November and December matchups that endedwhen Utah left the Mountain West for the Pac-12 Conference in 2011. “You justplay them as they unfold as your schedule dictates so we don’t have a lot ofcontrol over it right now,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, a BYU graduate, saidat his weekly news conference Monday. “I think given the circumstances with theconference we are in, and the situation with the two schools, I think (thegame) fits best right where we are at. I don’t know how you could play it latein the season.” This will be second game and first road test for Whittingham’sUtes while the Cougars will be playing in their third game – and second homecontest – following a 20-6 win over visiting Portland State and a 27-0neutral-site shutout loss vs. No. 13 LSU last Saturday in New Orleans.
TV: 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2. LINE: BYU -1
ABOUT UTAH (1-0): Sophomore quarterback TylerHuntley made his first career start in the Utes’ Aug. 31 opener and wasintercepted on his third pass of the game but impressively righted the ship tothrow for 227 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 70 yards and two morescores in a 37-16 win over North Dakota of the FCS. “What you saw after thosefirst couple series is what he’s all about,” Whittingham told the media. “He’sgoing to get better and better as the season wears on and as he gets morecomfortable and settled in.” Huntley also has plenty of help in running backZack Moss (22 carries-128 yards-TD vs. North Dakota) and wide receiver/Oregontransfer Darren Carrington (10 receptions-127 yards-1 TD) and a defense which limitedthe Fighting Hawks to 55 yards on 28 rushing attempts.
ABOUT BYU (1-1): The Cougars enter the contestwith offensive concerns after being limited to 97 total yards and six firstdowns by the host Tigers. Quarterback Tanner Mangum has yet to get untracked at28-of-51 for 296 yards, one TD and one interception so far while Squally Canadaand the BYU rushing attack have similarly been bottled up with 166 yards on 49attempts in the two games. Defensively, linebacker Fred Warner has totaled 18tackles so far for a unit which has been much stouter against the pass (159.5yards allowed per game) than the run (190 yards) so far.
1. Utah has won six straight and 11 of the last15 games in the series after thwarting a BYU two-point conversion with 18seconds remaining in last season’s 20-19 home win.
2. The Utes are looking for their firstseven-game win streak in the series since 1957.
3. BYU DB Micah Hannemann will miss the firsthalf Saturday after getting ejected for targeting vs. LSU.
PREDICTION: Utah 24, BYU 20