BYU v. #22 Utah
Sam Boyd Stadium — Las Vegas, NV
December 19, 2015 — 3:30 pm Eastern (ABC)
Why You Should Watch
Did you already watch the New Mexico Bowl? It seems like you might as well keep the momentum going, especially since this will be the first bowl game of the season featuring a CFP Top 25 team. The two teams with the most Las Vegas Bowl appearances will battle, and one will leave Sam Boyd Stadium as the first four-time winner of a bowl game that seems young — but which will celebrate a quarter-century of operation in 2016. This contest also provides an opportunity to see a dormant rivalry revived, if only for one season. For the first time since the rivalry began in 1896, BYU and Utah will reprise the Holy War outside the Beehive State borders when they square off at Sam Boyd Stadium in Sin City.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
After several years of being a run-heavy team, BYU seemed to revert back to their LaVell Edwards-style offensive legacy and aired the ball out throughout the year. It came largely due to the second straight season losing Taysom Hill at quarterback, with freshman Tanner Mangum stepping in behind center and leading the Cougars to nine wins in 2015. Their only big loss came against Michigan, a 31-0 blowout in the Big House; their other two losses came by one at UCLA and by four at Missouri. One of the biggest things working in BYU’s favor is the fact that they were among the best teams in the country in the red zone, both scoring when on offense and keeping opponents from scoring when on defense. Despite the loss of head coach Bronco Mendenhall to the Virginia job, there will be plenty of motivation to get to 10 wins.
Utah looked for a while this season to be the best team in the Pac-12. The Utes steamrolled through the first half of their schedule, knocking off Michigan in Jim Harbaugh’s coaching debut for the Wolverines and overpowering Oregon at Autzen Stadium. Even after losing to USC on October 24, Kyle Whittingham’s crew remained in the hunt for the Pac-12 South crown. Then their workhorse tailback, Devontae Booker, tore his meniscus against Arizona, and the Utes fell in quick succession to Arizona and UCLA to fall out of playoff contention and cede the division to the Trojans. After falling short in building their Pac-12 future in 2015, Utah will have to settle for reprising a key facet of their past in Las Vegas. For the Utes, everything depends on how well their secondary (the weakest part of their defense) matches up against BYU’s revamped passing game.
What is Likely to Happen
Fans of Utah like to assert that they couldn’t care less about BYU, ranting incessantly at any suggestion that the Cougars are still a rival. When another team can inspire such invective, though, they are most obviously still a rival that occupies the fanatic’s mind. In this one, expect a hard-hitting affair as the teams exhibit contrasting styles at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Utes and Cougars are both adept at protecting the football, forcing turnovers, and keeping opposing point totals low. In the reflected glow of the Strip’s neon signage, the two Utah teams will likely play a close contest that will come down to late mistakes. Even without Booker, Travis Wilson and the Utes offense will test BYU’s rushing defense, while Mangum and the Cougars will attack Utah’s secondary with regularity. Look for a couple of long touchdowns, a tight scoreboard, and a late turnover sealing the deal.
Utah 31, BYU 28
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