All week long we’ve broken this thing down, torn it apart and put it back together again, tossed it in the air like dough-spinners at Luigi’s Pizza.
We’ve said, on the one hand, Travis Wilson has to be effective throwing against BYU’s secondary, that Utah’s offensive line must keep Kyle Van Noy and Alani Fua out of Wilson’s mug, that Kalani Sitake’s defense has to contain Taysom Hill, and, on the other, Hill must pass the ball accurately enough to punish Utah for stacking the box, that Jamaal Williams has to run like he usually does, that BYU’s defense must pressure Wilson, but not allow him to get loose.
We’ve all said line play on both sides of the ball will be big, turnovers will be bigger.
Blah, blah, blah …
The key factor, though, in who will win the Last Rivalry Game Before the Two-Year Drought is something else entirely.
If nailing this pick of a winner came down to personnel and strategy and coaching, it’d be tough. The sample sizes are small, the guesswork large. If we went solely off of that, I’d want to go back and lean on the Kiu Formula. Kiu is my German Shepherd who helped me successfully pick the Green Bay Packers as Super Bowl champions a few years ago by selecting to eat from one of a few dog bowls provided, the one with the Packers’ logo on it. Kiu died last week, and I don’t want to think about it.
But … I don’t have to.
And here’s why: With so many factors being so close on both sides, the outcome of this game is going to be determined by non-tangible things, emotional things, things that many technical types might think are incapable of intruding onto the playing field. Things like … oh, I dunno … the effects of a three-year losing skid, and the fact that the Utes have essentially snubbed the Cougars by refusing to play them over the next couple of seasons, implying their priorities have changed. That last one’s a dangerous jab into the face of a century-old rival.
Load on top of that stupid stuff, non-X-and-O’s stuff such as baptismal videos and Utah fans ratting out a BYU starting linebacker — a star senior defender beloved by his teammates — for having participated in activities at a Vegas club that are outside the parameters of the school’s Honor Code. Stuff like the Ute fans suddenly doing the SEC thing and becoming their brother’s keeper.
Man for man, BYU may not be as athletically talented as Utah, but anyone who doesn’t think the Cougars are going to be out-of-their-minds up for this game doesn’t understand the psyche of young football players or the role that kind of motivation can play in the outcome of a big game.
On account of that notable stupid stuff, BYU wins, 27-23
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.