Bronco Mendenhall believes that after only two games, without any common opponents, properly assessing his BYU team or Utah is impossible for anyone.
Yeah, like I really needed to watch TCU crush both teams again this season to have a basis of comparison.
Trust me, more important judgments have been made with far less evidence. I have my methods. Starting with BYU as the oddsmakers' four-point favorite, I'll add and subtract points for the Cougars, based on my 10-factor analysis:
Home-field advantage (3) • Remarkably, it means something again. From 1992 to 2006, the road team went 11-4. The home team has won the past four games.
Norm Chow (-2) • The Utah offensive coordinator's influence is easy to overstate, but has some value. In his two return visits to LaVell Edwards Stadium as an opposing coach, the former BYU assistant won 42-10 with USC in '04 and lost 59-0 with UCLA in '08. Saturday? Somewhere in between.
Paranoia (-2) • Mendenhall closed practices and subjected only himself and four co-captains to interviews, basically shielding offensive coordinator Brandon Doman and quarterback Jake Heaps from a bunch of questions. Utah's Kyle Whittingham treated the buildup like any other week, maintaining the usual level of media access not even completely closing practices, as in past Utah-BYU weeks.
Pranks (1) • In recent years, the biggest prankster at Lendio headquarters in South Jordan has cheered for the losing team. The CEO's office was painted red in '09; he responded by turning a Ute fan's Jaguar into a BYU shrine last November. This year, after a strip of grass in the office was designed like BYU's field, Ute fans unleashed several goats on it.
Quarterbacks (1) • After spending all summer trashing the opposing QB, fans of each school probably would like to trade for the other guy. Funny, how Heaps has too much belief in his arm and Jordan Wynn can't trust his arm. Heaps still has my edge, slightly.
Defenses (-1) • Utah ranks 45th in total defense to BYU's 22nd, but the Utes were resilient against a good USC offense, which produced only 17 points. BYU could not run against Utah last season, so what's changed?
BYU's Football Fan Playbook (-4) • The video instructing BYU fans how to show support is both well intended and subject to mockery. The strangest part is the singing of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin', " which apparently will accompany highlights on the stadium video board. That's a ripoff of the Ute band's signature song during the Sugar Bowl season. And if BYU students sing the line, "For a smile they can share the night," that's a potential honor code violation.
Opponents' results (1) • Mendenhall is right in pointing out that unlike previous seasons, these teams have not played seven (or more) common opponents before meeting. BYU still gets a point here because the Utes lost to USC by a bigger margin than Minnesota did, and then the Gophers lost to New Mexico State.
Beehive Boot (1) • Mendenhall consciously mentioned the trophy awarded to the school that performs best in in-state games. That incentive is worth something, even if current holder Utah State will have the last say this month.
Fiction (-1) • In Confessions of a College Football Rules Violator, a book written as fiction but based on an insider's experiences, Plainfield Teachers College annually meets BYU and Utah, going 2-3 against each school. Utah's 24-0 victory over PTC is by far the most decisive result.
Take it all into consideration, both faction and fiction, and everything points to another close game: BYU 17, Utah 16. But if the final score is clarified two hours afterward, as in the Utah-USC game, controversy will ensue because by then, it will be Sunday.