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Scott D. Pierce: Could TV repair the BYU-Utah football rivalry?
Sports on TV » ESPN’s Joe Tessitore thinks it will help — and he thinks BYU-WSU game could be a barnburner.
First Published Aug 28 2012 11:56 am • Last Updated Nov 30 2012 11:34 pm

Joe Tessitore is a rising star at ESPN. The primary host of "College Football Live," he’ll be doing play-by-play for big Saturday-night games this season on the worldwide leader in sports.

A college football junkie who is "consumed" by the sport, Tessitore will be in Provo on Thursday night (8:15 p.m., ESPN) to call the BYU-Washington State game. And he’s "thrilled" at the prospect. But, without even being asked, he lamented the games that won’t be played in 2014 and 2015.

At a glance

Still no satellite TV deals

With the Pac-12 Network about to telecast its first football games, here’s what we know about the deals with DirecTV and Dish Network — there aren’t any.

According to P12N, they’re still talking with both satellite TV providers. But no deals have been done.

Unofficially, there’s still hope that DirecTV might agree to carry at least the national Pac-12 Network, if not the six regional networks. (And all live football coverage will be on the national feed.)

Hope remains that an agreement might be signed before Thursday evening, when Utah hosts Northern Colorado at 5:15 p.m. and Arizona State hosts Northern Arizona at 8:30 p.m. Whether it can be signed in time to get those games on DirecTV is the big question.

And, unofficially, an agreement with Dish is not expected before Thursday’s games.

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"Taking two years off with your biggest rival is a huge turnoff," he said, pointing to the impending hiatus in the BYU-Utah series. (The two teams are scheduled to play in 2012, 2013 and 2016.)

"I can’t imagine that when 2017 comes around, everybody can’t be on the same page here, understanding the greater good for the community, the state and college football," Tessitore said. "That is too significant a rivalry to just wave goodbye to it.

"I’d like to believe that a lot of smart people that have greater interests in mind, including television, would see that through."

It is, in part, the same reason he believes independence can work for BYU, because "with the help of ESPN, BYU can put together an attractive television schedule with good opponents." Including, maybe, Utah.

It’s worth pointing out that, moving forward, both BYU and Utah will be working with ESPN to televise games.

This week, all the television drama involving the Utes is off the field. It will be the first football game televised by the Pac-12 Network, and the question of a last-minute deal with (maybe) DirecTV (maybe) is hanging out there.

But the game against Northern Colorado (Thursday, 5:15 p.m., P12N), a Big Sky team coming off a winless season — not so much drama there.

On the other hand, Tessitore thinks the BYU-Washington State matchup has the potential to be a crowd-pleaser. For one thing, there’s the Mike Leach factor — the ex-Texas Tech coach known for high-powered offense who’s returning to the game three seasons after he was fired.

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"I think any time you have Mike Leach, let alone Mike Leach coming off his hiatus, it’s a prime-time game," Tessitore said. "You know you’re getting offense."

He pointed to WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel as "a good athlete who can be dangerous." And he praised receiver Marquess Wilson as a guy who, "if he was playing at USC, Oregon, LSU or Alabama, he’s a household name. Wait till you see this guy on Thursday night."

But he also praised BYU’s offense and said it will "have a great advantage in both the run game and pass protection."

"So I see this being a game in which the BYU offense can have it their way. They can have long, sustained drives. They can have continued success. But the BYU defense is going to be in for a real challenge."

In other words, Tessitore thinks both teams could move up and down the field. Which makes for great TV.

"The Washington State defense concerns me. It really does," Tessitore said. "But I think that Washington State offense is going to make this one of those games that people stay up until 1:30 in the morning on the East Coast saying, ‘I can’t turn it off.’

"This could be old-school WAC. This could be taking us back to the LaVell Edwards days."

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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