Eye On The Y: Cougars will need a near flawless effort to knock off heavily favored Utes

Leah Hogsten | BYU defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi sustained a season-ending injury and won't play in the rivalry game at Utah on Saturday, a serious blow to the Cougars' hopes of upsetting the Utes

Eye On The Y is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly letter on BYU athletics. Subscribe here.

Provo • As The Salt Lake Tribune’s BYU football beat writer the past 11 seasons, I get three or four requests a year from fellow beat writers who cover the teams BYU is facing that particular week to answer a few questions about the Cougars.

Almost all of the inquiries end with a request for a game prediction. I usually decline.

I learned years ago that predicting how the team I cover will do is a losing proposition. If you pick them to win, you’re a homer. If you pick them to lose, you’re a hater.

Naturally, a lot of people have asked if the Cougars have a chance to knock off the heavily favored Utes on Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Utes started the week as 13.5-point favorites and were 11.5-point favorites the last time I checked.

Utah hasn’t been favored over BYU by that many points since 2004, its undefeated season, when it was an 18-point favorite and took a 52-21 win at Rice-Eccles.

The Cougars will have to play almost flawlessly to win at a venue they haven’t won at since 2006. Moving the ball on the Utah defense will be difficult for true freshman quarterback Zach Wilson and a relatively young offense that still lacks playmakers.

Also, BYU’s upset hopes suffered a major blow last week when star defensive end Corbin Kaufusi missed the New Mexico State game with a foot injury. Is Kaufusi’s college football career over?

Maybe not. Word out of Provo is that the senior might try to play Saturday against the Utes.

Coaches would like to use Kaufusi the same way they used him in wins over Arizona and Hawaii — as a middle linebacker, spy-type player to disrupt Utah’s ultra-mobile redshirt freshman quarterback, Jason Shelley.

No other player on the roster is capable of filling that role, not even Corbin’s younger brother, Devin Kaufusi.

But I’m not predicting anything.

Stories from the past week

• One of the more interesting rivalry week stories I’ve done over the years: How the Wilson family of Draper switched from red to blue. Trib

• BYU and Utah are scheduled to meet through the 2022 college football season. Will the contract be extended beyond that? It’s complicated. Trib

• I asked BYU passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick, who was not retained two years ago after 12 years at the University of Utah, if Saturday’s game is personal for him. Trib

• The Tribune’s Chris Kamrani checked in with a BYU fan who works at the University of Utah and a Utah fan who attends law school at BYU. What’s that like? Trib

• Rice before Thanksgiving? BYU’s men’s basketball team blew out the Owls Wednesday night at the Marriott Center. Here’s how they did it. Trib

• My colleague Kurt Kragthorpe took a stab at where BYU and Utah could go bowling after Saturday’s rivalry game. Trib

• New Mexico State provided very little resistance, and BYU became bowl eligible last Saturday at chilly LaVell Edwards Stadium. Trib

Other voices

• Longtime Deseret News columnist Dick Harmon remembers the time BYU put 70 points — yes, 70 points — on the Utes. The Cougars probably could have scored a lot more. DNews

• Lots of BYU and Utah players were teammates in high school. The Provo Daily Herald spotlights some of those friendships. Herald

• BYU players and coaches spoke Monday and Tuesday about how important the rivalry game is to them every year. Here’s one man’s opinion that the Utes don’t really like it. KSL


As mentioned above, BYU is nearly a two-touchdown underdog in the rivalry game. The Cougars were also double-digit underdogs against Arizona, Washington and Wisconsin this season and somehow defeated the Wildcats and Badgers, while losing 35-7 at UW.

“We are really excited for this challenge,” coach Kalani Sitake said. “Not a lot of people are picking us to win. That’s OK. I don’t mind being in this position. We will see what happens.”

Around campus

• BYU’s women’s basketball team trailed Utah State most of the way Tuesday in Logan, but rallied at the end to force overtime and then took a 62-57 win over the Aggies. It was sweet revenge for the Cougars, who fell at home to USU last year. Freshman guard Shaylee Gonzales scored a career-high 20 points in the victory as the Cougars improved to 3-1.

• It has to go down as one of the most devastating losses in program history. BYU’s women’s volleyball team, playing its third-straight road game in six days, fell 3-0 at Loyola Marymount on Tuesday night, its first loss of the entire season.

The loss quite likely will cost BYU a No. 1 seed when the NCAA Tournament selections are announced Sunday. The Cougars fell to 27-1, 17-1 in WCC play, but still won their fifth-straight WCC title the previous week.

Of course, the Cougars are playing without arguably their second-best player, outside hitter McKenna Miller, who sustained a season-ending ACL injury two weeks ago.

• BYU’s men’s cross country placed second and its women’s team placed seventh at the NCAA National Championships last Saturday in Madison, Wis.

Six BYU athletes earned All-America status: Conner Mantz, Rory Linkletter, Connor McMillan and Clayson Shumway on the men’s side and Erica Birk-Jarvis and Courtney Wayment on the women’s side.