BYU hasn’t beaten Utah in football since 2009. Can the Cougars break their losing streak this year?

BYU hasn’t lost a home game since the 2019 season.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham greets Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake after Utah defeated BYU, 35-27, in football action between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Utah Utes, at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Saturday, November 24, 2018.

Twelve years.

That’s how long it’s been since BYU last beat Utah.

After not facing each other on the gridiron last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cougars and the Utes are back on the schedule, with BYU hosting No. 24 Utah on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake said during Monday’s news conference that the team is not only looking to learn and improve from last week’s game, but is looking forward to facing a ranked opponent at home.

“I’m looking forward to the game and I know the players are, too,” Sitake said. “We didn’t get the game last year, so we’re excited. Our guys know there is a lot of work to be done the next few days so we can perform at our best against Utah.”

Is this the year the Cougars snap their nine-game losing streak?

While that will be seen, there’s an argument to be made that this is the best BYU group to face Utah over the past few years. Therefore, this is the best chance BYU has to win.

College football fans all over the country already saw their fair share of upsets in Week 1 games. That included a few of the opponents BYU faced last season (Western Kentucky, Troy, UTSA), who people considered cupcakes in the Cougars’ on-the-fly, mended schedule.

“I heard a lot about our weak schedule [last year] and those teams seemed to do pretty good over the last weekend,” Sitake said. “College football, that’s why it’s fun to watch, because you never know [what will happen].”

For some of the younger guys, this will be their first time playing in the in-state rivalry game. But the majority of the team has played against the Utes, with some of them having two or three games’ worth of experience against Utah.

“I’d say the biggest thing that changes is just the hype leading up to the game,” offensive lineman James Empey said. “There’s lots of hype being the rivalry game. A lot of times you’re playing against somebody you’ve grown up around or a local team you’ve been around a lot. Once the ball snaps, it’s a football game and you’re going to work and just trying to get your work done the best you can. I’m super excited about this week and ready to go.”

Obviously, the losing streak started well before any of the BYU players had even joined the program. In fact, it started while Sitake was the Utes’ defensive coordinator.

But the former Utah assistant coach said the team isn’t focused on the past. The Cougars will use the past to learn and adapt, but are focused on the present and how that prepares them for the future.

“Obviously, there’s things that you can carry over in games, that allow you to be in a position to have more success to win the game — we’re going to try to do all that,” Sitake said. “I don’t think you can sit there and hide things from the players. They obviously know that there’s a streak going on. So you address it and then you give them the challenge of going out there and trying to find a way to break it. We’re not going to hide it or shy away from any of that stuff.”

So, don’t expect BYU to shy away from Saturday’s rivalry game either.

The Cougars are entering the matchup on a three-game win streak dating back to last December and have won the last 10 home games in Provo.

Which streak (or streaks) will be broken?

“It’s definitely one of the most anticipated games each season,” freshman Tyler Batty said. “It’s intense, it’s exciting, it’s pretty much everything you could want in a football game.”

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