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In seven of the first eight years since joining the Pac-12, Utah opened the football season against a Big Sky Conference opponent. It would have happened again in 2019, but the first weekend of the year became the Utes’ only opportunity to meet BYU.

The Utes originally scheduled Idaho State for the Aug. 29 opener, according to a contract The Salt Lake Tribune obtained via an open records request. That contract was signed in 2014. A year later, as BYU and Utah negotiated an extension of the rivalry, ISU agreed to move the game to Sept. 14.

Utah had scheduled Northern Illinois on Sept. 7 and BYU was booked with USC on Sept. 14, so Labor Day Weekend was the only potential slot for the rivalry game. Utah is paying ISU $550,000 to visit Rice-Eccles Stadium next month.

It has been a busy week leading up to the season opener. Ute receiver Britain Covey shared some insights into his teammates, having been influenced by former Utes to extend himself.

Senior quarterbacks at Utah and other schools in the state haven’t lived up to expectations in this decade. Tyler Huntley could become the exception.

Our annual college football section focused on how the rivalry game’s date makes this season historic. Tribune columnist Gordon Monson likes having the game as a season opener, as will happen again in 2020.

Ute linebacker Francis Bernard was a logical subject for rivalry week, having played at BYU and taken on a big role at Utah this season. His story goes well beyond football. Here’s my look at what his fiancee and son endured during the past year, with great photos from The Tribune’s Trent Nelson.

With the Utes and Cougars having met in the last regular-season game of 2018, lessons from November apply to Thursday’s game. And after a lot of questions this month, coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday that Ute stars Zack Moss and Covey will be available.

ESPN’s Lee Corso created quite a stir with his forecast of where the Utes will be playing in January.

There’s a lot of pressure on the No. 14 Utes, but it hasn’t reached the level of 2004, as former Utah coach Urban Meyer’s recent visit to the campus reminded me.

And here’s our preview package for game day, with an overview of what’s at stake, key elements to watch Thursday night and Monson’s analysis of where the game will be won and lost.

When the football game ends, a a big week in Utah Athletics will be just getting started. Here’s a preview of a promising season in women’s volleyball, beginning Friday and Saturday with the Utah Classic at the Huntsman Center.

Other voices

Christopher Kamrani of The Athletic profiled Covey’s history of growing up as a BYU fan in Provo (ATH).

Pac-12 expert Jon Wilner makes his bowl projections (MERC).

Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News explains how the schools disagree about when the rivalry began.

Around Campus

• At roughly the same time as the Ute volleyball team meets No. 7 Kentucky at the Huntsman Center on Friday night, Utah’s soccer team will christen the new Ute Field on campus, west of the Dumke Family Softball Stadium.

• Here’s a good guide from the school about parking and seating information at the venue, where Utah’s lacrosse team also will play.

• The Utes will host Utah State (7 p.m.), after opening the season last week with losses of 2-0 at Clemson and 3-0 at Alabama. Utah will play Cal Poly at 1 p.m. Sunday.

• Former Ute skier Julie Mohagen and tennis player Dan Little have been named Pac-12 Post-Graduate Scholarship recipients, worth $9,000. Mohagen is pursing a master’s degree in finance at Utah. Little, a native of England, is attending the University of Nottingham.