TribUte newsletter: Finally, it’s time for Utah vs. BYU

Utah and BYU will play each other in football for the 101st time on Saturday evening in Provo

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Utah bench celebrates as Ute defensive back Jaylon Johnson (7) intercepts a pass intended for Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Talon Shumway (21), in football action BYU vs Utah, at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Saturday, September 9, 2017.

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The University of Utah vs. BYU.

That’s a thing around here, right?

The two largest, highest-profile athletic departments in the state squaring off each fall. Houses divided for a week, friends ignoring each other, alums from both schools each puffing their chests out a little more this week, social media fandom ratcheting up several notches, bragging rights until next year.

Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium is a big deal, right? Primetime slot on Big ESPN? Huge, yes?

I ask all of this, partially tongue-in-cheek, because while I have been told about Utah-BYU since I showed up here almost two years ago, thanks to the timing of my arrival and then the COVID-19 pandemic, I have yet to experience it for myself. That will change Saturday night, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

This is work for me, and there’s a lot to do Saturday, but I’m not quite jaded enough yet that I won’t try to soak it in a little. I’m big on rivalries, and I’ve been told this is a significant one. I plan to get there early, I plan to take a lap around the perimeter of LES, I’m hoping to get a vibe from the scene around Provo.

That’s what I’m going to do, and you didn’t ask for my advice, but I think you should all do that, too.

It’s been a long 18 months and while things are not back to full normalcy, things are normal enough where we are going to get a full 12-game schedule, and that means we’re getting Utah-BYU.

Enjoy it, smile, don’t be angry, be happy that this game is back on, but please, do be smart about it. Being smart about it should be a thing, too, right?

What’s on my mind, Utah or otherwise

• If you’re reading this before noon today, I have good news. At noon today (Friday, Sept. 10.) BYU beat reporter Norma Gonzalez, Tribune columnist Gordon Monson and I will be conducting a Zoom event with Trib readers. We’ll discuss Utah-BYU for about an hour, taking your questions in the process. Register here, or we’re no longer friends.

• You don’t make sweeping proclamations after one game is played, especially after that one game is against an FCS team. I still think Utah is good, has the dudes, and is capable of something significant this fall if everyone remains healthy. A small handful of meh moments against Weber State? Absolutely, but there’s no need to get worked up over that unless those meh moments show themselves again at BYU.

• In the “don’t make sweeping proclamations” category, please excuse me if I don’t automatically add UCLA to the list of Pac-12 South contenders. The Bruins have blown out Hawaii and overwhelmed an LSU team that might not be as good as we all thought. Not that the win over the Tigers last weekend wasn’t a good one, because it was, but Oct. 2 vs. Arizona State at The Rose Bowl feels like a good litmus test, and a spot where we might learn something.

• Saturday is a huge day for the Pac-12. No. 12 Oregon at No. 3 Ohio State, Washington at Michigan, and Colorado vs. No. 5 Texas A&M, a pseudo-home game in Denver. Oregon-Ohio State, a 10 a.m. kickoff on Big FOX, has College Football Playoff implications, not to mention Pac-12 perception implications. UW-Michigan had a lot of cold water thrown on it after the Huskies lost at home to Montana and, oh, ABC is stuck with that game in primetime now. Anyway, Saturday is a huge, very big day for the West Coast.

• For a variety of reasons, I have never thought Mark Pope would be at BYU for the long haul. Maybe that changes now with the Cougars exiting the West Coast Conference and heading for the Big 12.

Your questions

Q: “What was your honest opinion of the [BYU-Utah game] before you came to Utah? Has it changed?” -- @mr_chainsaw_

A: I’m glad you asked for my honest opinion, because I had every intention of lying.

I knew Utah and BYU were rivals, but I had no opinion, and as far as the football end of the rivalry goes, I still don’t. Outside of normal fan shenanigans on social media and the message boards, this week has felt pretty normal, pretty tame, like most any other game week, which by general rivalry standards, has been pretty dull.

I know there’s more history there than that.

For better or worse, Saturday night is going to shape my opinion of this rivalry.

Q: “What’s a bigger rivalry: BYU-Utah or Rutgers-Seton Hall?” -- @AdamZagoria

A: Much different deals.

For starters, Seton Hall doesn’t play football, so automatically, BYU-Utah will get more play nationally and be a bigger deal in any given year.

Rutgers-Seton Hall is a New York/New Jersey metropolitan area thing, it’s centered around basketball, so it’s a little niche.

I’ll say this, though. Rutgers-Seton Hall has had a lot of infamous, insane moments through the years, and not all of it is directly connected to the actual basketball. I miss Rutgers-Seton Hall.

Q: Have you been to The Bayou? Your thoughts on Cajun food in SLC? Best beer joint in SLC: Beer Bar, BeerHive or Bayou?

A: I have not been to The Bayou, but of the 4,000 times I’ve driven by it, 2,000 of them have included me thinking, “I bet that place is good.”

Beerhive is directly in my wheelhouse. A little dark, some good Irish vibes, a long bar, and an outstanding draft list.

If we ever get beyond this thing and I’m frequenting indoor seating again on a regular basis, Beerhive is one place you’re likely to catch me during off-duty hours.

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