The Utah-BYU rivalry took yet another nasty turn this month when Utah announced it would not play BYU in 2014 and 2015, but would resume in 2016.
In other words, the rivalry as we know it is apparently over. But with the Pac-12/Big Ten alliance collapsing, that leaves more flexibility on Utah’s schedule – perhaps to continue scheduling BYU. I’m guessing it won’t happen every year, anyway. Utah wants to test itself against other national opponents. The thinking is that while the BYU-Utah game is a great local event, it isn’t all that interesting nationally. The Utes could do just as well, or better, by playing opponents like Michigan.
Meanwhile, independent BYU has done a nice job of bulking up its schedule. Season-ending games are always going to present a problem, but you can’t say the Cougars are dodging teams. Among BYU’s upcoming opponents: Oregon State, Washington State, Boise State, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Texas, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Utah has future games coming with Southern Cal, Oregon and other Pac-12 teams, as well as Michigan. Rumblings are increasing that Utah is working on a series with Ohio State.
So while fans are bemoaning the end – or at least the changes in – the Utah-BYU rivalry, both teams have made their schedules more interesting since leaving the Mountain West. Sure, the Cougars are still playing San Jose State and Idaho at the end of the season, but they are also playing a lot of truly intriguing match-ups – the kind that wouldn’t have happened if the Cougars had stayed in the MWC. Utah? Imagine a home-and-home with Michigan if the Utes hadn’t joined the Pac-12.
The Utah-BYU game may soon lack the pizazz it once had, but their schedules will still be a lot more interesting than the days when Air Force, Colorado State or San Diego State constituted “big” match-ups.
For that, sports fans in Utah can be grateful.
In the small picture, the changes could end up watering down the BYU-Utah series, or even ending it. In the big picture, there are more marquee games than ever before.