Brigham Young football coach Bronco Mendenhall said the feeling is unavoidable, so why not just come out and acknowledge it?
Mendenhall is used to playing in-state rival Utah during the final game of each season. Not the seventh. Not the fifth. And definitely not the third. But that is just what BYU will do Saturday, when it hosts the Utes at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Mendenhall acknowledged that there is a great deal riding on the outcome of contest, as everything from Beehive State recruiting to personal pride are at stake. Factor in that the heavily hyped game in some ways has more drama this year after each school's conference change and Utah's entrance into the Pac-12, and Mendenhall would rip up his school's current schedule and create a new one that replaces Hawaii with the Utes on Dec. 3 if the change was within his power.
"It feels a lot different. It doesn't feel right," said Mendenhall, following a Tuesday afternoon practice. "It feels like the game is being played eight weeks too early. … I don't like it. We'll play it. But it's a lot better at the end."
Despite the backward schedule, Mendenhall said the Cougars (1-1) were running at full speed Tuesday. BYU ramped up the intensity of its practice, and the team's coaches pushed players to the point of exhaustion. The Cougars were noticeably fatigued toward the end, appearing sluggish as the session wore down. Mendenhall got exactly what he wanted, though.
"Not disappointed at all," Mendenhall said. "We had expectations for them today. [The coaches] would have probably been tired at the end of [Tuesday's] practice."
Mendenhall expects BYU defensive back Mike Hague and linebackers Jordan Pendleton and Brandon Ogletree to be healthy enough to suit up against the Utes (1-1).
"Good from what I know," he said. "Nothing new to report from after the [Texas] game."
Mendenhall praised Utah's speedy wideouts, specifically junior receiver DeVonte Christopher.
"They have a nice receiving corps," Mendenhall said.
Meanwhile, BYU's coach is seeking increased production from the Cougars' running game.
"I'd like to see us run more physically. I'd like to see us run more downhill," he said. "And I think that's going to be imperative to having the balance we need."