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Las Vegas

From experience, BYU senior Remington Peck labels football competition with the University of Utah "a game like none other."

Peck was speaking of the series in general, but that description certainly fits Saturday's contest. The in-state rivalry has been outsourced to the Las Vegas Bowl, creating a different look and feel for this Utah tradition.

The buildup has included coaches and players posing with showgirls in red and blue costumes, Interstate 15 traffic advisories being posted several days in advance and a Ute lineman delivering an unscheduled speech that resonated more than anything spoken in this week's Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas.

Any rivalry game in a bowl setting is unusual, with a 2004 Orange Bowl pairing of Miami and Florida State among the rare instances. That's why this Utah-BYU meeting is attracting considerable national interest, being ranked among the bowl season's best games to watch. The convergence is weird, with various activities bringing the teams together for entertainment and charitable purposes, including a formal news conference and luncheon for the teams Friday.

So is this a bowl week? Or a rivalry week?

"It's definitely felt like a rivalry week, which we expect," said BYU receiver Mitch Mathews.

Utah's Seni Fauonuku answered that question in his own way Wednesday night when he volunteered for an intrasquad dance contest during the bowl's welcome reception and dinner for the teams. He asked for the microphone and, rather than dance, addressed the Cougars. "Ya'll are a good team, but you're a dirty team," Fauonuku began, as his teammates howled appreciatively.

Utah-BYU lore features some memorable postgame rants, including Utah coach Wayne Howard's mention of "hatred" (1977), BYU lineman Lenny Gomes' prediction that Ute players someday would be "pumping my gas" (1993) and BYU quarterback Max Hall's calling the rival school "classless" (2009). This episode was different, coming about 72 hours before kickoff from a player who will have the opportunity to back up his words.

"I've talked to Seni. Seni's heart's in the right place," Ute coach Kyle Whittingham said Friday, describing the taunt as "unnecessary."

Via Twitter, Ute receiver Kenneth Scott said Fauonuku's speech would "go down in history."

So will Saturday's game, one way or another. Whenever or wherever it occurred, the next Utah-BYU matchup was going to be highly anticipated. The Utes and Cougars most recently met in Provo in September 2013, before the rivalry was interrupted for the first time since World War II as Utah instead scheduled a two-game series with Michigan.

The teams will play Sept. 10 at Rice-Eccles Stadium, launching at least another five-year rivalry run. The Las Vegas Bowl accelerated the timetable via its contract with the Pac-12 and a one-time opportunity to book BYU. Once projected to land much higher among the Pac-12's affiliated bowls, the Utes slipped to the No. 6 slot in Las Vegas.

Otherwise, Utah linebacker Gionni Paul would have missed the opportunity to play BYU during his two seasons with the Utes after transferring from Miami. With the Hurricanes, he faced rival Florida State in Atlantic Coast Conference play. "Oh, man, it was a brawl to the end," Paul said.

He expects similar levels of emotion to surface Saturday, when both teams will wear traditional home uniforms — Utah with an all-red look and BYU sporting throwback royal blue jerseys.

Other seniors figured their rivalry days were over.

"I couldn't wait to play BYU again, because it's fun to play against them," Scott said. "All the extra stuff that goes in it, it just makes memories even better."

Every BYU coach of the past 50-plus years has faced Utah in his last game, as the final seasons of Tommy Hudspeth, LaVell Edwards and Gary Crowton ended without bowl appearances.

Headed to Virginia with six other BYU staff members, Bronco Mendenhall is targeting his 100th career victory in 11 seasons.

Each team stands 9-3. The Utes and Cougars were 9-2 in 2009, when BYU took a 26-23 overtime victory. That's one of 14 games decided by seven points or fewer in the past 17 meetings.

So anything other than a close contest Saturday would be a novelty. Actually, that label will apply to this game, regardless of the outcome.

Twitter: tribkurt