This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
It was Casey Stengel who said, "Never make predictions, especially about the future."
I was asked by the boss to predict the outcome of Saturday's Utah-BYU game, so, to do so, I'm not looking solely at what's yet to come, rather at what has already come. The past is a little more trustable. And the past says Utah will win, again. The Utes have won five straight in the rivalry game all in different ways with different players. That's a fairly strong indicator that, playing on their home field at Rice-Eccles, they'll rinse and repeat.
Until BYU proves otherwise, that's the way to guess.
Yes, Kalani Sitake, as Utah's defensive coordinator, contributed to that trend, and now he's on the Cougars' sideline. There have been all kinds of changes from the past, everything from the technical to the attitudinal to the emotional, with Sitake bringing in, as LaVell Edwards put it, "a breath of fresh air."
But there's more evidence pointing to a Utah victory.
Kyle Whittingham's record when he has more than a week to prepare for an opponent (outside of season-openers) is 31-11. He's had nine days since Utah's win over Southern Utah.
The Utes have one of the best defenses in the country, particularly up front, and that's a big, big deal in this game. The Cougars ran Jamaal Williams again and again against Arizona and they'll probably attempt something similar this time around, although they won't run twice for every pass attempt, the way they did against the Wildcats. Ty Detmer is bound to balance his offense out a bit, opening it up against Utah because … he has to.
The Utes will load up the box and force the Cougars to beat them through the air, putting the offensive load on Taysom Hill's arm and also on his feet and on his mind. Hill is a smart quarterback, but one who is running Detmer's offense, which looks a lot like Norm Chow's old offense, for only the second time in live action. Utah will go after Hill hard, requiring quick and precise decisions and execution not just from the quarterback, but also his receivers, a group that remains unproven.
After the Arizona game, Hill said he's as fleet a foot as he ever was, and he'll have to be. Williams is probably BYU's best player, and the Utes know this. They also know if he runs for anywhere near as many yards as he got against UA (162), there's a great chance they will lose. If Utah emphasizes slowing Williams, then, the ground game will fall to Hill. And if it falls to Hill, the rest of his orchestration of the offense could be disrupted unless he plays the way he did in BYU's former offense against Texas. Utah's defense is much better than the Longhorn D of two years ago, though.
With the exception of a few breakdowns last week, BYU's defense also was impressive. Ute quarterback Troy Williams will be challenged to get the ball up and out to guys like Tim Patrick, a receiver the back end of the Cougars' defense will find difficult to contain. Look for the Utes to utilize a group of other targets, too. Utah will have to get more consistency out of its running backs, which in turn will rely on more physicality from the big'uns up front. Whittingham stressed physical play in the run-up this week. It would be surprising to see anything short of that on Saturday.
Turnovers have dominated recent games between these teams, with the Utes on the far better end. They'll play a role again, as Whittingham's calls for a more brutish effort are answered, giving the Utes another edge.
Final numbers on the board: Utah 27, BYU 24.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.