This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Having watched the first quarter of the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl over and over this week in researching a look-back story, I've become convinced that Utah's personnel advantage and not merely BYU's misfortune with five turnovers enabled the Utes to build that 35-0 lead.
Even so, I'm ignoring the evidence.
Here's why: This is not the same BYU cast as in Las Vegas. The Cougars have Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams and an improved defense that will allow them to match up much better physically and psychologically with the Utes in Saturday's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Utes supposedly have the book for stopping Hill, but where's the proof? He ran for 99 yards in a 20-13 loss in Provo as a sophomore in 2013, and he's now a much better passer than the guy who went 18 of 48 that night.
BYU will have to do something extraordinary to overcome Utah's five-game winning streak in the series, but nobody reigns in the rivalry forever. BYU was by far the dominant program in the 1980s, yet the Utes suddenly won 57-28 in '88. Nobody could have seen that coming.
In this case, BYU is just a three-point underdog on the road. That line suggests if the game were in Provo, the Cougars would be favored even with Utah's lineup of Pac-12 athletes. So an upset hardly is out of the question.
Hill will have to be the difference-maker for BYU. Since the start of the LaVell Edwards era, BYU's senior quarterbacks have thrived in the rivalry. Gary Sheide, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Robbie Bosco, Steve Lindsley, Ty Detmer, Steve Sarkisian, Brandon Doman, John Beck and Max Hall all beat the Utes in their last opportunities. The only losers were Kevin Feterik and Riley Nelson, and barely so.
Hill's case is somewhat different, considering this is only his second game back after missing nearly all of 2015 with a third season-ending injury in four years. Yet he showed me enough against Arizona last week to indicate that he can succeed against Utah.
Prior to injuring his shoulder late in then first quarter, BYU transfer McCoy Hill of Southern Utah was showing signs of hurting the Utes. If McCoy Hill (no relation) could exploit some aspects of Utah's defense, Taysom Hill certainly can do so.
And this is long enough for BYU's curse to have lasted, after Hall ripped Utah in his postgame rant that followed the Cougars' overtime victory in 2009. Recent history tells us good things happen in pairs for BYU. Tanner Mangum's miraculous passes vs. Nebraska and Boise State came in the first two games last September, and so will Jake Oldroyd's winning field goals. As long as BYU is headed toward the north end zone in the fourth quarter, he'll come through. In the Cougars' last two visits to Rice-Eccles Stadium, a winning field goal try was blocked in 2010 and a tying attempt hit the upright in 2012 both in the south end of the field.
This ending will be different: BYU 24, Utah 21.