Utah and BYU: The Way Too Early . . . .

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BJLast season Utah experimented with the 25 year old first-year offensive coordinator and found that the roads were not easy to navigate.  How will Dennis Erickson help Brian Johnson grow as a coordinator in 2013?

Carl: This system is not going to work.  I’d say the same thing at any school trying co-offensive coordinators.  Either Erickson will just run the show and Johnson will feel that the offense is no longer his, or the offense will be lackluster again as Erickson lets Johnson flounder more so he can take the spot by himself at season’s end.  There’s no efficient way two coaching personalities can collaborate to make a super-functioning unit.  If I’m wrong, I’ll be glad to recant; but don’t come asking me after this game if Utah wins.  Take this over the whole season.

Matt: Erickson should provide a solid foundation for BJ to learn under.  Let’s not kid ourselves here; we know Erickson is temporary but he’s also not deferring play-calling to an amateur.  If Johnson can accept that and then sit back and learn from a veteran play-caller, he will learn more about how to survive in this game and will be a more effective in the role when it is returned to him full-time.

Mike: In his day Dennis Erickson was an innovative piece of the spread offense movement.  He was running the spread at Wyoming in 1985 before most people had heard of it.  Erickson is an extremely seasoned head coach that has probably forgotten more about coaching than Brian Johnson and Kyle Whittingham will ever know.  That said, unless he’s calling the plays and building the weekly offensive schemes Brian Johnson is still going to struggle as an OC.  BJ was a fine college QB but building an offensive and calling a game vs. defensive coaches that have been coaching longer then you’ve been alive is extremely difficult, especially in the PAC12.  I like the Erickson hire for BJ and for Kyle Whittingham. The honeymoon is over for Coach Whit.  These ravenous Ute fans who have 45 “Welcome to PAC12 Country” stickers all over their cars aren’t going to stand to be the conference joke of their new conference for long.  My bet is Erickson was brought in to help Whittingham be a head coach as much as helping BJ be an OC.  Hopefully for Ute Nation, Erickson doesn’t follow Norm Chow as another poor has-been coaching hire.

WilsonIs Travis Wilson good enough to be a PAC 12 quarterback?  Why or why not?

Carl: He has already shown moments of great potential last season.  With Erickson guiding the offense now and Wilson another year older, he has plenty of opportunity to become a better quarterback in the league.  He won’t be a Barkley or Foles, but the PAC is not huge on defense as a whole, so there are a couple of games that he could shine. Washington State, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado are potential showcase games.  Wilson will be much improved and we’ll know after game 6 where Wilson will be on the PAC level.

Matt: I know this is a cop out answer, but who knows?  I saw him do some things in games last season that just blew my mind.  But I saw a lot of things that made me scratch my head.  I think a lot of that was due to an undetermined scheme and lack of repetition as a starter.  If that is the case, he is going to progress with a better scheme this season and if the Utes are to be successful at all, thy need Wilson to play like a big-time quarterback in this league.

Mike: Travis Wilson’s reviews as a high school recruit were strangely mixed.  6’6” build, good arm, Elite 11 QB…yet only considered a 3-star recruit and most telling, only recruited by the below average PAC12 teams.  As a freshman, Wilson ranked 81st in passing efficiency.  Inefficient Riley Nelson ranked 86th.  Wilson is a pro-style QB trying to learn the spread offense from a second year OC.  Will he be good enough to be a PAC12 quarterback?  Technically he already is.  Do I expect Wilson to be showered with All PAC12 honors anytime soon?  I wouldn’t bet on it.

suspenderTwo years ago in Provo, BYU laid the biggest egg in the history of the rivalry and followed it up in 2012 with an unimpressive whimper in SLC punctuated by the three chances to win and suspender boy. What will lay in store for the rivalry in 2013 as the teams prepare to take a two year hiatus?

Carl: It simply can’t be predicted anymore.  You know, I was watching my kids play with a brand new friend a couple days ago. I know how they usually act.  But when they met their friend it’s as if they went completely insane and juvenile.  That’s exactly how BYU has been playing Utah for the better part of 10 years now, 3-8 in last 11 meetings.  BYU allows themselves to get caught up in the hoopla and tries to out-manhood Utah, only to fail miserably most years.  Let me go old-school, Cranberries- ‘What’s in your head, in your head? Utah Utes, Utah Utes, Utah Utes.’  My only prediction is BYU will continue more silliness on the field because, simply, that’s how they roll.  If their follies can be overcome is yet to be determined.

Matt: BYU’s senior class has yet to taste victory against their rival and they are going to come out ready and hungry for this game.  With a week to prepare, you better believe Kyle Van Noy, Cody Hoffman, Daniel Sorensen, and others are going to pull out all the stops to get this win.  It will be full of drama, intrigue, and a lot of booing from both fan bases, but BYU fans are typically quite quick to let their opponents know how displeased they are.  We won’t have any oddities like three finishes or suspenders on the field but we may see another last minute play to win the game.

Mike: To be fair nothing in 2013 will be more heartbreaking for a BYU fan than the miserably pathetic Riley Stephenson missed FG of 2012.  Ute fans storming the field multiple times were the laughing stock of ESPN’s “Not Top 10” for about a week but these same fans would have been infamous in college football lore had Stephenson made his historically awful kick.  Ute fan would be mentioned in the same breath as the Stanford band as the only college football fans ever to literally cost their team a victory.  Of course, had Stephenson made his dog turd kick BYU would only have tied the game. But any sober Ute fan will tell you that overcoming a made field goal that your own fan base created coupled with high probability of Suspender Boy running on the field in OT after every Utah positive gain would have been too difficult to overcome.

rivalryHow do you feel about this planned break?

Carl: In my opinion, it’s the single greatest travesty of the big business side of college football.  It’s not just the BYU/Utah rivalry, its Texas/Texas A&M and others being severed as a result of conference realignment.  I completely detest it.  Money reigns, the collegiate experience for these players do not.  Nothing in collegiate sports is sacred anymore.  Obviously, I don’t think BYU and Utah will ever get back to a yearly game, which just turns my stomach in knots thinking about not looking forward to the rivalry anymore.

Matt: I think it’s unfortunate that it is happening but as it is, I’m embracing it to hope that fans of both sides will simmer down the vitriol that drips as rivalry week approaches.  Unfortunately, the animosity between these two fan bases will probably only make it worse when it resumes.

Mike: I absolutely hate it.  BYU and Utah have something sacred only to a select few in college football.  A legitimate rivalry.  I know every college team thinks they have some version of a rivalry.  Arizona and New Mexico were once considered rivals.  Boston College and Clemson invented a football rivalry even though they are 7 states away. Don’t forget about Boise St and Fresno St??  BYU/Utah is considered a top 10 college football rivalry and for good reason.  The games are usually close.  The rivalry has gained national exposure.  Religion always makes things interesting and most importantly, old fashioned, pure white hatred between the two programs. Taking a break is bad for both programs and more importantly the fans.  Until Ute fans start getting PAC12 profit sharing checks taking away their favorite game of the year is absurd.

duelCan BYU finally get the monkey off its back in terms of Utah and get a win in the Holy War that will give them three years of bragging rights?

Carl: Just a win for BYU would be nice.  I could care less about bragging rights, because Utah still has plenty of ammo to say they’re better in the rivalry.  But BYU is every bit as good as Utah, and I’m sick of saying ‘coulda woulda shoulda’ trying to defend BYU.  It will be tough to do it for 3 years.  On paper, both teams can make solid cases they could win the match-up, but which team will deliver on the field?

Matt: 2013 is going to be BYU’s year.  I can’t see KVN, Hoffman, and the rest of the seniors allowing any other sort of result.  It will be close, but chalk this one up as a win and getting BYU off to a 3-0 start and the beginning of the national attention.

Mike: I think so.  Not since the BYU teams of the 80s and 90s has there been a dramatic difference in program quality.  Utah has had two BCS teams and most Ute fans genuinely believe the day the PAC12 logo was painted on the Rice Eccles field their roster became magically superior. Real life would suggest both teams recruit from the same talent pools, both have first time head coaches along with promoted former players as Offensive Coordinators.  Not to mention the vast majority of these games are determined by a touchdown or less.  I believe BYU has made more significant changes on the coaching staff and frankly have more skill position players this particular year.  Anae’s offense averaged 27 points in the Utah games and more significantly BYU is due.  When these games are close and the coaches and players are similar the preverbal coin ultimately has to land on the other side.

About the author

Matt Quinney

I'm a BYU guy and I'm not going to apologize for my opinions, but I also am a graduate of the University of Utah so my allegiances go both ways. I've been a sports fan as long as I can remember and when I blog, you'll see a lot of Cougars, some Jazz and Utes, and an occasional post about RSL or even the Dallas Cowboys.

  • Bandaid

    Matt obviously hasn’t been to a Utah game recently to think that BYU fans are the only ones that quickly react to a questionable call. Seems like a sports blog writer would attend a game every once in a while.

  • SpencerClark

    Frankly, Utah gets more up for the games than BYU does. I blame it on coaching preparation. And then play breakdown like Max Hall or Jake Heaps each having 6-7 turnovers doesn’t help. But now that the Riley Nelson love affair is over I think BYU has a much better chance of winning the game than Utah. Too early to predict? BYU 27 Utah 21 (BYU missing an extra point, not kicking 2 field goals).

  • rudy

    Recruit from the same talent pools? Are you ppl serious? Look at the LEGITIMATE athletes Utah committed last year from Texas, So Cal, etc. that byu wldn’t sniff ever. Ok 1/5 of the same Poly, lds type players are mutually recruited if that. Which Utah hasn’t dominated btw.

    Oh and the “But BYU is every bit as good as Utah” comment is overly laughable. I mean, whatever helps you ppl sleep at night. Utah is in the P12, with REAL athletes.

    Not some church league lookin team (that’s what they look like without their helmets on) with a few elite lds athletes sprinkled in every once and a blue moon, that plays independently as a mid-major. The sooner you guys except this, the more legitimate you and your articles will be!

    I know, I know, you’ll just erase this cuz you can’t bare the truth being put out there for all to see. (Anybody with real knowledge of this already knows it anyway, you guys are just in denial.) Talk abt censorship at it’s worst!

    • Les Claypool

      Rudy, when you reference Utah’s “LEGITIMATE” athletes you must be referencing the one 4star recruit Utah landed last year? JC transfer Andre Lewis? FYI, Lewis was recruited by zero other “LEGITIMATE” programs including Nevada, Fresno St and Iowa St. Thanks for setting the world straight and for your passionate battle against censorship??

  • rudy

    *HAS dominated btw