“Utah doesn’t need the Team Down South. The Team Down South needs Utah!”
And so the shots were fired. That’s right, that team which shan’t be named was in need of a defender, and who better than I to be that hero?
Well, honestly, probably a lot of people. I’ve never played a down of competitive football. I’ve never coached so much as a little league team. But I have quarterbacked some pretty impressive drives on Saturday morning pick-up games and screamed at the television enough times to feel like I know a thing or two. I know enough to say, that statement – BYU needs Utah – is inaccurate.
Understanding Want vs. Need
The fact is, when it comes to Utah and BYU, neither team needs the other. To need. To require something because it is essential. Certainly there is benefit to the Cougars having a match-up against the in-state rival and a frequent AP Top 25 ranking Utes, but essential? Let’s not get too full of ourselves here.
This season BYU has been able to schedule games against Nebraska, UCLA, Michigan, and Missouri. Not bad, right? Well, as it stands right now, 2016 will give BYU games against the likes of Arizona, UCLA, West Virginia, Michigan State, and Mississippi State. Definitely a step in the right direction, and that’s not counting the game they have scheduled at Utah.
Utah certainly bolsters the Cougars’ schedule next season, to say otherwise would be foolish, but couldn’t a number of other Power 5 Conference teams do the same thing? If BYU could get a game against Clemson, Ole Miss, or Arizona State instead, wouldn’t that be just as worth their while? Of course it would.
The fact is BYU doesn’t need Utah. BYU wants Utah. The Cougars want a rivalry game against a tough opponent that has dominated the series much of the last a decade, and that’s fine. Bronco Mendenhall and company should want a shot at the Utes, after all, Kyle Whittingham and the gang got an invite to one of the best parties around, and BYU didn’t. We know you want Utah on the schedule, guys, and no one blames you. Utah just needs to realize, sometimes it’s nicer to be wanted, than needed.
What BYU Really Needs
The Cougars need to win their games. Really, it’s that simple. It doesn’t matter if they’re playing the Utah Utes or the Utah State Aggies, BYU needs to win their games. Of course the games against P5 teams will garner more attention, but how high do the Cougs plan to climb in the rankings if they drop multiple games against unranked opponents? In 2014, BYU lost games to Utah State, UCF, Nevada, Boise State, and finally to Memphis in the Miami Beach Brawl. Wins came against teams like UConn, Houston, Middle Tennessee, Savannah State, and the College of Utah Massage Therapy – Davis. Ok, that last one may not be accurate…
The facts are, if the Cougars want to be taken seriously, they need to win the games that they’re supposed to win, and they need to at least compete, if not win, the games that they aren’t supposed to. To give some perspective, look at fellow independent Notre Dame. The Irish finished last season with the same record as BYU; however, their losses came to Florida State, Arizona State, Louisville, USC, and Northwestern. The Irish won games against Michigan, Syracuse, Stanford, and LSU. Their only non-P5 games were against Navy and their opener against Rice, both of which they won. BYU is nowhere near the level of Notre Dame, but very few teams are – including Utah. If BYU wants to even come close the having a schedule as challenging as the Fighting Irish, they need to win games, plain and simple.
And Cougars, when you beat a mid-level P5 team, don’t react like this…
Those are games that you should have a real shot at winning.
The Icing on the Cupcake For Utah
While many fans recognize the benefit BYU has from a match-up with Utah, some fail to recognize that Utah can benefit as well. When it comes to conference play, there can only be one champion, and if you aren’t that team, you’re going to need a great strength of schedule if you end up coming in second. Ohio State and Michigan State are likely going to run into this problem this season. Only one of them can emerge as the B1G champion, but what happens to the other? Michigan State beat Oregon, which will really help their case for a New Year’s Six bowl game, but Ohio State… If they lose to the Spartans, who is their notable win against? Now, let’s be honest, as last year’s champs, the Buckeyes are almost guaranteed a spot, but would that be the case for Utah if they won the Pac-12 South and lost the Pac-12 championship? Certainly the strength of the conference would help, but Utah would likely be competing with teams from the B1G, SEC, ACC, and Big 12, not to mention that year’s Cinderella story (or ugly step-sister than somehow gets the slipper to fit, if we’re talking about Boise State…), so why not have another chance at victory against a recognized name?
Take this season for example – wouldn’t it sound better if Utah beat a ranked BYU last week instead of an unranked Fresno State? Although they’ve been fairly evenly matched in recent seasons, doesn’t BYU have a little more street cred than Utah State? Personally, I get a little tired of having two or three weeks of games against teams that you should dominate. Sure, have a home opener to knock off the dust and find your groove, but three weeks against teams like Dub State and Fresno? Unless Weber State gets the Damian Lillard of football, that’s a waste of time for the Utes. I know what you’re thinking – injuries. Utah needs to get to conference play as healthy as possible, and we saw what happened to Travis Wilson against Utah State. Yeah, you do want your team healthy going into the games that truly matter. With that said, go in and take care of business early so that you can rest your starters later in the game. Injuries are part of the game – trust me, I’m a Notre Dame fan. You just have to trust players to be smart on the field and hope for the best. If a guy goes down, the next man in needs to be ready, as we saw with injuries to Utah’s Wilson and Hunter Dimick.
The Reality of It All
Truthfully, I’ve been happy without the “Holy War.” I’ve found it easier to get along with BYU fans in recent years than ever before. I mean, I’m writing this… something I would have never expected five years ago. I’d rather see Utah play another P5 opponent than BYU, but I’d rather have a shot at the Cougars than a FCS school or Mountain West Conference team. At the end of the day, I have no say in the schedule, so I’ll just look forward for another opportunity for a big win for Utah. Maybe all Ute fans need to see it that way. If you choose to disagree with me, well, I can’t promise that there won’t be one of these in your future…