BYU vs. Utah Vegas Bowl: 10 reasons I’m stoked

BYU fans rush the field after an overtime victory against Utah (2009)
photo by qbac07

I know some folks are bummed about the news of BYU playing Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl this year. I have to admit that I was bummed at first too.

Wait, no I wasn’t.

I was stoked. And that excitement has only grown. I can’t imagine a more epic way for either team to cap a three-loss season. 

Here’s why:

1. BYU is more of Utah’s equal than Ute fans want to admit.

I will confess. The Cougars are the underdog. But just barely. Both football teams are 9-3. Of course, no two schedules are footballs to footballs.

However, don’t forget there was a four-game overlap between these rivals’ particular schedules. Both BYU and Utah played Michigan, Fresno State, Utah State, and UCLA. BYU outscored the four by 33 points; Utah outscored the lot by 30 points. BYU went 2-2 against the clan (including a one-point loss to UCLA); Utah went 3-1.

Both BYU and Utah have been ranked this season. BYU peaked in the AP poll at #19. Utah peaked at an amazing #3 before the team started losing. Utah is currently ranked #20 in the AP poll. BYU is technically unranked at the moment. But if the AP poll listed 30 teams—instead of 25—BYU would currently be #28. An eight-spot gap between Utah and BYU doesn’t mean much in a sport where rankings are largely a product of speculation—not science—and are in constant flux. Calling BYU “unranked” and therefore unworthy, is to exalt technicality over reality.

2. Brace yourself for the first-ever Holy War bowl game.

The Holy War. On steroids. I will take a Holy War battle anytime. Ironically, this historic Holy War of all Holy Wars is hosted in Sin City. [The last time BYU and Utah played in December it was 1897 (so says Wikipedia). I didn’t bother to figure out if it was technically a bowl game or not. I have no idea how bowl games operated more than a century ago, if they existed. What matters is BYU won…]

3. BYU’s chance to snap Utah’s four-game Holy War winning streak.

This one speaks for itself. Enough is enough. Come on, BYU!

4. BYU’s chance to definitively snag back the Beehive Boot from the Aggies.

In the 44 years since the Beehive Boot began getting kicked around to the best D-1 FBS football team in the state, BYU has dominated, bringing the 100-year-old authentic pioneer footwear (with likely mythical properties) home 22 times, compared to Utah’s 13 and Utah State’s 9. But this year, the boot ain’t in BYU’s bag yet—and arguably couldn’t be without this final matchup. Since both Utah and BYU beat Utah State this year, without a BYU vs. Utah matchup, the technical tie would have been broken by popular vote (which Utah would likely have won given its ranking, even though BYU outscored Utah State by 23 more points than Utah).

5. Bronco’s last game with the Cougars.

Despite signing a more lucrative head coaching deal with Virginia last week, Bronco Mendenhall will have one last chance to work his magic with the BYU squad. BYU football players have talked about trying to win this one for Bronco, sending him off with another double-digit win season. Of course, the Utes hope to send Bronco away with his seventh loss against them (since Bronco became head coach, the Utes have gone 6-3 against BYU).

6. Bronco’s chance at win #100.

Bronco has won 99 games during his BYU head coach tenure. A win against Utah would be win #100. Statistically, a thing of wonder.

7. Kyle Whittingham’s last game coaching Utah before taking over BYU.

Not actually true. As far as we know, anyway… One can hope, right? He’s certainly among the names being tossed around.

8. There are plenty of awesome sub-duals.

For example: Mangum v. Wilson.

Utah senior Travis Wilson will be quarterbacking his second bowl game. Last year, he was the Las Vegas bowl MVP, leading Utah to a crushing 45-10 win over Colorado State. His stats this year have been decent: He’s thrown 2000+ yards for 13 touchdowns and rushed nearly 500 yards for another 6 TDs. He has thrown a fair number of interceptions though: 10 (or one for every 1.3 TDs).

BYU freshman QB phenom Tanner Mangum will be playing his first-ever bowl game. His stats have been off the charts for his someone with his tenure: Though his rushing game is virtually non-existent (only one rushing TD), Mangum has tossed for 3000+ yards and 21 TDs. His TD to interception ratio is an astounding 3:1 (only 7 interceptions). No other QB in BYU history (not even NFL legend Steve Young or Heisman-winning Ty Detmer) has come even close to his freshman productivity or efficiency.

9. Things may get feisty.

Remember BYU’s last bowl game? Fists could fly again. Especially since BYU and Utah have a history of high tensions. For example, Ute fans (I acknowledge this kind of behavior is not representative of the vast majority of Ute fans) have not hesitated to throw beer at BYU player family members. I am definitely not encouraging or even condoning any form of violent or nasty behavior, on or off the field, by either team. Hopefully, it will be a gentleman’s game. But if history really does have a way of repeating itself, it could get interesting.

10. It’ll be a nail-biter.

Mark my word. In true Cougar fashion, it will come down to the final minutes. Remember the Mangum Miracle at Memorial? Or, the sequel a week later against Boise State? Not to mention the last time BYU beat Utah (sadly, we have to go back to 2009 for this...). It was overtime and BYU won 26-23.

In fact, four out of the last five BYU vs. Utah games (trying to repress any memory of the 2011 massacre…) have been won by a score or less!

Excited yet?


You should be.

[CORRECTION: This article originally highlighted a sub-dual between senior running back Devontae Booker (Utah) and junior running back Algernon Brown (BYU). But Booker won't be playing due to knee surgery. Obviously. My bad.]


  1. Actually Booker had knee surgery so he won't be playing. This is the real reason i think BYU has a chance at winning :)

  2. Very good point! I totally spaced that.


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