Jerry Ratcliffe of The Daily Progress put out an article yesterday saying BYU’s season opener against Virginia was the most crucial game of the year for the Cavaliers.
Many would point to the game the following week against 3rd ranked Oregon as the most crucial for Virginia. But when you analyze Virginia’s schedule, there is eight home games but they play a tough non-conference schedule and quality games within the ACC. If Mike London’s Wahoos look to get back to a bowl game, it makes sense that the BYU game would be the most crucial for them. It could be the difference between a bowl bid or a four to five win season.
What about for BYU? Following an 8-5 season in 2012, BYU is a program that looks for progress in 2013 as they push to get into the national spotlight again. Does the opener against Virginia qualify as the most critical game to get off to a hot start?
The game at Virginia is crucial when it comes to BCS hopes. Simply because BYU as of what we know today would likely have to go undefeated to be in one of the BCS bowls. But realistically, that isn’t what many are forecasting for BYU in 2013, especially with the much publicized schedule that BYU is about to take on this year in the third year of Independence.
And with the BCS, I feel BYU could lose a game this year and still be in the at-large pool for a BCS bowl. Last year, Northern Illinois cracked the BCS lid and played in the Orange Bowl coming from the MAC. With less quality Non-BCS teams to fight against for a potential at-large BCS spot, BYU will be in the mix for a spot if they happen to be 11-1 at season’s end. Will they get to a bowl with one loss? Tough to say, but they will be an option. Again though, an undefeated or one-loss season will be a difficult task with this schedule.
So what would you consider as BYU’s most crucial game of the 2013 season if it isn’t Virginia? For me it’s easy, it’s the Utah game. BYU has to overcome the mental hurdles with the Utes this year. Watching BYU Football for nearly the past 20 years, there isn’t a program that mentally causes more fits for BYU than the Utes do. This goes beyond just the Mendenhall years. It was a problem with the Crowton teams -remember all the dropped passes in 2001?- and LaVell teams after 1993.
It is crucial for BYU to win the rivalry game this year. Royal blue jerseys, two-year hiatus looming, and the fact that you can’t send a senior class out with leaders like Kyle Van Noy and Cody Hoffman without a victory over their rival. Also, think of some of the greatest teams in BYU history. What’s one thing they all have in common? They beat Utah. 1994, 1999, and 2008 are a handful of good teams that were in the Top 25 polls throughout those respective seasons, but I often discredit those teams because they couldn’t beat their rival. To be considered a great BYU Football team, and believe me there has been many great ones, you have to beat Utah. It’s as simple as that.
If you had to make an argument for another “crucial” game besides the Holy War, you could say Texas. It’s definitely the best name opponent that has came to Provo since BYU became an Independent. It could also be a game that provides of an opportunity of getting a monkey off their backs by beating a big opponent and potentially propel BYU into the national spotlight. But I see other games in the schedule that qualify as a “big opponent” to get that big game monkey moniker off their backs. The monkey with Utah however is crucial to get off.