For the second time in a decade, BYU Football and Utes are not scheduled to play for a two year period.
In 2014 and 2015 Utah agreed to play a home and home with Michigan in place of playing BYU. In 2022 and 2023 the Utes decided to do a similar deal with Florida.
Both of these deals at the time were viewed as once in a lifetime opportunities to play a top ten team. In both cases however, it seems to have failed.
In 2014 Michigan went 5-7 overall. In 2015, the Wolverines were better, but still finished the regular season 9-3. The dream of playing a Top 10 team was quickly turned into just playing a mediocre team from the Big 10. Yes, the name still had something special to it, but in the end, nobody talks about Utah beating a Michigan team that went a combined 14-10 during those two seasons.
Although the 2022 season hasn’t started yet, it appears that Utah may be having deja vu this season with Florida. When the Utes scheduled Florida back in 2019, the Gators were coming off 10-3 season including a win against well…Michigan oddly enough, in the Peach Bowl. Historically, Florida has been a great team, so the expectation was that the Utes would be going into The Swamp to face a Top 10 team to kickoff the 2022 season, and then welcome them to Salt Lake in 2023.
The only issue is that Florida finished 6-7 last season and is projected to finish in the lower half of their division (the weaker of the two SEC divisions) this year. 2023 can bring anything, including a cancellation, but that won’t be evaluated here.
Why BYU Needs to Play Utah Every Season
On the flip side, BYU Football is coming into the season ranked likely in the Top 20. Last season the Cougars ended the streak and left a stain on the Ute’s historic Rose Bowl season. Both teams are really high on their chances to get to a NY6 game, and believe me both would love to shut the others special season down in week one.
Ute fans may argue that they would rather play Florida, but let’s get real, if you asked a fan if they would rather play a .500 P5 school on the other side of the country or play their rivals at home who they lost to last year, we all know which option they would choose.
The bottom line is, had BYU and Utah opened up the season playing each other, it would have had the biggest buildup hype of any Holy War game, possibly ever. You couldn’t build it up anymore unless the two meet in a NY6 bowl game or better.
However, Utah thought they were going to be on a 11 game win streak against BYU (Covid cancelled 2020) and have the opportunity to play a Top 10 team. Nobody can blame them for making that decision.
But let’s not make it a decision. It is impossible to know where a team will be in two or three years. Just look at Arkansas. When BYU scheduled them, Cougar fans figured they were getting a Rutgers, Vanderbilt or Kansas type of team. However, things have changed and the Razorbacks could realistically be the toughest game of the season. This happens all the time.
What doesn’t happen is a bad rivalry game.
For that reason, the Holy War game needs to be played annually. No matter how good or bad either of the teams are, both teams and fanbases get up for it. It drives the season forward and gives bragging rights to winner.
Again, I’m not blaming Utah for looking at Florida and jumping at the opportunity. And I wouldn’t blame BYU for doing the same going forward. But let’s get rid of that opportunity. Lock in a 20 year contract to play annually, and if one of the teams decides to take on another P5 in place of a G5/FCS, so be it.