If any of you happened to catch David Locke today on 1320 KFAN, he discussed how BYU should always roll in the Mountain West and that no team, not even Utah, should come close to competing with them. It's his belief that BYU already has the built in recruiting base with the LDS Church, the finest facilities in the Mountain West and the tradition needed to win big. And while I don't doubt any of that, the notion they should just cruise to conference supremacy is flawed. Flawed because BYU hasn't done that since pretty much the early 1990s.
I feel that the Mountain West is made up of three tiers. Making up tier one is Utah, BYU and TCU, with Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico and Wyoming making up tier 2 and San Diego State, along with UNLV, completing the lower level tier 3. The separation of these teams, in their respective tiers, is negligible, but I do believe the gaps between each level is not. Now while BYU is obviously on the upswing right now and I don't doubt they will beat most teams in the conference, to expect them to win every game every year is unrealistic. Just as unrealistic as it would be to expect the Utes to never lose a conference game again. The Mountain West is not like the WAC, where one team can truly dominate and go a few years without a loss to a conference foe.
The problem with what Locke is suggesting is that he doesn't seem to understand the recent history of BYU football. His opinion on this matter seems to be shaped by a window of excellence that hasn't been repeated since the first George Bush left office. That isn't to say the Cougars aren't good, because they are, but they aren't nearly the consistent force they were in the 1980s. In fact, with the Mountain West as difficult as it is, I don't think they ever could be again. The same goes for both Utah and TCU, as well. What I see for BYU football is pretty much what I see for both Utah and TCU - years where any of those three teams are on the top and neither three really having poor seasons. It's going to be a consistent battle and in my mind there does not seem to be an edge for BYU, Utah or TCU.
Locke says that BYU, with its ties to the LDS Church, will automatically have an inside advantage to LDS recruits. This is true, but it's absurd to believe that every one of those recruits will turn out to be solid D1-A talent and that they will all automatically choose BYU. In reality, the top LDS talent doesn't nearly break BYU's way as it has in the past. Let's not forget that BYU lost out to USC for the play of Stanley Havili not too long ago. It's happened before and it will happen again. Locke also seems to ignore the fact Utah hasn't done too shabby themselves in the recruiting department. Whether Utah has out recruited BYU recently is pretty subjective, but I would wager the gap between the two isn't as wide as Locke might believe.
The Utes and Cougars have pretty much been neck and neck over the past 15 years for a reason. Neither team has sustained dominance for longer than a couple of seasons and I really don't expect that to change. The Cougars will win their share of conference championships, but I think -- under the right leadership -- Utah will too. BYU will defeat Utah and Utah will defeat BYU. If anyone expects either team to struggle, or play second fiddle to the other for a prolonged time, they need to read up on the rivalry. There is a reason that, outside of 2004, every game these two teams have played together recently has gone down to the final play. That will not change and I expect both Utah and BYU to duke it out in the future for conference championships. That's just the way this rivalry has broken recently and I don't see why it will be any different with Bronco instead of LaVell Edwards.