You're next, BYU!
Two teams down and one to go in Utah's Revenge Tour 2007. Each victory has been fairly easy for the Utes, but that won't be expected Saturday. Nope, not when you're facing a team that, like Utah, has won 7 games in a row. But Utah has an edge and I expect that to become more apparent as Saturday's game ticks to a close.
The most important aspect of this game, I believe, will be Kyle Whittingham's ability to outcoach Bronco Mendenhall. I'm not sure who will be the better coach in the long run, bur right now you've got to give the edge to Bronco, since he's already won two conference championships. However, in the past two contests, I think Whittingham has outcoached Bronco. That was evident in last year's game, when a far better Cougar team needed a miracle to beat the Utes. Had Bronco actually outcoached Whittingham, the game would have never come down to one play and BYU easily would have rolled. It didn't happen, much like a year prior when Whittingham again outcoached Bronco down in Provo.
Whether you feel Whittingham is a good coach or not, you can't deny his ability to coach his team up. The fact Utah rolled Wyoming after Joe Glenn's comments and then calmly did away with New Mexico is proof of this. If anyone thinks Utah will come out flat against the Cougars, they do not know Kyle Whittingham or this rivalry. If there is one good trait Whittingham learned from McBride, it's the ability to beat BYU. McBride, even when the Utes weren't nearly as good, always seemed to end the season with a victory against the Cougars -- or at least kept them in the game. Well now Utah and BYU are apparent equals and I think that will prove to a gigantic advantage for the Utes.
With that said, the Utes will still need to do some stuff well if they are going to win this game. You can't just rely on motivation, because that'll only get you so far. I want to see Utah run the ball, if Mack can go for 100 or more yards, I don't see how Utah won't win. However, if he's stuck in the 50s or even 60s, the Utes will be hard pressed to find a way to win. Likewise, the Utes will need to shut down the Cougar running game and keep Unga far from the century mark. BYU doesn't run the ball nearly as much as Utah, but when they do they've proven successful. If Utah shuts down their running game, however, it will give Max Hall and the Cougar offense one less option.
It's also vital the Utes find a way to stop BYU's passing to the tight ends. If anything scares me about the offense, it's this, because the Utes have struggled at times defending that type of offense. It's quick striking and can net a lot of yards if not defended well. Dennis Pitta could prove to be a thorn in Utah's defensive side, especially on 3rd downs, as Max Hall likes to go to him when BYU is need of a gain. However, the Cougars do not have an explosive offense and while those passes work, it's not going to be enough without a down field threat and a running game. I would much rather force BYU into a one-dimensional offense than have them pass down field and run all over the Utes.
I'm actually excited for this game and can't wait to see how the Utes will defend the Cougar offense. If Utah keeps BYU in the 20s Saturday, they should win. I like that, so hopefully Utah can easily keep them there.