There is one team that has not been able to beat Utah since the Mountain West Conference formed in 1999. In fact, their streak of ineptitude goes back further than that, all the way to 1979, the last time Nevada Las Vegas defeated the University of Utah in football. 1979, that's a long time.
In 1979, an unpopular former Southern governor was President. The United States saw an escalating conflict with Iran and Halloween became the highest grossing independent film of all-time.
Now it's 2007, an unpopular former Southern governor is in office. The United States is seeing an escalating conflict with Iran and the remake of Halloween has become one of the highest grossing horror films of the year. If you're UNLV, that's got to mean something and maybe it's the perfect storm for their first victory in 28 years. Yet you can't ignore the history of this series and the fact Utah has essentially bulldozed its way through the Rebels, whether they were having a down season or not.
Take 2000, for example. The Utes were in the midst of one of their worst seasons in Ron McBride's career at Utah, while the Rebels would go 8-5, defeating Arkansas in the Las Vegas Bowl. One of their five losses was a 38-18 slaughter at the hands of the Utes in Salt Lake City. It was only one of four Utah victories that year, yet the Rebels failed to come within two touch downs of them. For whatever reason, Utah has owned UNLV and made them their personal whipping boy. Which makes this week's game all the better, because Utah should not only win, they should dominate. And if history has shown us anything, that's exactly what they will do.
Look at it this way, UNLV has only stayed within more than 10 points of Utah once and that was their lone victory to kickoff the series in 1979. Since that game was played, the average score has been 43-20. Last year, Utah won 45-23, in a contest where the score made the game look closer than it actually was. And while this game is being played in Las Vegas, that doesn't seem to hurt Utah's success against UNLV. In Vegas the Utes have won by an average score of 46-24, which is nearly identical to the 45-23 average of the entire series.
Yet I can't help but think streaks like these eventually come to an end. Utah was 0-8 against UCLA until Saturday afternoon and we all know how that played out. UCLA looked past the Utes and if Utah looks past UNLV, the outcome might not be that much different. There are no excuses though, the Utes should win this game and anything less than that will void what many have felt was a season saving victory against the Bruins.
Even though I think it's possible -- though slim -- Utah loses Saturday, I can't help but think they will roll. Kyle Whittingham is not the type of coach that allows his players to overlook a team. And I expect, especially with the history Utah has with Mike Sanford (for those that don't know, he was Utah's OC under Meyer, bolted the team, tried stealing some of the Utes' coaching staff prior to the Fiesta Bowl then bitched when he didn't get a ring after the Utes won, even though he didn't coach the game), that they will dominate. If they don't, well then I don't know what to say. Hopefully this isn't a topic of discussion and Utah continues its winning streak against UNLV into the 29th year.