VERY IMPORTANT PREFACE: Give 'Em Hell, Brigham's hearts are with the University of Utah family as they mourn the loss of Aaron Lowe. His death is tragic, heartbreaking, and something that no football team should have to deal with in the middle of the season - especially while still mourning the loss of Ty Jordan. We have donated to the Aaron Lowe Memorial Fund. These funds will help Lowe's family pay for the funeral costs for their son and brother. Excess funds will go to a memorial fund in Lowe's honor. Our hearts hurt for all of those who lost someone close to them. If you want to donate, you can do so HERE.
MUCH LESS IMPORTANT PREFACE: This is not a rivalry smack article. Though we are going to talk about Utah and some of the things happening on that front, this is not a rivalry smack article. This is an article about BYU's resurgence in the college football landscape. This article highlights some of the things that seem to say the pendulum has, at least, stopped swinging at BYU and has turned around.
College football is cyclical and there is no better example of those cycles than the one right here on the Wasatch Front. We'll start with a graph from our friends at Winsipedia.
It's hard to put too much weight into football back in the 40s and 50s, but you can clearly see the cycles. Utah dominated the rivalry early. BYU hired LaVell and dominated for about two decades. Things evened out after that for a few years before the red bars start to make their comeback. Everyone knew about the nine game losing streak that BYU snapped this year, but it goes beyond that. BYU has only beaten Utah four times since 2002. The series had clearly been dominated by Utah lately.
And let's talk about some of the things that BYU fans have said over the course of the last several years as to the reasons that Utah has been so great.
YOU HAVE TO USE BYU GRADS TO HAVE SUCCESSFUL COACHES!
Yup. It's true. Utah's head coach Kyle Whittingham is a BYU graduate. He got his first coaching gig as a graduate assistant under LaVell Edwards back in the day. He's a Utah man through and through today, but he was once a BYU guy. And that is not something that is lost on BYU fans whatsoever. That's why Whittingham's name has come up whenever there has been a discussion about BYU's head coaching position. The idea that maybe, one day, Whittingham would come home has always been a thought in BYU's minds. It hasn't happened. It won't ever happen. And frankly, I don't think any BYU fan currently wants it to happen. But, it was a talking point for a long time.
UTAH IS TAKING ALL OF THE GUYS WHO SHOULD BE PLAYING FOR BYU!
If you're telling me that you, a BYU fan, hasn't said this at any point over the last decade, you are lying to me. The list is long:
A whole mess of Pututau brothers
The list goes on and on. These are all guys who had very strong connections to BYU that ultimately ended up at Utah. Obviously, they had connections to Utah as well, so it's not crazy unexpected to see them at Utah, but these are all players that BYU fans would have expected to be in Provo in the LaVell days.
But they have all played at Utah. They have all performed well at Utah. They have all been players who helped keep BYU down over the last two decades and it's been frustrating for any BYU fan to watch.
Some of these players were big time BYU fans growing up and you can find pictures of them in BYU blue for big games from years gone by. Some of these players were the sons of former BYU legends and it was painful to see their last name on the back of a red jersey instead of blue one. It's been a tough decade.
YEAH BUT IF ____ HAPPENED THEN BYU WOULD ACTUALLY BE WINNING
Don't lie. You've said this. We've all said this.
Whether it was, "If the ref makes the right call, Brandon Bradley ends the streak before it gets started."
Or, "If we played this at the end of the year like it should be, BYU wins."
Or, "If (insert any backup QB) is playing instead, BYU would have won that game for sure."
Or any other myriad of excuse. We have all said them over the last decade. Some seems more valid than others. Some are completely pointless. And some still are absolutely true. But, at the end of the day, they're all just excuses. Point blank. They are excuses to try and make us all feel a little bit better about a long losing streak.
But what if I told you that there is evidence that the pendulum is swinging back around...
College football is cyclical. Just the same as BYU's reign in the 80s and 90s ended, so too will Utah's over the 00s and 10s. And there is evidence that it's happening already.
The arguments and complaints that BYU fans have so easily turned to over the last few years are starting to pop up from our friends in red.
"YOU HAVE TO USE FORMER UTAH COACHES IN ORDER TO WIN"
Yes. BYU's head coach, defensive coordinator and offensive coordinator were all once under the employ and tutelage of Whittingham. Kalani Sitake once led the Utah defense. Aaron Roderick once led the Utah offense. Ilaisa Tuiaki was once a key recruiter for Utah. They all learned the ropes at the school on the hill, and they all attribute Utah as a big component for why they are the coaches they are today.
Doesn't that sound familiar? Whittingham never has many kind things to say about BYU (frankly, I think it's an act - and I think he plays the role really well as it riles up his opponent and pumps up his team), but he has always been complimentary about LaVell Edwards and where his college football roots come from.
Now, Sitake and Co. are complimentary towards Whittingham. He isn't LaVell, but there are a ton of similarities between the two coaches. One of those similarities is their ever-growing coaching tree. BYU hasn't been shy about harvesting from that tree the same way Utah wasn't shy about hiring former BYU players.
"HOW IS UTAH NOT PULLING IN THESE GUYS"
Mike Wilson played at Utah. Zach Wilson is now a BYU legend.
Sean Hagen played at Utah. Cody Hagen just spurned the Utes and committed to BYU.
Ben Moa played at Utah. Aisea Moa just decommitted from Utah and BYU is in the mix.
We can even extend the list beyond simple ties between BYU and Utah.
Brandon Dart played at Utah. Jaxson Dart is slinging the rock at USC.
The sample size is small. But the same frustration that BYU fans have had for two decades is starting to surface from our Utah friends. Players who have clear ties to the Utah program are finding their way to other schools and having standout careers of their own.
To be clear, Utah is recruiting at an all time level. They are pulling in highly rated talent each year, and on paper, they shouldn't be too upset about losing some of their legacy players.
But that doesn't make it any less frustrating, does it?
Did it matter that Richard Wilson and Austin Holt were more highly rated than Jake Murphy? No. Because even though Wilson and Holt were good for BYU, every time Murphy caught a touchdown at Rice-Eccles, it pierced the heart of BYU fans.
Even though Jack Tuttle was more highly rated than Zach Wilson, does that really bring any comfort to a Utah fan at this point?
Even though Peter Costelli was, initially, more highly rated than Jaxson Dart, does that really make it easy to watch Dart have success somewhere else?
Absolutely not. Recruiting is just the start of a college football career. It's an important start. It's an inexact start. But it's just the start. And if you start great in the first quarter but falter in the fourth, you're still going to be pissed off in the end.
When it comes to Tuttle and Wilson, it's clear that Utah jumped out to an early lead but ultimately lost that game.
It's a story that BYU fans are all-too-familiar with. BYU had Garrett Bolles committed forever. That was the hot start.
In the end, he flashed the 'U' when he was being drafted by the Denver Broncos. BYU's hot start with Bolles meant nothing in the end.
Now, I'm not suggesting that Utah is going to start losing everyone in the world - not by a longshot. But you're starting to see that argument crop up around Utah fans. And as a BYU fan who recognizes that argument, we can start to anticipate what happens next.
"IF CAM RISING STARTS OVER CHARLIE BREWER THEN IT ISN'T EVEN A GAME"
I am not here to debate whether or not that is true. I don't care. Why don't I care? because it's a stupid hypothetical that, ultimately, means nothing at all.
Just like when BYU fans said if Riley Nelson doesn't play hurt. Or if Taysom Hill doesn't throw that one interception. Or whatever else you have heard from the last decade - none of it means anything at all. It's all excuses.
This isn't about Utah. This is about BYU. But we can look at some of the evidence coming out of Utah (and really out of Utah's fanbase) and recognize where that is coming from.
It's coming from the wrong side of the college football pendulum. And it is where BYU has been for the last two decade. But, finally, it feels like BYU has pushed the pendulum back the other way and it is gaining momentum as it swings backwards.