History repeated?

By By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

2004 was a BCS dream come true.

Now, as Utah tries to make the dreams of four years ago into another reality, it’s fitting that the one team standing between an 11-0 Utah team and another lucrative bowl appearance is archrival BYU.

Unlike 2004, however, BYU stands to gain a more than the satisfaction of waking Utah from its comfortable reverie before another Bowl Championship Series bowl has the chance to materialize. With BYU and Texas Christian University each having just one conference loss, the Mountain West Conference title8212;Kyle Whittingham’s primary goal since taking over the head coaching position from two-year Utah football legend Urban Meyer8212;is still on the line.

No matter the results of Saturday’s annual rivalry game, Utah will earn at least a piece of its first MWC title since 2004, but nobody can blame Utah for wanting the whole thing.

BYU spoiled its chance to make the matchup equally significant for itself. Whether it was the jinx that came with its 2008 “Quest for Perfection” motto or simply not being the better team against TCU on Oct. 16, BYU failed to hold up its end of a potentially epic “Holy War” between two unbeaten teams.

Still, this year’s rivalry game is historically significant: Never before have both “Holy War” participants been so highly ranked, and never before have they had just one loss between them in their late-November meeting.

The teams’ 2004 meeting was easily the most historic on a national level. The fact that Kirk Herbstreit, Chris Fowler and Lee Corso brought ESPN’s College GameDay to the Rice-Eccles Stadium parking lot for the first time since debuting in 1987 is evidence of that.

This is the kind of matchup that would bring GameDay back to Salt Lake City if not for the the Mountain West’s contract with the Mtn. and the Top 10 meeting between Oklahoma and Texas Tech on the same day.

As it stands, the story lines going into this year’s “Holy War” are as abundant as tickets to the game are hard to find.

Utah quarterback Brian Johnson has yet to personally beat BYU. Cougar wide receiver Austin Collie still has trouble opening his mouth without giving Utah fans some chat-room fodder. Like last year, BYU’s offense is one of the nation’s best. The same goes for Utah’s defense.

This rivalry is still so intense that both camps continue to split hairs on everything from who buys more ice cream to who has the better team mascot. Most importantly, those at Brigham Young University still dislikes their northern neighbors as much as the University of Utah dislikes the team down south.

The “Holy War” would not be what it is without its idiosyncratic fan bases and the high level of football both of these teams compete at when they meet on the field.

Utah’s last BCS appearance was the only time in the past six years the game hasn’t been decided by a touchdown or less. It’s hard to imagine things getting any tighter between the intense rivals than they were the past two seasons. In 2006, BYU needed the last 11 seconds of the game to squeak out a win in Salt Lake City. Last season, it came down to an improbable fourth-and-18 conversion for BYU to steal another last-second win. No matter where these two teams play, they give each other their best shot.

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Lennie Mahler

Harvey Unga and the other Cougars earn a share of their third Mountain West title in three years with a win over the Utes.