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BYU and Utah will meet for the final time as Mountain West Conference foes this Saturday in Salt Lake City, and as they do so, they will signal the end of an era for the 12-year-old league.
While TCU's recent rise has elevated the Horned Frogs to MWC front-runner status, the Texas-based program is a relative latecomer and remains a bit of a geographical misfit amongst its "Mountain" or "West"-based brethren.
The true heart of the Mountain West Conference is leaving the league with the departure of BYU and Utah for what both schools expect to be more advantageous situations.
Since competition began in 1999, BYU and Utah have been the bell cows in the Mountain West pasture.
BYU will leave with a conference record of either 64-26 or 65-25, and nothing Utah can do on Saturday will keep the Cougars from bowing out as the winningest team in conference history; the Utes are 62-27 in MWC play.
BYU will depart with a conference road record of either 31-14 or 32-13; the Utes will finish second with a road mark of 30-15. Besides TCU, no other MWC team has a winning road record in league games.
At home, BYU has concluded MWC competition with a slate of 33-12; the worst BYU can do is tie with Utah, which stands 32-12 heading into its MWC home finale.
BYU and Utah will leave the MWC having combined for 18 bowl bids; the other seven teams together will have combined for 27.
BYU and Utah will each leave with four football championships; TCU (soon to have three) and CSU (three) are the only other MWC schools to have won the title.
In the 11 meetings as MWC foes, Utah holds a 6-5 edge.
Since 1990, in every year but one, the winner of the BYU-Utah game has been the team that has led the other in more statistical ranking categories at the time the game was played. The exception was in 1999, when BYU lost 20-17 despite holding an advantage in 13 of 24 tracked categories.
This year, of 30 categories consulted, Utah leads BYU in 21 of them.
As I Tweeted last night (twitter.com/gregwrubell), 14 of the last 18 games between BYU and Utah have been decided by single digits, and 11 of the last 13 meetings have been won by seven points or fewer.
BYU last won a game against Utah by ten points or more back in 1996, when the Cougars used 366 rushing yards to pound the Utes 37-17.
Since '96, BYU's wins have been by two points (1998), seven points (2000), three points (2001), two points (2006), seven points (2007) and three points (2009).
In the last 14 games between BYU and Utah, each team has won seven times, with both teams holding a winning record of 4-3 on the opposing home field.
See my column in today's Deseret News for a few additional thoughts about keys to the game and BYU's battle back from 1-4 to 6-5 on the season.
Wednesday night's season finale of "BYU Football with Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall" on KSL Newsradio will include guest appearances from defensive backs Brian Logan and Brandon Bradley, and former BYU tight end Jonny Harline, who caught the game-winning score the last time BYU won at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Harline and I will be the West Jordan Macey's store Saturday morning in conjunction with the Macey's/KSL gameday tailgate party, signing copies of the new children's book "The Answered Prayer," being released this week.
"The Answered Prayer" is a re-telling of the 2006 BYU-Utah game, in both hard-copy published form and an e-book, available from Apple's iTunes App Store no later than December 1st (search "The Answered Prayer" or "BYU Miracle").
Both the hard-copy book and the e-book will contain audio from KSL Radio's game broadcast, and I serve as the narrator for the e-book. Both formats are enjoyable in their own way, and the concept is a fun one for both kids and adults.
You can order a copy of "The Answered Prayer" from the publishers' website, lastsecondmiracles.com, or purchase the book at local Macey's stores. Again, Jonny Harline and I will be signing copies of the book at the West Jordan Macey's at 7859 South 3200 West, Saturday morning starting at 9:00, leading up to the BYU-Utah game.
For those willing to brave the roads during what is supposed to be a major blizzard, I'll see you at the Marriott Center tonight for BYU and Mississippi Valley State.
KSL Radio's pregame coverage starts at 6:00pm; the tip is at 7:06.
The show page for "BYU Basketball with Head Coach Dave Rose" is now up and running in the BYU Sports menu on this page.
You can submit questions for the coach, or show up and be a part of the broadcast on Monday night and get a chance to ask Coach Rose a question in person.
Special guests for the first show of the season will be Jimmer Fredette and Associate Head Coach Dave Rice.
See you at Legends Grille on the BYU campus, Monday night at 7:00!