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Bye weeks and Utah football: What history says

Bye weeks and Utah football: What history says



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How has Utah fared coming off a bye week under Kyle Whittingham? Let's see what the history books have to say:

2005

Going into the bye:Utah defeated UNLV, 42-32, in Las Vegas

Coming out of the bye:Utah defeated Wyoming, 43-13, in Salt Lake City

Wyoming synopsis: The 2005 Wyoming team started the season with high hopes, and even a 32-14 season-opening loss to Florida (under first-year coach Urban Meyer) wasn't all togther dispiriting. Wyoming won its next four games, but then lost its next three to TCU, New Mexico and Colorado State, the latter two by single digits.

Eye-opening game facts: The 30-point loss to Utah represented Wyoming's worst loss of the year in terms of margin of defeat, and the 30-point win was Utah's greatest. Furthermore, Wyoming was playing its second consecutive road game. Utah rolled up 563 yards total offense and Brian Johnson had his best game of the year with 384 yards passing and four touchdowns.

Did the bye help? Significantly

2006

Going into the bye:Utah defeated UNLV, 45-23, in Salt Lake City

Coming out of the bye:Utah defeated Colorado State 35-22, in Salt Lake City

CSU synopsis: Another team that started hot, but was in the midst of a horrific slide by the time it played Utah. CSU started 4-1, but had lost four straight leading up to playing Utah, including a three-point loss to Air Force and a one-point loss to New Mexico. Its other two games saw BYU and Wyoming outscore the Rams by a 48-3 aggregate. This was a very inconsistent Ram team that came to Salt Lake City

Eye-opening game facts: Again, the Utah offense had a breakout day statistically, although its 526 yards probably should have resulted in more points. Without 10 penalties for 105 yards (compared with one penalty for five yards for CSU), the final score likely would have been worse. The timing of the bye was good for Utah. After a stretch in which it lost three out of four games (including back-to-back road games at Wyoming and New Mexico just five days apart), Utah got a much-needed win against UNLV and some rest before facing a Ram squad that was circling the drain. The Rams would end the season on a seven-game losing streak.

Did the bye help? Likely. But given the Rams' state of affairs, the result probably wouldn't differ much if Utah didn't have a bye beforehand.

2007

Going into the bye:Utah defeated Colorado State, 27-3, in Fort Collins, Colo.

Coming out of the bye:Utah defeated Wyoming, 50-0, in Salt Lake City

Wyoming synopsis: There is definitely a pattern here as the Pokes started the year 4-1, but were losers of three of their last four coming to Rice-Eccles Stadium. Still, two of those losses were by single digits, and Wyoming had to feel good in knowing it handed Utah its worst loss in this series in over a decade.

Eye-opening game facts: This was a slaughter from the moment Wyoming's fake punt from deep in its down end failed at the end of its first possession. Utah led 40-0 at halftime and scored 50 points in a game for the first time since 2004. Wyoming had the ball past midfield all of one time, and the result of that possession was perhaps the most infamous moment in the viral age of college athletics: Wyoming coach Joe Glenn was caught giving the middle finger to the Utah sideline after an onside kick attempt and Utah leading 43-0.

Did the bye help? Does the sun rise in the east?

2008

Going into the bye:Utah defeated Colorado State, 49-16, in Salt Lake City

Coming out of the bye:Utah defeated New Mexico, 13-10, in Albuquerque

New Mexico synopsis: UNM was struggling in coach Rocky Long's final season, but at 4-5, were light years ahead of where it is now under Mike Locksley. At the same time, the Lobos were a frigtheningly inconsistent bunch. UNM dropped a MWC-record 70 points against San Diego State just two weeks prior to playing Utah, yet would score 14 or fewer points in six games. UNM also had the edge of a Thursday game the previous week against Air Force (a 23-10 loss), so like Utah, the Lobos were coming in a little more rested than usual.

Eye-opening game facts: This was the close call against an inferior opponent that nearly every great team has during the course of a season. Utah's 13-10 victory was every bit as unimpressive as the final score indicates, and the box score revealed a statistical edge for Utah every bit as slight as the final score. Two Utah turnovers (to UNM's zero) kept Utah from adding to its point total, but Utah dominated special teams, blocking a first-half UNM field goal attempt and Louie Sakoda pinning UNM on its own one-yard line late in the game.

Did the bye help? If this is an example of a bye week helping a team, it's scary to think what would have happened to Utah had it not had a bye before this game.

2009

Going into the bye:Utah defeated Louisville, 30-14, in Salt Lake City

Coming out of the bye:Utah defeated Colorado State, 24-17, in Fort Collins, Colo.

CSU synopsis: The Rams were experiencing a resurgence of sorts under second-year coach Steve Fairchild. In his rookie year, he inherited a 3-9 Rams team and then went 7-6 and were bowl game winners against Fresno State. In 2009, the Rams had started 3-0 before losing at BYU (by a lot) and at Idaho (by a deuce). And when CSU took a 17-3 lead into the third quarter on an exceptionally cold night at Hughes Stadium (the temperature at kickoff was 25 degrees), the Rams looked like they were going to get back on the winning track.

Eye-opening game facts: This was the Robert Johnson Show as Utah's free safety picked off three second-half passes to fuel Utah's comeback. Offensively, Utah posted solid edges across the board statistically and scored the winning touchdown on Terrence Cain's 8-yard strike to Eddie Wide III with 3:40 left in the game. It was the largest second-half comeback on the road for Utah since 1991 when it defeated Wyoming 57-42.

Did the bye help? Probably. Utah lost starting running back Matt Asiata to a season-ending knee injury in the Louisville game. With an extra week to prepare for being the man, Wide III responded by gaining 102 yards on 17 carries. As for Colorado State, the Rams wouldn't win again for the rest of the year, losing nine straight.

2010

Going into the bye:Utah defeated San Jose State, 56-3, in Salt Lake City.

Coming out of the bye:Utah defeated Iowa State, 68-27, in Ames, Iowa

Iowa State synopsis: The Cyclones easily marked the stiffest test for Utah coming off a bye week, having defeated Texas Tech 52-38 the week prior and carrying a 3-2 mark. One of its losses was a seven-point decision to Kansas State at Arrowhead Stadium. ISU had surprised everyone in college football by going to a bowl (and winning it) the year previously under rookie head coach Paul Rhoads.

Eye-opening game facts: So much for the difficulty of the opponent. Utah recorded a whopping 1,027 yards of all-purpose yardage (593 total offense, 424 on kickoff, punt and interception returns). Utah had never scored that many points in a game against a BCS conference team.

Did the bye help? Without question

Recap: In six meetings, the bye week was followed up with a superior performance three times, two average performances and one mediocre performance. It should be noted that Utah has never lost coming off a bye week under Whittingham, nor has it ever lost a game preceding a bye. Twice, however, we've seen Utah go road-bye-home, and in both games, Utah blistered the opposition. Washington promises to be better than either 2005 or 2007 Wyoming, but this year's Utah team might be better than its 2005 and 2007 counterparts, too.

Utah won't throttle Washington like it did BYU — not by a longshot — but Utah should be much better in its Pac-12 home opener than it was at USC. Of course, the big unknown in all of this is how Washington will emerge after hosting Cal this weekend.

Patrick Sheltra

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