BYU and Utah renew their fierce rivalry this September in Provo, Utah
Photo: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Article by Nick Battey
BYU and Utah renew their rivalry on Saturday, September 11th in Provo, Utah. The Cougars are coming off an 11-1 season and will be an extremely tough matchup for a Utah team with Pac-12 Title aspirations after returning nearly every impact player from their 2020 season that ended with 3 straight wins. Who has the edge at each position group? We present you with an early preview.
Quarterback: Utah has a new look at QB this Fall with transfer QB Charlie Brewer taking the reigns. The Baylor transfer could easily become one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12 and has 65 career touchdown passes to go with 1,039 career rushing yards. In 2019, Brewer led the Baylor Bears to an 11 win season and a Sugar Bowl appearance and will look to do the same in Salt Lake City.
Down in Provo, BYU is left replacing star QB Zach Wilson who was selected 2nd overall in the NFL Draft. The Cougars have a wide open competition of Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney, Jacob Conover and Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters. Until we see what BYU has, Utah’s QB experience gives them the advantage.
Running Back: Led by Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa, BYU will have one of the best Running Back units in the nation. Allgeier was outstanding in 2020 while totaling 1,304 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Utes don't have a clear favorite for the running back position and it wouldn't surprise if the Utes use a committee approach due to their strong depth. Utah was able to land a few big time transfers in Chris Curry from LSU and TJ Pledger from Oklahoma who will compete with Freshman Micah Bernard who averaged 5.1 yards per carry in limited duty last season.
Wide Receiver: BYU received a huge boost when Puka Nacua from Washington and Utah's Samson Nacua announced they were transferring to the Cougars. They will team up with returning starters Gunner Romney and Neil Pau'u who combined for 1,370 yards last season. Puka Nacua was Washington's best receiver and despite battling injuries, he has 319 yards and has averaged 19.9 yards per catch. Samson Nacua had a very productive career with the Utes with 1,015 yards and and 11 touchdowns.
Utah has some playmakers at wide receiver led by Britain Covey and Solomon Enis. Covey, while small, is tough and shifty and has 1,698 career yards and will likely be Brewer's top option in the pass game. Enis is less proven but has nice size at 6-3 and will need a breakout season to take the pressure off Covey.
Tight End: Between Cole Fotheringham and Brant Kuithe, the Utes have a ton of experience returning. Kuithe is one of the top receiving TE's in the country and should compete with Covey to lead the Utes in receiving yards while Fotheringham will be the more traditional blocking tight end in the run and pass games.
BYU's Isaac Rex was one of the top Freshman Tight Ends in the country last season after catching 37 balls for 429 yards and 12 touchdowns. Rex looks like a future NFL Draft pick with elite size at 6-6 and should be a difficult matchup for the Utes.
Offensive Line: Utah looks to have one of the best Offensive Lines in the Pac-12 after returning every starter from 2020. Nick Ford was a 1st team All-Pac-12 selection last season while Freshman Sataoa Laumea was named to the 2nd Team.
BYU had a dominant Offensive Line in 2020 and they were a major reason the Cougars won 11 games. Three starters return in 2021 and all three graded out extremely well according to PFF. Two new starters bring question marks but the experience on the Left side should help keep this position unit performing at a high level.
Defensive Line: DL is where BYU has taken a massive hit from last year after three starters graduated. Two Freshman will be tasked with stepping up and starting on the Defensive Line and that could be a tough task with a run first offense like Utah's.
Defensive Line is always a strength for the Utes under Whittingham and 2021 will be no different. Mika Tafua is one of the best Defensive Linemen in the conference and should make things difficult for whoever wins the BYU QB competition. On the interior, Viane Moala is a massive body at 6-6 323 and will be tasked with shutting down Tyler Allgeier.
Linebacker: BYU had a young core of linebackers play last year and that experience should make them the strength of the defense in 2021.
The Utes have Nephi Sewell and Devin Lloyd back in 2021. Lloyd will be one of the top LB's in the nation and is an early contender for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Secondary: The Utah secondary returns two of the most promising young talents in the Pac-12 at corner with Clark Phillips and JaTravis Broughton. Phillips is a former Top 50 recruit and chose the Utes over Ohio State and should contend for All-Pac-12 honors this season.
BYU has major question marks in the secondary after Safeties Troy Warner and Zayne Anderson graduated. With an inexperienced DL and Secondary, that could pose major problems for BYU.
Special Teams: Utah consistently has some of the best special teams in the nation and it isn’t stopping with Jadon Redding projected as the top Kicker in the Pac-12. In the return game, Britain Covey is a savvy veteran and has 2 career punt return touchdowns.
BYU's Jake Oldroyd made all 13 of his field goal attempts last season and has proven to be extremely reliable. The Cougars' Special Teams are solid but it's impossible to go against the Utes' track record the past few years.
Coaching: Kyle Whittingham has been the epitome of consistency while at Utah and has played in the Pac-12 Title Game in 2018 and 2019. The Utah HC can develop talent better than almost anyone in the country and as a result you will continually see Utah turn 3 stars into NFL Draft picks.
Kalani Sitake has really grown as a coach the past few years and is an even better person from all accounts. The 11 win season in 2020 was special but the jury is still out on if he can keep BYU at the top of the sport for years to come.
Special Teams: Utah
Home Field: BYU
Conclusion: BYU has enough pieces to make this a very close matchup but a lot will depend on whether or not BYU can find a QB to fill in nicely for Zach Wilson without a major drop off. Utah is definitely the more experienced team after BYU had 5 players selected in the past draft but traveling to La'Vell Edwards Stadium is never easy and the environment should be intimidating to say the least.