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The BYU-Utah rivalry gets new life – for now

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(AP)

Rejoice state of Utah, the Holy War rivalry between BYU and Utah isn't dead yet.

Even though Utah coach Kyle Whittingham expressed a desire to potentially halt the rivalry game after the contract expired following this season, the two teams agreed to play again in 2013 and in 2016.

There is, however, some bad news.

As part of the agreement, the two teams will take a two-year hiatus from the series in 2014 and 2015, the first time the two teams won't play since 1922.

(Not so) coincidentally, the Utes announced a home-and-home series with Michigan during 2014 and 2015 earlier this moth and the Pac-12 and Big Ten are scheduled to begin their alliance series in 2017.

"When we joined the Pac-12 Conference, we knew there would be opportunities for Utah athletics that were never available before," Utah athletic director Chris Hill said in a statement. "A home-and-home series with Michigan is an example of something that we would not have envisioned even a few years ago and felt we could not pass up. It made our already tough schedule that much tougher and I did not think it was fair to our football program to schedule BYU on those years. We are solidly committed to play BYU in 2013 and 2016 and are close to finalizing a contract. Our intent is to continue to schedule BYU unless unusual circumstances dictate otherwise. In no way does this signal an end to the rivalry."

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(AP)

Still, fans of both teams have to be feeling pretty good that this isn't going to be the final year of one of the nation's fiercest rivalries, especially since it appeared as though its dissolution was all but a done deal.

"Bottom line is we've got to do what's best for our program," Whittingham told Yahoo! Sports back in May. "That supersedes anything to do with the rivalry. If taking a year or two off periodically is best for our program, best for our scheduling, then that's what we've got to do.

"Our program is bigger than the rivalry. That's got to take a backseat to us doing what's best for our program."

At the time, Whittingham said he was concerned about overscheduling, especially with a nine-game Pac-12 schedule. He also noted that with all of the high-level conference teams coming to Rice-Eccles Stadium, the university didn't necessarily have to bring big names to campus in the nonconference season to help the team's bottom line.

From BYU's perspective, this game is big for the Cougars' strength of schedule as they continue to navigate through their new independent status. The Cougars are definitely beefing up their schedule in an effort to position themselves in the BCS, the upcoming four-team playoff and some of the higher-level bowls. In 2013, BYU faces the likes of Texas, Boise State, Notre Dame and others in addition to the Utes.

From a college football fan perspective, anytime a rivalry is saved these days, it's good for the game. As expansion has turned college football on its head, so many of the great rivalries — looking at you Texas-A&M and Missouri-Kansas — have become casualties, which hurts the fans more than anyone. While BYU-Utah might not be one of the most popular rivalries, it's certainly one of the oldest and one of the most spirited. If these teams can find a scheduling compromise, why can't others?

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