When looking at the college sports scene this weekend, you could easily get excited for Utah State’s trip to Madison, Wis., to face the Badgers.
Considering the Badgers were upset last week by Oregon State, there is a possibility the Aggies go into Camp Randall and pull off one of the biggest wins in school history.
You could even get excited about the Olympic sports, with Weber State’s women’s soccer team pulling off a 4-1 upset over New Mexico State last weekend. The victory will certainly give them momentum heading into this weekend’s matches against Nevada and UC Santa Barbara.
But come Saturday, no one in the state will pay attention to anything outside of Rice-Eccles Stadium as the Deseret Duel kicks off with Utah and BYU facing off on the gridiron. The storyline will not celebrate the history between the schools, but rather focus on whether the future has room for the rivalry to continue or will it be snuffed out by “progress.”
If anything, this weekend represents the transition Utah colleges find themselves in.
The national exposure the Aggies will get in their matchup with the Badgers will be more than any they received in the past. Since nearly upsetting Auburn last year, plus the move next season to the Mountain West, the Aggies are in a prime position to make huge national headlines.
For Utah and BYU, extra meaning is placed on this game due to the two-year hiatus in the series following next year’s game in Provo.
After a summer expecting this year would be the last in the series for several years, in July, Utah Athletic Director Chris Hill announced there will be matchups in 2013 and 2016. But the feel of the series already changed last season. What once decided league champions now is an early season grudge match that has no effect on conference standings.
One can not blame Utah for being cautious with their non-conference schedule. Their step up to the PAC-12 was a much bigger leap in competition than what they were ready for. BYU’s independence allows them much greater freedom in scheduling, but a matchup with the Utes strengthens a schedule that could be overlooked by the BCS.
The end of the rivalry as the state has known it for almost 90 years has occurred due to the unforeseen side effect of the Utes moving up in competition.
Utah is in a no-win situation when it faces its in-state rivals now, as seen in their 27-20 defeat last week to the Aggies. They are no longer the plucky underdog, heading into a season with no real shot at a national championship and only an outside chance of making a BCS bowl.