BYU Utah

SPORTS: 48 Hours Later: BYU-Utah

Written by Preston Johnson on . Posted in Sports

A delayed flight from LAX to Salt Lake City due to a blizzard, unable to locate my car in the airport parking lot due to the same blizzard, driving over an hour at 20-30 mph over the 20 miles from the airport to Sandy due to the same blizzard, having to pull off the road and stay in a Comfort Inn over night because I could not make it home due to the same blizzard, and an awful first day back at school after an infinitely better and warmer Thanksgiving break in Southern California later, I can now sit down to reminisce about the BYU-Utah football game that took place about 48 hours ago.

Stats that need to be thrown around:

1) BYU’s record under Bronco Mendenhall when leading after three quarters prior to Saturday’s BYU-Utah game?  48-1. Last loss was in 2005 vs. TCU in overtime, 50-51.

2) Not since BYU’s 23-20 overtime loss to Boston College in 2006 had the Cougars lost a game decided by 7 points or fewer. That is absurd.

3) Bronco Mendenhall’s November record?  20-3 — all losses to Utah (2005, 2008, 2010).

4) Jake Heaps on Saturday: 22/37 passing for 228 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception.  Utah’s Wynn/Cain QB combo: 15/37 passing for 207 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions.

If you were to ask me who won this game after hearing about the QB play and BYU’s 13-0 lead entering the fourth quarter (especially after seeing Bronco’s career stats in that regard), I would have picked BYU 100 times out of 99. No typo there — I would have been that sure of it.

So how is it that Utah pulled out the victory over BYU 17-16 last Saturday? Was I dreaming? What does this mean for the future of each program and the rivalry? Knowing I probably needed a weekend to think this game over and let it settle in so that I am not overly biased toward BYU and a few suspect plays that occurred late in the game, I decided to wait till today to address these questions.

Unfortunately for Ute fans, it has only gotten worse.

My response in regards to how in the world Utah got the victory on Saturday? Luck, fate, destiny, whatever you want to call it. I will call it luck. There were four particular plays that prove this to be a valid conclusion:

1) Early in the fourth quarter with Utah trailing 13-3, the great Jordan Wynn threw up a bomb down the sideline to DeVonte Christopher. The only problem with this play was that BYU’s Brandon Bradley was all over Christopher. In fact, his coverage was so good that he was able to deflect the ball… right into Christopher’s hands for a touchdown.

2) Following a BYU field goal that put the Cougars up 16-10 with about 7 minutes left in the game, the Utes needed to drive 80-plus yards to score a touchdown. Three brilliant defensive plays later from BYU (or three terrible Jordan Wynn balls that missed receivers by a mile — however you wish to look at it, I look at it both ways), Utah was forced to punt in hopes that their defense could get a stop and give their offense another chance to win the game. Fortunately for the Utes, they shanked a punt about 20 yards that happened to find the leg of a BYU player who was blocking a few yards from the sideline.  The Utes recovered the fumble and got the ball back with great field position and plenty of time on the clock.

3) Two stellar Jordan Wynn passes later, Brandon Bradley intercepted a pass that, in my opinion, was thrown to one of three BYU defenders, not a Ute wide receiver. The instant I saw Bradley intercept the pass I stood up off my couch and yelled at him four or five times to GET DOWN. The last thing I wanted was the Utes to catch some lucky break and have Bradley fumble the ball he had just intercepted right back to Utah. Of course, he fumbled the ball right back to Utah.

4) Fortunately for Cougar fans, after seeing the replay of this specific fumble mentioned above, we had no need to fear as it was very clear Bradley’s knee was on the ground well before the Utah player forced the fumble. I was not even sweating it. I had no doubt. Three different camera angles, almost a full second of knee-ground contact before the ball was stripped, no problem. BYU ball, 100 times out of 98. Interestingly enough though, despite the advantage of video replay — in slow motion, viewed multiple times — the booth review official ruled the play a fumble, and the Utes were given the ball. At that point there was no question, they were going to score. They did, and won the game 17-16. BYU was not meant to win this game.

To the Ute fans that want to argue that this was actually not luck, I want to ask them what the odds are of Bradley deflecting a perfectly played ball upwards right to the falling Christopher for a touchdown. I want to know what the odds are of the Ute punter shanking one of many punts he kicked all game directly off the BYU player’s leg with such impeccable timing. I want to know the odds that an interception is fumbled right back to the same team that had just turned the ball over — in the same play.

I looked this one up to help you out. It is less than 2 percent.

I want to know, first, the odds that the review booth official assigned to this BYU/Utah game did not have a brain, and then, second, the odds that despite clear evidence the play should be reversed, he decided to call the play as stands. How many times has this happened? Two or three maybe? Ever? Then, after all is said and done and you have calculated the precise numbers in each of these situations, I want you to tell me the odds that they all happen, in the same game, in the same quarter, benefiting the same team. I am 100 percent serious. I want a number.

Aside from dwelling on the past, I decided it would be better for me to take what I learned from this game and figure out what it means for the future of the programs at BYU and Utah. I was not being sarcastic throughout the entire article in reference to Jordan Wynn by accident. If he is the future of the Utah football program at quarterback, then the move to the Pac-12 next season could be a brutal one. He has yet to blossom into a QB that you can trust and that can make big plays, and he definitely has not shown up for any big games (see TCU, Notre Dame, BYU).

I do not and will never blame Utah for bailing on the Mountain West Conference to accept the Pac-12 invitation and, despite the attitude of the majority of this article, I actually will root for Utah to do well in the Pac-12 and represent the MWC and smaller schools in the best way they possibly can. Unfortunately for them, however, I do not foresee anything great in the near future.

BYU, in my opinion, has a much brighter future. The way Jake Heaps played Saturday in his first ever BYU-Utah rivalry game, and considering it was at Rice-Eccles Stadium, was impressive to say the the least. Even after the Cougars found themselves down one point with a couple minutes to go and after two absurd play calls from Robert Annae to start the potentially game-winning drive, Heaps stepped up and looked as poised and composed as any quarterback in the nation playing at any level. His arm is there, his accuracy is there, the IQ is there — but what I had not seen prior to this game was how he would perform in crunch time.

He stepped up. Big time.

Oh yeah, I do not think I mentioned this either, he is still a 19-year-old true freshman.  The independent schedule that BYU will face in the near future will make it tough to win every game, but one thing I do not doubt is that Jake Heaps gives the Cougars the best chance to do just that.

Many people are wondering what will happen to the BYU-Utah rivalry. I personally do not think it is going anywhere. Yes, it is true that both schools have parted ways and left the MWC, but if last Saturday’s game showed us one thing, it is that both schools — players and fans united — care about this game more than any other. I do not see that changing whether they meet in November or September.

To end, I would like to share one last final stat, perhaps the best of them all:

1) BYU-Utah in the last 15 years: 12 games decided by 7 points or less, the most by any two teams that have faced one another in the nation.

I learned that this is what counts. This is what the rivalry is all about.

Jimmer Fredette

SPORTS: Podcast: BYU Basketball Preview

Written by Preston Johnson on . Posted in Sports

The new basketball season is here, the new basketball season is here! Special guest and Rhombus editor-in-chief Steve Pierce joins the PB&J Report crew for the podcast’s annual preview of the BYU men’s basketball season and the team’s prospects — both in the Mountain West Conference and beyond. Also, as always, a little football talk is thrown in for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!

You can stream the podcast by simply clicking on the link below, or you can download it to your computer by right-clicking the link and selecting “Save Link As” from the menu.

Listen to: Rhombus Podcast 029 — The PB&J Report (2010.11.18)

Cam Newton

SPORTS: Podcast: BYU-CSU Preview, College Football Update, Jazz Resurrection

Written by Preston Johnson on . Posted in Sports

Is the new, competent-looking BYU football team for real — or was it just a one-time aberration against a sub-standard opponent? How will the Mountain West shake out — and does BYU actually have the potential to go to a respectable bowl game? Will Auburn stumble in the face of the latest allegations against star quarterback Cam Newton — and will that open up a slot in the national title game for TCU? And what the heck is going on with the Utah Jazz? The answers to all these questions and more are in this week’s edition of The PB&J Report. Enjoy!

You can stream the podcast by simply clicking on the link below, or you can download it to your computer by right-clicking the link and selecting “Save Link As” from the menu.

Listen to: Rhombus Podcast 028 — The PB&J Report (2010.11.12)

Boise State

SPORTS: The Economic Case Against the Irrationality of College Football and the BCS

Written by Daniel Anderson on . Posted in Sports

You’ve taken part in this argument before. It’s everywhere. You can’t avoid it.

A decade ago, it was even somewhat enjoyable. We would analyze the stats like pundits, spout our opinions, and fantasize about the hypothetical. How would one of these non-BCS schools do against the big kids? Do non-BCS schools belong in the championship picture?

Since there exists no playoff in college football (although their basketball counterparts seem to pull it off just fine), fans of the game live and die by this kind of conjecture. This age of parity turns the heat up on these discussions to a full-blown boil. Competently run programs like Utah, TCU and Boise State (and until recently BYU) annually produce quality teams that stir the BCS pot. To complicate things further, the BCS has been around long enough to not only betray its own futility, but also render our arguments pointless.

To illustrate, let’s run through two generic conversations inspired by real life events. I’ve volunteered Jake Welch of PB&J Report fame to participate in these hypothetical conversations with me. Here we go.

Jake: “I think if TCU runs the table and finishes undefeated, they deserve to play for the national title.”

Me: “What about Boise State?”

Jake: “They’ve had a great couple of seasons, but they don’t play any quality opponents. Their schedule is so weak.”

Me: “They beat TCU last season.”

Jake: “True, but I think TCU was a little shell shocked by their first BCS bowl. It’s not like Boise State beat them by a lot, and I think TCU is a better team overall. They’ve beaten Oregon State more soundly than Boise State did this year, plus Boise State looked less than impressive in their last win against San Jose State.” (Side note, just to underscore the subjectivity of these types of arguments: Boise State beat San Jose State by 29 points. That’s more than four touchdowns.)

Me: “Ah. I see.”

Notice that Jake (representing all of us) uses the same logic of transitivity that has become the all-powerful measuring stick of college football rankings. In economics, we use the same logic to figure out which types of goods consumers will buy. Essentially, if a person prefers A over B and B over C, then that person must also prefer A over C. Notice further that Jake also takes into consideration margin of victory of common opponents and “style points” in order to determine which bundle/team was hypothetically preferred/better than the other.

While transitivity is a fine way to determine relatively stable consumer preferences, it turns out it is a really bad way to determine who would win a football game. (If you’re not buying this assertion, please refer the entire 2007-2008 college football season).

Next conversation:

Jake: “I think that if Alabama wins the rest of their games, they should go to the National Championship game over TCU or Boise State, even if either of those teams is undefeated.” 1

Me: “Why is that? Isn’t losing zero games better than losing one?”

Jake: “Well, Alabama plays a much tougher schedule. TCU or Boise State would get shredded in the SEC, or any other power conference.”

Me: “Yeah, but Utah beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two seasons ago. And Boise State beat Oklahoma in 2007.”

Jake: “True, but I just don’t think Alabama cared about that game very much, having just lost the SEC title game and their shot at the national championship. They weren’t motivated to play, and after Utah went up big on them, they scored 17 straight points. Obviously they were the better team. And Boise State got lucky that Oklahoma wasn’t ready for their trick plays.”

Me: “Ah. Right.”

Nauseous yet? Some interesting points about this second conversation: First, this is just a minimal example of the conjectural firestorm that went on after both of those BCS bowl victories by Utah and Boise State. It was out of control — small conference fans demanding that their teams get respect and automatic bids; large conference fans playing damage control and diminishing their losses by saying it was bad luck and that the teams they were facing were so pathetic they underestimated them and didn’t try hard.

Second, the logic is entirely wrong. And it’s our friends at the Bowl Championship Series that deserve the blame. Because their subjective ranking system means everything, we (and the computers) must try to figure out who has the best team(s). We have to do this because the match-up in the championship game depends on figuring it out. Hence, the speculation.

But there is a major problem with this. As much as we try, the sport of football is not set up to divine who is the better team based on one single game alone. The sample size is insufficient. We draw a conclusion that Boise State is just as good or better than Oklahoma because they beat them in one game. But in reality, the only conclusion we are allowed to draw from that magical Fiesta Bowl is that Boise State scored more points than Oklahoma did by the time the game ended.

This is like those loudmouths that, the second there is a big snowstorm in April or May, start sarcastically saying “Wow, I guess we’re really going through this whole ‘global warming’ thing after all.” They simply come across as uneducated. Arguing that climate trends can be proven or disproven based on the weather for one day — for even one week or one month or one year — is the acme of foolishness. (The same goes for arguing that a very warm day in December or January means global warming, in fact, exists.)

Yet this is what college football forces us to do week in and week out — and I can’t take it anymore.

Last season, TCU played as perfect a regular season as you could play against as strong a schedule as you could ask for, excepting the SEC schedule. And instead of getting a shot at the national title, they got shafted to play Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Then, when they lost, everyone used it as proof that climate change was bogus — that they weren’t a good team after all. Their entire season must have been a fluke since they lost a game.

Using one game to draw valuations and conclusions about teams as a whole is (and this is important) so unbelievably pointless. But we have to. It’s college football. There’s no playoff. It’s unavoidable.

But that’s not entirely true. There is one way to avoid it. Watch football on Sunday.

In the blessed world of professional football, there are no subjective rankings. There are no “style points” and margin of victory analysis. There are no conclusions drawn about one team beating another aside from the winning team simply scored more points than the losing team. Every team has a one-in-four chance of winning their division and making the playoffs — and some are even invited in as a wild card in case they don’t. When the defending champion Saints lost at home to lowly Cleveland two weeks ago, their season was not over. They are still in the race for their division and firmly in control of their own destiny. Compare that with the crushing effects of BYU’s loss to Florida State last year, just two weeks after beating Oklahoma.

In the refreshing land of the NFL, a win is what it was meant to be — a reflection of who was the better team on that day. Not a means of building up your resume in order to make the case that you’re hypothetically better than everyone else, so you can play in a championship game decided by a computer that takes into account whether you beat your opponent by enough points and with enough flash. Being hypothetically better means nothing in the NFL. Just ask the hypothetically better Indianapolis Colts after the clock read all zeroes at last years’ Super Bowl. No one was up in arms claiming the Colts were unmotivated but were still the better team in actuality. All of that conjecture would have been comically pointless.

Yet, in college football, that kind of postulating is what fills much of what we discuss on a daily and weekly basis. It will form the foundation of the discussion this season as we await the computer results regarding whether yet another undefeated team from a small conference deserves to play for the national championship over a one-loss BCS conference team. And no matter what happens, some people will be unhappy and unfulfilled.

For those of us seeking a bit of rationality in our football experience, the NFL provides the objective breath of fresh air.


1At the time of writing, Alabama was still a one-loss team. They have since lost to LSU, making this conversation a little outdated. But it is still an accurate representation of the logic involved in college football debates, so it stayed.

SPORTS: Podcast: BYU-UNLV Preview, Mid-week Update

Written by Jake Welch on . Posted in Sports, Uncategorized

BYU takes a week off to regroup and prepare for this Saturday’s showdown with UNLV. In this week’s podcast, Jake Welch and Preston Johnson break down what the season looks like with just four games remaining in a disappointing year. Enjoy!

You can stream the podcast by simply clicking on the link below, or you can download it to your computer by right-clicking the link and selecting “Save Link As” from the menu.

Listen to: Rhombus Podcast 027 — The PB&J Report (2010.11.04)

SPORTS: Podcast: BYU-SDSU Preview, Mid-week Update

Written by Jake Welch on . Posted in Sports

The PB&J boys are a little depressed about this BYU football season — a 1-4 start will do that to you. Nevertheless, the crew presses on with their regular review of the week that was in Cougar football, including a blowout loss to Utah State, and a look forward to Saturday’s homecoming game against San Diego State. Enjoy!

You can stream the podcast by simply clicking on the link below, or you can download it to your computer by right-clicking the link and selecting “Save Link As” from the menu.

Listen to: Rhombus Podcast 025 — The PB&J Report (2010.10.08)

SPORTS: Podcast: BYU-USU Preview, Mid-week Review

Written by Jake Welch on . Posted in Sports

Jake Welch and Preston Johnson recap last week’s drubbing by now-ranked Nevada and wax poetic about BYU’s three-game losing streak. A trip north to the unfriendly confines of Romney Stadium is up this Friday, and the PB&J boys break down the Cougars’ chances of snapping their slide against the suddenly resurgent Utah State Aggies. Enjoy!

You can stream the podcast by simply clicking on the link below, or you can download it to your computer by right-clicking the link and selecting “Save Link As” from the menu.

Listen to: Rhombus Podcast 026 — The PB&J Report (2010.09.30)

SPORTS: Podcast: BYU-Nevada Preview, Mid-week Update

Written by Jake Welch on . Posted in Sports

The PB&J Report boys get together for another mid-week report on the state of BYU football — an especially grim task following the Cougars’ second-straight loss. Tune in for a recap of all the embarrassing action from last week’s trip to Tallahassee and a look forward at this weekend’s contest with the high-flying Nevada Wolf Pack. Enjoy!

You can stream the podcast by simply clicking on the link below, or you can download it to your computer by right-clicking the link and selecting “Save Link As” from the menu.

Listen to: Rhombus Podcast 025 — The PB&J Report (2010.09.22)