Powering through these today, let’s just jump right into the Las Vegas Bowl. I’ll give you a spoiler up front: a classic rivalry matchup in a bowl game is always worth watching.
10. Royal Purple “Lubing the Deal”
Royal Purple is a great sponsor name for a bowl game, and for those of you with “pervier” minds out there you might find something funny about a lubricant company sponsoring a game played in Sin City. We aren’t really going to go down that track here, but just saying you can if you really want to go there.
Anytime there’s a rivalry game, there tends to be an added amount of “chippiness” to the game, especially between in-state rivals. This should be no exception. These teams already don’t like each other, and accusations of “dirty play” have already started. Let’s also not forget what happened with BYU’s bowl appearance last year, it ended with a brawl. I’m not saying that will happen again, but there should be a few shoving matches and plenty of trash talk involved. As they say, the more the merrier (within reason).
8. Travis Wilson Defends MVP
Utah quarterback Travis Wilson is the reigning Las Vegas Bowl MVP and will look to defend that title on Saturday, after securing a team win of course. Wilson’s tenure with the Utes has been met with mixed reviews, but his highs have undoubtedly been good. Admittedly, I have no earthly idea if, or how many, players have ever won back-to-back MVP awards of the same bowl game but it can’t be that many. Wilson has 19 total touchdowns on the season (13 passing and six rushing) and just over 2,000 passing yards. Not a great season, but not horrific, another bowl game MVP award would be a great way to close the season on a positive note though.
7. BYU Auditioning for Next Coach
Bronco Mendenhall is leaving Provo to become the next coach of Virginia at the end of the season, so the Cougars will be auditioning for whoever will be coming in next season. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo has already turned down the job and now the favorite seems to be Oregon State defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake. Other names that have been mentioned include Kyle Whittingham (unlikely but will be close on Saturday considering he coaches Utah) and the even less likely name of Darrell Bevell, the Seahawks offensive coordinator. Bevell isn’t the most highly thought of coach among Seattle fans currently, but it still seems like a far cry to suggest he will get fired and/or end up in Provo next year. My best guess is Sitake gets the job and with the Beavers not qualifying for a bowl game, he should have time to watch on Saturday.
6. Bronson Kaufusi Will Be Drafted on Day 2
Bronson Kaufusi isn’t a household name, but anyone who is doing their draft prep already knows that his name will be called sometime on the second day of the NFL draft. He is currently projected as a late second or early third round pick and depending on what his combine looks like that could go up. Kaufusi racked up 11 sacks, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception in his last year in Provo, and has been described by Coach Mendenall as “the perfect BYU player”. Admittedly, that last description is pretty ambiguous, but apparently he is a lot easier to deal with than a Texas A&M quarterback.
5. Mangum-Mathews Connection
Season-ending injuries have deprived the college football world of Taysom Hill’s magic for two consecutive seasons. The silver lining this season was the emergence of Tanner Mangum as Hill’s replacement. Tanner Mangum has had a great freshman season, complete with plenty of drama, and has quickly found a favorite target in Mitch Mathews. It probably isn’t surprising that Mathews was also Hill’s favorite target the past two seasons, but the connection forged here is like a double-the-Mormon mini-version of the fabled Steve Young-Jerry Rice connection.
4. Remember, Remember Football From September
Flashback for a second to September when the football season was still very young and you’ll remember that these were two of the most exciting teams in the country at the time. BYU won back-to-back thrillers against Nebraska and Boise State, including a Hail Mary and another late 4th and long touchdown, before losing to UCLA by one and then getting thumped by Michigan. Utah was the last undefeated team in the Pac-12 this season and opened the season by beating Michigan, and closed the month by annihilating Oregon by six touchdowns and terminating the Ducks’ playoff hopes.
3. Most Wins in Las Vegas Bowl History on the Line
Quick fact: there are three programs currently tied for most wins in Las Vegas Bowl history. Second fact: two of those three teams are playing in the game on Saturday (the other is Boise State). The winner of Saturday’s battle will move into the lead for most all-time Las Vegas Bowl victories with four. That may be inconsequential to some people, but it’s still something to add to the resume.
2. Brent Musburger-Jesse Palmer Post-Vegas Night Out Broadcast
This should be special. First, let’s just imagine Brent “Jaw on the Floor” Musburger and Jesse “The Batchelor” Palmer out together in Vegas the night before the game. Musburger passes out at the burlesque show around 9 o’clock and has to be revived with ammonia. Palmer, meanwhile, catches a heater at the blackjack table that he picked out by scoping out the one with the most twenty-year-old women. Palmer spits some mad game before getting a phone call from an ESPN executive, “Jesse, hey yeah, Brent passed out we need you to get him back up to his room.” Jesse: “Seriously? What am I his dad? Alright, I’ll take care of it.” One hour later, Palmer returns to the blackjack table where he remains until two hours prior to kickoff. Unfortunately, none of this will be televised (maybe TMZ if we’re lucky) but the after-effects will be in full-force so if any slurring, yawning or just general lack of sharpness shows up from the broadcast booth you know why.
1. Holy War in Sin City
What a cool nickname for this game and it was readymade. Traditionally, BYU vs. Utah is known as the Holy War, owing to the religious nature of Brigham Young University. This weekend it will be a rivalry renewed in Sin City, the perfect location for the game. There is always a lot of bad blood in this rivalry and it should add both tension and excitement to the bowl game. Let’s just hope that this game can live up, or at least come close, to some of the memorable previous encounters between the two teams, including Jim McMahon’s scoreboard point, “Magic happens”, Wayne Howard’s crusade, and Beck to Harline. Either way, this has already happened…