top of page

The Holy War Rages On

In a recent Twitter post by @BigBameBoomer, he put together a list of big brother and little brother schools in each state's most prominent in-state rivalries.

His take on the BYU-Utah rivalry came as a surprise for many, especially given the recent history between these two teams. Big Game Boomer listed BYU as the big brother over Utah.

This, of course, spurred a lot of debate from BYU and Utah fans on Twitter...

John Whitaker, who runs the @BigGameBoomer page, defended his stance on the issue when he joined Ben Criddle on ESPN 960 Sports by saying...

“What you have to look at is a full body. BYU is a national brand. Utah is a regional brand. Who’s won a natty? BYU won one. Utah hasn’t. Who’s won a Heisman? BYU. Who won the last time they played? BYU. In my opinion, Utah is scared to play BYU and would rather play SEC teams and miss out on playing one of the best coolest football rivalry games in the country. When you add those things up, BYU is the big brother to Utah.”

Concerns from Utah fans centered around only the last ten years or so where, yes, Utah has dominated, going 9-1 in the last ten meetings.

That “1,” of course, came in 2021 during their last meeting. Keep in mind, these are two fan bases that can't even agree on when the first meeting of the two schools was or what the overall record for the series is.

So, what other categories can we look at to help determine which school is the “big brother” in this “Holy War?”

Looking at all-time head-to-head matchups, Utah has a big lead. Much of the early 1900s was dominated by Utah. Then, you have the 70s and 80s. Beginning in 1972, BYU went on a 19-2 streak vs Utah. This included BYU’s national championship, Heisman winner, and many other accolades. The 90s were an even 5-5, as was the 2000s. Then, Utah was invited to the Pac-12, and BYU decided to go independent. This is where you start to see Utah’s separation.

Based on recruiting class rankings between 2011 and 2020, Utah averaged a recruiting class ranking of 41, whereas BYU averaged 68.9. That is 27.9 spots higher over a decade. Based on that alone, Utah should be dominating year in and year out, which they did…sort of. In those ten years, the Holy War was played nine times. Of those nine games, seven were one-score games. With a talent gap that large, those games should have had larger margins of victory.

Even though Utah did win those games and win nine in a row, it is not fair to say that Utah dominated in those games. Looking at BYU’s streak of 19-2, there were only three BYU wins within one score and 12 games that BYU won by three scores or more.

Now THAT is domination.

Along with everything that Whitaker mentioned in his interview, there are other significant stats to look at when deciding who is the big brother in a rivalry. Winsipedia does a great job of breaking these down for us. There are 12 key stats when determining the better team. Of those 12 stats, BYU owns seven, including bowl games (40-25), Consensus All-Americans (14-11), first-round draft picks (12-10), weeks in the AP poll (266-162), and weeks at AP no. 1 (4-0).

From all this, it is easy to tell that BYU is Utah's big brother. It's easy to make the argument with a larger stadium, higher attendance, and bigger fan base. The one thing Utah has over BYU is membership in a Power 5 conference, while BYU has been independent. Now even their independence is gone. BYU is now in a better conference and making more money. It's easy to see which school is exhibiting little-brother energy by choosing to take their ball and go home.

Whether the game is played each year or not, the rivalry is, and always will be, alive and well in Utah.



Michigan Football
Blue Screen
bottom of page