College football's Holy War will unfortunately take its first armistice in nearly a century in 2014 and 2015, but it could be worse--at least BYU and Utah have agreed to continue the series in 2013 and 2016.
Utah athletic director Chris Hill told reporters (including the Salt Lake Tribune's Jay Drew) that his Utes would travel to Provo to take on the Cougars the fourth week of the 2013 season and host BYU at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2016. With the exception of World War II, the two years off will represent the first break in the 116-year-old series since 1922.
Utes coach Kyle Whittingham foreshadowed the break in the series when he said in May that his "program is bigger than the rivalry," and that something would have to give once the Utes tried to balance their new nine-game Pac-12 schedule with taking on quality nonconference foes from across the country. It can't be a coincidence that the two years the battle for the Beehive Boot takes off will be the same 2014 and 2015 seasons the Utes play a home-and-home series with Michigan.
"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," Whittingham said.
As for the Cougars, their independence means that the Utah games will just be one in a series of rigorous tests, particularly in 2013. Bronco Mendenhall's team will face Texas, Boise State, and the Utes all in the first four weeks of the season, with Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Washington State, Houston and Hawaii still to come.
Mendenhall recently told the Deseret News that his team would have to continue its aggressive scheduling if it wanted to be part of the national championship conversation.
"If you judge by number of wins, not that far," Mendenhall said when asked how far from a playoff spot the Cougars might be. "If you judge by the quality teams we would play week-in and week-out and then the number of wins, I think that's the next step — continuing to build our schedule in a manner that has more difficulty. Because strength of schedule will be one of the things that will be a determinant to get into one of those. So if we can add stronger teams throughout our schedule and keep similar wins or more, that's what the next step is."
Given the similarity of Mendenhall's comments to those of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, it's clear that college football's schedule-makers are taking the playoff's strength of schedule mandate seriously. That's the good news--the bad news is that as long as teams like Michigan continue to sign up Utah to boost their strength-of-schedule, the 2014-2015 Holy War hiatus likely won't be the last.
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