Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year. The holiday spirit is ignited as friends and family come from far and wide to enjoy a full plate of food together, give thanks for the blessings in their lives...and to watch football.
That entire weekend has no rival among holiday weekends around the entire year, especially for football fans.
Speaking of rivals, that ends up being quite a weekend for rivalry games around college football.
The Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn). The Apple Cup (Washington State vs. Washington). Michigan vs. Ohio State. Oregon vs. Oregon State. The Egg Bowl (Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State). Arizona vs. Arizona State.
All of these premier, appointment-viewing matchups occur, typically, on Thanksgiving weekend.
There once was a time The Holy War graced our calendars on that warm, festive weekend as well. For nearly half of BYU and Utah’s time in the Mountain West Conference, they squared off on Thanksgiving weekend. They even met up on “Black Friday” in 2000.
After the two schools split from the Mountain West, BYU going independent, and Utah to the PAC-12, they had to agree on out-of-conference scheduling dates. For the most part, that meant meeting up sometime in September. Which never felt right.
2018 was a glimpse back in time, with the two teams meeting up in Salt Lake on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (although, let’s not talk about the results of the second half of that game).
This rivalry belongs on the center stage of the biggest rivalry weekend in college football.
There have been some epic games of this rivalry that tore the hearts out of each fanbase.
In favor of Utah, there was 3-0 shutout of the Cougars in a blizzard in 2003. The walk-off blocked field goal in 2010. Utes fans rushed the field illegally twice before a third time after a missed BYU field goal to tie it in 2012. The 20-0 comeback in 2018.
For BYU, sending LaVell Edwards off with an epic last-minute win, orchestrated by Brandon Doman in 2000 comes to mind. The 21-10 comeback in 2001, with Luke Staley triumphantly running down the sidelines is unforgettable. Beck to Harline in 2006, anyone? 4th-and-18 in 2007. Andrew George’s walk-off touchdown in overtime in 2009.
In 2021, BYU finally got off the schneid with a 26-17 victory over the No. 21 Utes.
Overall, BYU observes the series with Utah having a 59–32–4 advantage in a matchup that approaches 100 meetings.
Now, after over a decade of Utah boasting their superior status in a Power 5 conference while BYU charted new territory in independence, they will finally again be conference mates in 2024.
The PAC-12 collapsed, with the Big 10, Big 12, and ACC going on shopping sprees as a result. The Big 12 will absorb Utah, along with Arizona, Arizona State, and Colorado.
This puts BYU and Utah in the same conference for the first time since 2010.
Now, it’s up to the Big 12 to make The Holy War magical again, on Thanksgiving weekend, each year.
There are few places like the Utah and Salt Lake Valleys in the autumn time. In late November, when the last few colorful leaves are clinging to life as snow begins to trickle down the Wasatch Mountains, it is a sight to behold. The Holy War belongs in that environment, where temperatures dip to “see-your-breath” numbers and conference standings are at stake.
Commissioner Brett Yormark is advancing the Big 12 Conference into a new age. One of the better decisions he could make is to put this game back annually on Thanksgiving weekend, where it belongs.