As Utah and BYU get set to face off in the "Holy War" game on Sunday, a new UtahPolicy.com survey finds most Utahns think the University of Utah will have the most successful football season this year.
The Dan Jones & Associates poll shows 50% of Utahns say the Utes will have the best season, while 19% think the Cougars will have the better record at the end of the season. 7% think the Aggies of Utah State will be the best team in the state, while 3% picked the Weber State Wildcats.
Scott Garrard, a longtime Utah sports radio host and VP of Radio Operations for the Utah Jazz says the numbers are not at all surprising.
"They're about right," he said. "Utah appears to have an exciting quarterback this year, and BYU is coming off an ugly loss after one of the worst offensive performances in school history."
The survey was conducted during the last week following BYU's embarrassing loss to LSU where they were shut out 27-0.
Garrard says that loss probably plays a big part in the pessimism surrounding BYU's season.
"College football is so reactionary," he said. "If BYU beats Utah next week, those numbers would almost certainly flip flop."
Not surprisingly, religious affiliation is a factor in how fans look at the upcoming season for their teams.
Mormons who say they are "very active" members of the LDS Church are the most optimistic about the Cougars prospects this year. 28% of that group say BYU will have the best season, which is the highest we found in the religious breakouts. BYU is owned by the LDS Church. Just 43% of this group said the University of Utah would have the best season.
22% of "somewhat active" Mormons say BYU will have the best season while 46% of this group pick the Utes.
55% of "not active" members of the LDS Church said the U will be more successful at the at the end of the season while 18% like the Y's chances.
Now, here's where the numbers take a turn. Non-Mormons are decidedly not fans of the Cougars this year.
- 75% of Catholics say the University of Utah will have the better season, while 5% pick BYU.
- 57% of Protestants say the Utes will be the better team at the end of the year while just 9% of that group say the Cougars will.
Another factor that's likely at work here is simply opportunity for the two teams. The University of Utah is a member of the Pac-12 Conference, which means they earn more money from their TV deal, and they can recruit better players. BYU is independent and, while they have a TV deal with ESPN, it's nowhere near as lucrative.
"Opportunity does play into it," says Garrard, who also calls play-by-play for Utah State University football. "There's just so much more optimism surrounding what Utah can do this year."
At the end of the year, that probably means a bowl game. With BYU's loss to LSU on Saturday night, they're pretty much locked out of one of the big end of year bowl games, and most assuredly out of the running for the national championship playoffs.
On the other hand, the Utes could lose two or three games this year and still end up in the Rose Bowl simply because of their conference affiliation.
The Dan Jones & Associates survey was conducted August 30 - September 5, 2017, among 608 registered Utah voters. It has a margin of error +/- 3.97%.