I turned the game off after Heaps' second fumble in the endzone. I don't ever remember turning off the BYU-Utah game before until it was over. I wasn't mad. I wasn't disgusted. I felt... nothing. Utah fans didn't even send me scathing messages like last year, realizing, probably, that we had suffered enough. Even they pitied. Even they were shocked.
Indeed, 2011 marks a stunning new chapter in the Holy War, and in the world of college football. Utah's move to the Pac-10, BYU's counter by going independent, and major conference realignment (and the ominous threat of the formation of super conferences) made the season especially anticipatory. Even the teams losses to USC and Texas, respectively, in two games they both should have won didn't ruin the appeal of the Holy War.
This year, it was different. It meant MORE. More than just a mere MWC championship. More than a shot at a big time bowl game. This time, it was all about PRIDE. BYU was finally going to prove to Utah that they, too, belonged in the Pac-10, that they were still the premier team in the state. BYU was going to prove, once and for all, that they belonged. Utah had already proven it, time and time again (BCS, anyone?). Now, they could show it off with the new Pac-12 symbol, while BYU, like a little brother who doesn't get the same treatment as the older brother, scrambled to Independence.
The stage was set.
Quickly, BYU fans are now waking up to a new reality, a reality many fans STILL refuse to admit:
1 - BYU is now 2nd tier to top-tier Utah. The gap is now apparent. Utah belonged in the Pac-12, and BYU didn't. It's that simple. Utah is the BETTER TEAM.
2 - BYU will continue having serious recruting obstacles, while Utah's recruiting class will get stronger and stronger.
3 - The quest for perfection is the quest each year, as BYU can only go undefeated for a chance at a bowl other than the Armed Forces Bowl, or something equally lame. As for the rest of our schedule... does it matter AT ALL?!? 10-2, in my book, is still a losing season.
4 - Conference Realignment will only hurt BYU, especially if Texas and OU join the Pac-12. BYU is going to be on the outside looking in.
#4 is especially scary, in my opinion. Remember SMU? Remember when they were good? I don't either. As conferences shift towards the power teams, BYU may just get the short end of the stick, with absolutely nothing to play for, no one to recruit, and no chance at winning.
Now, I know there are still many positives in BYU's favor. Our independent contract obviously has some benefits ($$$!), as does our Mormon appeal and audience, as well as our strong tradition of excellence. I just fear that I may be first to admit that this era may be ending.
In other words, it may be time to start cheering for Utah.