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Utah seeks 12th straight season-opening win facing BYU

August 28, 2019
FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2018, file photo, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and his team prepares to take the field prior to an NCAA college football game against the BYU in Salt Lake City. The 14th-ranked Utes return their entire two-deep front from last season, including Leki Fotu and defensive end Bradlee Anae, who both graded well enough to project as early round picks in the 2019 NFL draft. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2018, file photo, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and his team prepares to take the field prior to an NCAA college football game against the BYU in Salt Lake City. The 14th-ranked Utes return their entire two-deep front from last season, including Leki Fotu and defensive end Bradlee Anae, who both graded well enough to project as early round picks in the 2019 NFL draft. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

PROVO, Utah (AP) — No. 14 Utah (9-5 last season) vs. BYU (7-6), in Provo, Utah, 10:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Line: Utah by 4.5

Series record: Utah leads 61-34-4

Last Meeting: Nov. 24, 2018, Utah 35, BYU 27

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Utah is seeking a ninth consecutive victory over in-state rival BYU. The Cougars are looking to spring an upset on the defending Pac-12 South champs to kick off a tough four-game stretch.

KEY MATCHUP

BYU receivers and tight ends vs Utah linebackers. The Utes are breaking in a pair of new starting linebackers in Francis Bernard and Devin Lloyd. Utah is a bit thin on experience at the position after graduating Chase Hansen and Cody Barton. The Cougars’ top weapons in the passing game are tight end Matt Bushman and slot receiver Aleva Hifo. BYU will likely try to attack the middle rather than test the stronger Ute secondary.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Utah: RB Zack Moss and WR Britain Covey. Moss suffered a hand injury in fall camp and Covey is still working his way back from a torn ACL suffered in last season’s Pac-12 title game. Both will be ready to roll Thursday, according to coach Kyle Whittingham, which is good news for the Utes. Moss is coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons and Covey was Utah’s top receiver a year ago.

BYU: RB Ty’Son Williams and QB Zach Wilson. Williams, a South Carolina graduate transfer, earned the starting job in the backfield and looks to give the Cougars an added punch in the running game. Wilson had a strong first half against Utah last November before being bottled up by the Ute defense.

FACTS & FIGURES

This is the 100th meeting in the Holy War. The rivalry series began in 1896 with a 12-4 Utah victory over Brigham Young Academy. . The Utes are 23-1 in regular season nonconference games since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. BYU has won five straight season openers and nine of 10. Utah has won 11 straight season openers starting with a 25-23 win at Michigan in 2008. . Utah leads the Pac-12 in turnovers forced (133) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (12) over the last five seasons. . BYU TE Matt Bushman led all FBS tight ends with 17.62 yards per reception in 2018. . Utah DE Bradlee Anae led the Pac-12 with 8.0 sacks a year ago.

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