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Time to end hype — game has arrived

Whew, finally we've got a game to play.

We've endured a week of the hype, the name-calling, the radio shows where folks call up and deposit an insult, cute cut-up, or drop a diatribe of hatred. A week where we're supposed to research and write about games long since over — regurgitating them as if they were treasures, something Indiana Jones discovered from the vaults of a long-lost cave.

We've dissected the twists, the turns, the drama of the BYU-Utah rivalry, complete with whose school should be listed first. We've discovered little that was unknown but covered much of what means very little today.

We've endured the stereotypical jokes, the jingles, chants, songs and sayings on T-shirts and misguided posts on eBay and endless clutter on Internet fan boards.

A search is on to find who labeled this rivalry the Holy War. The label cropped up recently, some years before the Twin Towers fell. Once we find he/she, we're sending he/she one-way to Baghdad with a stopover in Afghanistan for Christmas.

Yes, the actual game is here, Utah at BYU, LaVell Edwards Stadium, just after lunchtime. Finally, it has gone from talk to the actual playing field.

There's little mystery to this game. The Utes have struggled a year removed from a BCS appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cougars have finished strong and finally will have a winning regular-season record for the first time after three losing seasons.

There are Kyle Whittingham and Bronco Mendenhall, two rookie coaches, facing one another for the first time as head pilots.

You've got a banged-up Ute offense against an even more banged-up BYU defense. And the Cougar offense, now a thing of motion and points, could prove the difference.

It's no secret the Utes will likely have junior college transfer quarterback Brett Ratliff throw at the Cougar secondary often and try to set up Quinton Ganther on the ground. And the Cougar defense might try to rattle Ratliff with the blitz while hogging the ball on offense to protect its secondary.

All in all, it should be an interesting day of football in this long, sometimes tortured series with minimal national significance, but the value of pride and bragging rights to fans and players is immeasurable in a state haunted by lines of red and blue.

One group will be elated today. The other group will be down. There will be no ties — only a winner and a loser.

Final predictions of the season.

NEW MEXICO 34, AIR FORCE 21: The Falcons will turn the ball over enough for the Lobos to make a bowl committee take a real look.

COLORADO STATE 38, UNLV 17: The Rams will earn bowl eligibility with an easy season-ending win at the expense of the Rebels. A rough year for former Utah offensive coordinator Mike Sanford. There's little evidence his band of transfers will be that much better in 2006.

SAN DIEGO STATE 24, WYOMING 21: This is an intriguing final MWC game. The Aztecs have been one of the more inconsistent teams in the league but have been good enough to take care of the Utes and Cougars. Tom Craft plays for his job today.

BYU 34, UTAH 21: Tough to figure a spread on this game. Much depends on the first quarter. If the Utes can score 14 points early with Ratliff, game's on, and the affair should prove entertaining and could go down to a Dan Beardall field goal. If the Cougars get to 14 first and hold down the Ute offense or get turnovers like they've done in the past three games, the 10-point Las Vegas spread will go by the wayside in short order.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com