When the Utah football team held a recent pregame meal, players took turns getting their food according to class. 

Plenty of players on the roster are young, noted coach Kyle Whittingham.

“We sent the freshmen and two-thirds of the room stood up,” Whittingham said. 

That means there are a lot of Utes that have never played in a rivalry game against BYU. The Utes and Cougars didn’t meet last season because the game was canceled due to the pandemic. 

No. 24 Utah (1-0) and BYU (1-0) collide Saturday (8:15 p.m., MDT, ESPN) at LaVell Edwards Stadium. 

The Utes will be seeking their 10th straight victory over the Cougars, which would be the longest streak by either team in the history of the rivalry. 

“We’ll educate them what it’s all about,” Whittingham said of the players that haven’t played in the rivalry game. “We’ll need a great week of practice because based on (last Thursday), we’re not good enough. We’ve got to get better.”

If the Utes win Saturday, BYU would have to wait a long time to get another shot at snapping the streak. After Saturday’s meeting, the two programs aren’t scheduled to play again until 2024. 

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Next season, Utah’s three non-conference games are at Florida and at home against Southern Utah and San Diego State. In 2023, the Utes host Florida, travel to Baylor and face Weber State. 

“We play nine conference games, which is more than some conferences. You’ve got to figure all those are going to be battles,” athletic director Mark Harlan told the Deseret News earlier this year. “We play BYU, but some years we might take a year or two off. In general, I would like to see another premier opponent when we can that matches up and makes sense to complement that overall philosophy.”

While Utah is focused on its first Pac-12 championship this season, that doesn’t diminish the importance of the rivalry game. 

There’s a singular message that veterans like linebacker Devin Lloyd are sharing with his teammates that have never played in the Utah-BYU game. 

And it’s not just the freshmen that will be receiving that message. Key transfers like quarterback Charlie Brewer, running back Tavion Thomas and safety Brandon McKinney have never played in the Utah-BYU rivalry game. 

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“It’s up there with the best rivalries in all of college football,” Lloyd said. “More than anything, it’s about keeping the streak alive and understanding that the intensity needs to be up because we don’t lose to those guys.”

In the Utes’ win over Weber State, they overcame a sluggish start. Utah trailed 7-3 midway through the first quarter before a 90-minute weather delay. But soon thereafter, the Utes scored their first touchdown of the season on a 17-yard pass from Brewer to tight end Dalton Kincaid. 

Utah led 40-10 before the Wildcats scored a touchdown with 2:43 remaining in the game.

In his first game as a Ute, Brewer completed 19 of 27 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas rushed 12 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns while Kincaid finished with four receptions for 75 yards and a pair of TDs.

BYU, meanwhile, opened the 2021 season Saturday night with a 24-16 win over Pac-12 foe Arizona.

As Whittingham said after Utah’s victory Thursday night, there’s a lot for room for improvement for his team before next Saturday. 

But history is on the side of the Utes — they have won nine straight games in the series. They haven’t lost to the Cougars since 2009.  

“We’ve just got to prepare like we always do,” Whittingham said.