Las Vegas is not usually the host of much that is holy, but the Utah Utes and the BYU Cougars are bringing their giant state rivalry to the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday, December 19 — and it’s known as the Holy War. The BYU v. Utah game is one of the six bowl games that get this year’s massive 4o bowl game post-season kicked off — a post-season that culminates with the National Championship game on January 11. That may feel like a Holy War if you’re an Alabama fan, but BYU and Utah have a lock on the name.
The two universities first played each other in 1896 and played in the same conference from 1922 to 2010, before BYU became independent and Utah moved to the Pac-12 in 2011. For almost a century, the two schools battled for the conference title and even longer for the state’s affection — the pride of being crowned the best in Utah. The war aspect of the nickname self-evident. The “Holy” part derives from the religious associations of the schools and the state of Utah. BYU is run by the Church of Latter Day Saints — and it’s primarily (though not exclusively) Mormons who matriculate there. The University of Utah, while also having a strong percentage of Mormon students, is a public university and not officially associated with any religion. The two teams last played each other in 2013, when Utah beat BYU 20-13. The Utes won that initial contest in 1896, too, 12-4. At the Las Vegas Bowl 2015, Utah is a 2.5 point favorite. Both teams are 9-3.