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BYU, Utah bring Holy War to Sin City in Las Vegas Bowl

The Holy War is coming to Las Vegas.

Utah, No. 22 in the final College Football Playoff ranking, was selected Sunday as the Pac-12 opponent for Brigham Young in the Las Vegas Bowl, which will be played Dec. 19 at Sam Boyd Stadium. ABC will televise the game, which kicks off at 12:30 p.m.

BYU accepted its bid on Wednesday.

“It took me by surprise, but we’re just approaching it as ‘next opponent up,’ ” Utah linebacker Gionni Paul said. “I’ve never played in the rivalry, but it’s big around here, and we’ll be ready to play.”

The meeting of the fierce rivals, each 9-3, means selling out the game isn’t a matter of if but when. Bowl executive director John Saccenti said he would be surprised if any tickets were available after today.

“We joke around that we’re going to need a bigger stadium, that we’re going to need more seats, but it’s the truth this year,” Saccenti said. “The storyline is phenomenal. You have the Holy War in Sin City, and you have two bitter rivals that haven’t played each other in a few years and used to be in the same conference.”

The schools are separated by only 48 miles, but in many aspects they couldn’t be farther apart. Their rivalry traces back to 1896, and they continued their heated series until they also were Mountain West foes.

Then following the 2010 season, Utah headed to the Pac-12 and BYU became an independent, and their series hasn’t been the same. They haven’t met since 2013, though the teams are scheduled play each other next season in Salt Lake City and will meet for three seasons beyond that.

Saccenti said it was his understanding the Utes didn’t want to face BYU in this bowl, but they came to embrace the possibility. BYU, he said, never asked about the potential opponent.

Now both sides are fired up.

“This will be the first time this rivalry game has taken place in a bowl setting so it has some historic significance as well as being a great matchup between two teams that have had outstanding seasons,” Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a statement. “This will be our 11th straight bowl game and I’m definitely looking forward to coaching this team one last time as we take the field in Las Vegas striving to achieve our 10th win of the season.”

Mendenhall will become Virginia’s coach after this game.

Both coaches are familiar with Las Vegas because of previous trips here to play UNLV or in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Utes made the trip just last season, routing Colorado State 45-10 in the bowl.

“After being nationally ranked since the second week of the season and finishing as co-champion of the Pac-12 South Division, we are looking forward to our ninth bowl game in the last 11 seasons,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement. “Las Vegas is a great destination for our fans and the bowl organizers work hard to make it a memorable experience for the players.”

— Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him: @markanderson65

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