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Utes likely to give Cougars tough test

Using history as a guide, Saturday’s showdown between Utah and Brigham Young should be close.

The last seven meetings between the schools in Provo, Utah, have been decided by an average of 5.3 points per game.

The Mountain West Conference rivals each take a seven-game winning streak into the game, which will be the 83rd between the schools since 1922.

The winning streaks are tied for the fourth-longest in the nation, behind Hawaii (11), Kansas (11) and Boise State (nine).

Utah (8-3, 5-2 Mountain West) was the last league team to beat BYU (8-2, 6-0), which has won 14 consecutive MWC games and 11 in a row at home since losing to the Utes 41-34 in overtime in Provo on Nov. 19, 2005.

Utah, a 41/2-point underdog for Saturday’s game, has won four of its last five meetings with BYU, including the last two in Provo, where it has won six of its last seven, the loss a 24-21 setback in 2001.

The Cougars won last year’s game in Salt Lake City 33-31 in dramatic fashion. Facing third-and-10 at the Utes 11-yard line with 11 seconds left, BYU quarterback John Beck scrambled for 10 seconds before finding tight end Jonny Harline in the end zone for the winning score as time expired.

• GETTING RANKED — On the heels of its 35-10 win over Wyoming on Saturday, BYU broke into the national polls, getting No. 23 rankings in The Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls. The Cougars, who have won 18 of their last 20 games, also are ranked 25th in the BCS standings.

“It’s nice to be recognized,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said during Tuesday’s MWC teleconference. “We certainly place more emphasis on the very end, to see where we finish after all the games are played, but recognition on a national level is very good for our program.”

Since 1974, BYU is 135-41 when playing as a ranked team.

The Cougars are one of only four AP Top 25 teams ranked 19th in the nation or better in total offense and defense. The Cougars are ranked higher nationally than 15 other teams in the AP Top 25 in total offense (452.9 yards per game) and total defense (308.6 ypg).

BYU and Louisiana State are the only teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision that have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season.

• CONFERENCE CROWN — With its win over Wyoming, BYU has claimed at least a share of its second straight league title and needs a win in one of its final two games to capture the crown outright. It is the fourth league championship won by BYU since it joined the MWC in 1999 and the school’s 23rd conference title overall.

• SUPER SOPHOMORE — Cougars quarterback Max Hall completed 26 of 37 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns in BYU’s win over Wyoming to become the league’s all-time sophomore passing leader with 3,121 yards.

Hall, who also matched a MWC season record by topping 3,000 yards in his 10th game, broke Wyoming’s Casey Bramlet’s sophomore record of 3,069 yards passing.

Hall, who has five 300-yard games this season, was named co-MWC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance at Wyoming.

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