Utah Utes football: Utes stay steady at No. 7 in the rankings that count

Published: Monday, Nov. 17 2008 12:00 a.m. MST

SAN DIEGO — For the first time since 2004, Utah has climbed to the top of the mountain — the Mountain West Conference, that is.
A day after securing at least a share of a lofty finish with a 63-14 win over San Diego State, the Utes were unable to make any upward movement in this week's Bowl Championship Series standings or rankings.
For the second consecutive week, they're seventh in the ones that count toward a lucrative bowl invitation (BCS standings, USA Today coaches poll and Harris Interactive rankings) and No. 8 in the Associated Press Top 25.
Perhaps it's a good thing considering Utah's determination to maintain a steady course each week. The Utes focus on the task at hand and try not to look ahead. It's an approach that has led to 12 consecutive victories over the past two seasons, including an 11-0 mark this season.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham hasn't wavered. He kept to the script after the victory at Qualcomm Stadium, even though this Saturday's game against BYU carries extreme importance for his program — a BCS berth, an outright conference title, an undefeated season and revenge for tough losses to the Cougars over the past two seasons.
"It's like any other week," Whittingham said. "We focus week-to-week."
He did, however, acknowledge that the Utes would like to "finish the deal." They'll get ready for it when work resumes today.
"You've got to be ready to play. That's the bottom line. It's a huge game," said quarterback Brian Johnson. "We've done a good job of being ready and being prepared to play week in and week out. This week it's all in. It's all or nothing. We've got to go out there and play our guts out for 60 minutes."
The Utes are eager for the challenge. Sharing the MWC crown is one thing, winning it outright is preferable.
"It feels great. We haven't had that here since 2004. It was obviously our main goal as a team," Johnson said of clinching at least a share of the title. "We got part of it accomplished and we've still got some work left to be done."
The highest-ranked meeting between the Utes and Cougars, who are No. 8 and No. 16, respectively, in this week's AP poll, could be the biggest ever played in the rivalry.
"I think in terms of my tenure you would have to say that. How much better records can you get," said Utah's Chris Hill, who has been the school's athletics director since 1987. "I do think it's going to be as big as it gets for the BYU-Utah rivalry since I've been here."

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