There will be a BYU Cougar on the winning Super Bowl team for the ninth straight year. That much is a certainty even before Sunday's 3 p.m. MST kickoff.

Both the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals, champions of the NFC and AFC, respectively, have former Cougars on their rosters.Super Bowl champions as far back as the 1981 game have included BYU players. In Super Bowl XV, the Oakland Raiders had Marc Wilson and Todd Christensen on their side, starting the trend.

In Super Bowl XVI, the winning San Francisco 49ers had Bill Ring. The Super Bowl XVII champion Washington Redskins had Matt Mendenhall. In Super Bowl XVIII the Los Angeles Raiders again had Wilson and Christensen, while the XIX Super Bowl had Ring, Tom Holmoe and Todd Shell playing for the champion 49ers.

In Super Bowl XX the Chicago Bears had Jim McMahon on their side, while in Super Bowl XXI the New York Giants had Bart Oates, and last year, in Super Bowl XXII, the Washington Redskins had Kurt Gouviea.

By contrast, only one losing Super Bowl team of the past decade - the Denver Broncos two years ago, with veteran guard Paul Howard, have had a BYU alum on its active roster.

This year's Super Bowl has three Cougars - linebackers Leon White, defensive end Jason Buck and punter Lee Johnson - on the Cincinnati Bengals team and two Cougars - quarterback Steve Young and defensive back Holmoe - on the San Francisco 49ers squad. The 49ers have a third Cougar, Shell, but he is on injured reserve and won't suit up for Sunday's game.

"I guess that means the team with the most Cougars in uniform will win," said Johnson. " . . . so that means the Bengals - by one."