Countdown: 4 days away
Utah (8-3, 5-2) at No. 23 BYU (8-2, 6-0)
LaVell Edwards Stadium
Radio: 700AM, 1160AM, 102.7FM
TV: The mtn./CSTV/Versus
If you're looking for a blowout, check out a different rivalry. On the other hand, if you prefer short fingernails, this annual grudge match is just for you. More often than not lately, these instate programs have gone down to the wire. To wit, the Cougars and Utes have been within a touchdown or less of each other in 11 of the past 14 games, including last year's 33-31 thriller won by BYU. Then there was Utah's 41-34 overtime victory in 2005 and so on. The only blowouts, per se, in that period were in 2004 (Utah 52-21), 1996 (BYU 37-17) and 1995 (Utah 34-17).
UTAH PASSING GAME vs. BYU PASS DEFENSE: This isn't exactly a match-up of the two teams' strengths. The Utes' pass offense is ranked 77th in the nation (205.6 yards per game), while BYU's pass defense is 45th (216.4 allowed yards per game). Utah quarterback Brian Johnson hasn't shredded opposing secondaries (aside from Louisville), but he's been solid as a field general. And who can argue with the 7-0 record since returning from his injury? He's completed 66.1 percent of his passes for almost 1,500 yards with 10 TDs and seven picks. The loss of injured defensive back Quinn Gooch was a blow to BYU's secondary, which got torched against Tulsa but has fared better in MWC action (fourth-best in conference games only). Keeping up with Utah's quick receivers while accounting for potential gadget plays will be a challenge. The Cougars' linebackers have been excellent and will need to be again to keep Utah's aerial assault and ground game under control.
UTAH PLAYERS TO WATCH
Derrek Richards, WR The former Utah County prep star from American Fork has breakout speed and could explode on offense and special teams. He is Utah's leading receiver 49 catches, 532 yards, two TDs and the MWC's top punt returner.Zane Beadles, LT The sophomore has excelled this year after switching positions due to Jason Boone's injury. He has 21 pancake blocks and 29 knockdowns.
BYU PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jan Jorgensen, RE The sophomore defensive end has made a living in opponents' backfields, so his penetration could be key in disrupting the Utes. He has 14 tackles for loss, including nine sacks.Ben Criddle, CB/FS The senior will play a major part as he tries to help Kellen Fowler fill in for Quinn Gooch in the secondary. He has two picks and five break-ups.
PERFORMANCES TO REMEMBER
Utah's Kevin Dyson hauled in nine catches for 143 yards, sparking the Utes to a 20-14 win at Cougar Stadium in 1997. "I've never lost up here," Dyson said at the time. "That's something not a lot of people can say.'" Well, not then at least.