Beat Utah today and BYU will not have to share the Mountain West football title with anybody. Again.
Defeat the Utes at home and the Cougars will stay in the national rankings, elevating BYU to a 9-2 overall mark, 7-0 in the MWC heading into the season finale at San Diego State.
"We don't want to share the trophy with anybody," said senior captain Bryan Kehl.
"Nobody on our team wants to accept anything but an outright championship," echoed senior Kelly Poppinga.
The Cougars win, and they keep a two-game lead in the league standings with one to go. BYU wins, they're undefeated at home again, making the streak 12 straight, the longest since the Cougars went 17-0 at home from Oct. 7, 1989, to Nov. 23, 1991 (Ty Detmer era). The Cougars defeat Utah, and they would extend their MWC-record winning streak to 15 games.
It goes without saying that a win would push BYU further ahead in the numbers game at home with Utah, since the Utes have won six out of the past seven in Provo.
"I didn't know that," said senior center Sete Aulai.
Still, that didn't muster a change in the Cougar routine.
"We don't have to do anything different than what we've been doing this season, just take it one game at a time like we did against TCU, like we did against Wyoming last week," Aulai said. "Them winning the last six of seven doesn't change anything in how we approach this game."
Aulai said beating Utah in LaVell Edwards Stadium means a lot to BYU's seniors, who will play their last game at home today. "It means a lot to me. I know it does to my teammates. We want to keep our homefield advantage going."
The Cougars have won 11 straight at home dating back to the loss to Utah in 2005.
This past week, the Cougars climbed into the BCS rankings, a unique perch for a MWC team, which opens the door to plenty of postseason choices, whether it be a berth in the Las Vegas Bowl or a peek from the Cotton Bowl, which is not tied to the BCS. Even if the Cougars win out, an actual berth in a BCS bowl is all but impossible due to BYU's late appearance in the poll.
But lose to Utah, and the rankings go. And so would a move by head coach Bronco Mendenhall to "raise the bar" in 2007 after the 2006 team went 11-2, never lost at home and did take care of rival Utah in Salt Lake City a year ago.
"One year we lost to Utah in overtime and the other we won on a last-second play," Mendenhall said. "Both of the last two games have come down to the wire and maybe this one won't be any different."I do know that I like our team to play well at home and this week will be no different than what I have said each week to our team about the way we play in LaVell Edwards Stadium. Both teams will try all they can try and all the coaches will do everything they can to get their teams ready."
E-mail: [email protected]