PROVO — Northern Iowa may not be a household name, but BYU linebacker David Nixon says the Cougars are not taking the Panthers lightly.

UNI, a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) foe, posted a 12-1 record last season. "I'm sure if we don't show up on Saturday, we could be in a dogfight with them," Nixon said. "Our plan is to come out there prepared and get after them."

Nixon added it doesn't matter what division the Panthers play in, adding that FCS team Appalachian State upset Michigan a year ago in Ann Arbor.

"I honestly sometimes forget they're Division II. For us, it's just another game," Nixon said. "It's somebody

else we have to step up against. Somebody else in our path to our goals and somebody we have to beat. Be it Division I, Division II, Division III. Whoever's there, we're going to play. We're not going to treat anyone differently. We understand, just like last year, after what happened to Michigan, an Appalachian State can come up and bite you. We don't want that to happen to us this year. We've got some lofty goals we want to achieve, and we're not going to let anyone stand in our way of it."

The No. 16 Cougars, who own the nation's longest active winning streak with 10 consecutive victories, open the season ranked for the first time in 10 years.

"It's something that doesn't cross my mind very much, and I don't think it crosses our team's mind very much," Nixon said of the ranking. "It's never mentioned in any of our meetings. It's preseason rankings, which mean absolutely nothing. It's something you have to earn. It is nice to start high and not work your way in. But the same time, one game and we're out of there. We know we have to keep our streak going. If we do that, we'll see where we end up."

RUNNING BACK DEPTH: BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said he's concerned with the lack of depth at running back behind Harvey Unga and Fui Vakapuna. He explained that if one of those players were to go down to an injury, the running back position "would be a weakness on our team because we're not very deep at that spot."

Freshman J.J. DiLuigi is listed as Unga's backup while Wayne Latu plays behind Vakapuna. The Cougars also have freshmen Kaneukua Friel and Bryan Kariya.

"If we suffer an injury at that spot," Mendenhall said, "we might have to consider some scheme changes and some strategy changes."

COLLIE AT QB? Mendenhall said there's a possibility that wide receiver Austin Collie could get some snaps at quarterback this Saturday.

"I can't, nor will I commit certainly at this point," he said. "We'll prepare him and use him as needed."

Mendenhall pointed out that Collie was groomed to play quarterback some last year as a contingency plan. "Knowing that teams will have to play us completely differently with Austin at quarterback, it might make it more difficult for an opponent to defend us," Mendenhall said. "That gives us a better chance to reach our goals, especially early in the year."

At Monday's practice, Collie divided his time between wide receiver and quarterback.

Season opener

BYU vs. Northern Iowa

Saturday, 4 p.m.

TV: The mtn.

Radio: 1160 AM; 102.7 FM


E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com