PROVO — When BYU jumped three spots to No. 11 in the Associated Press poll on Sunday — one day after smashing Wyoming, 44-0 — it marked the Cougars' highest ranking since ascending to No. 9 in that poll on Dec. 2, 2001.

While quarterback Max Hall said he and his teammates don't spend much time talking about the rankings, he acknowledged the importance of the polls in terms of BYU's long-term objective of earning a Bowl Championship Series berth.

"It's not something we dwell on. We know we need to be up there at the end of the season to have a shot at our goal to get into a BCS game," Hall said. "The farther up we are, the better, though. It's nice to move up a couple of spots. We just need to stay there."

Meanwhile, the Mountain West Conference can boast of having three of its teams ranked for the first time in its 10-year history. Behind the Cougars are No. 17 Utah and No. 24 TCU. The Horned Frogs, who visit No. 2 Oklahoma on Saturday, entered the national polls for the first time this season.

"It's awesome," BYU linebacker David Nixon said of having three MWC teams ranked. "Anytime our conference can get the national respect we're getting right now, it's a huge positive. We're excited for TCU and Utah to get this exposure. It will only create a bigger showdown once we meet them. That's all you can ask for."

BYU visits TCU on Oct. 16 and travels to Utah on Nov. 22.

"I like our conference," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "There isn't any surprise that TCU and Utah are playing well this year. They've demonstrated that the last couple of years that they're capable."

Mendenhall added that another MWC team deserves attention as well.

"What I think is the greatest story in the league is UNLV. I'm really happy for (Rebel) coach (Mike) Sanford," he said. "He's a very good person and he's worked hard. To see their program having success now is great."

UNLV, fresh off of a 34-31 overtime win over Iowa State, is 3-1 this season.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Two Cougars earned Mountain West Conference player-of-the-week honors. Linebacker David Nixon was the defensive player of the week and punter CJ Santiago received special teams recognition.

Nixon recorded six tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two quarterback hurries against Wyoming. He also returned an interception for a 19-yard touchdown in the third quarter, scoring his first career touchdown.

"I was joking with Max that I thought I was up for the offensive player of the week with my touchdown," Nixon said. "I guess they gave me the defensive one this week. It's a great honor. There are a lot of guys on our defense that deserved it. We had six turnovers. A lot of guys are making plays. But I'm honored to get that."

Santiago averaged 46.7 yards per punt, including a season-high 61-yarder, against Wyoming. Four of his punts were downed inside the Cowboy 20-yard line and two were downed inside the 5-yard line.

"He was bombing them the other day," Nixon said. "For a defense, when you can get a punter to boom a punt like that, it just swings momentum your way. For the defense, it's huge. We thrive off that."

SHUTOUT STREAK: In the modern era of BYU football, the Cougars have registered back-to-back shutouts only twice. In 1985, they defeated Wyoming (59-0) and Utah State (44-0). Eerily enough, the 2008 team has recorded back-to-back shutouts by the same scores against UCLA (59-0) and Wyoming (44-0).

BYU had back-to-back shutouts six times between 1924-1938, including four consecutive shutouts in 1937.

ON THIRD DOWN: BYU still leads the nation in third-down conversion percentage (38 of 56, for 67.9 percent), but that's down from 78.1 percent a week ago. BYU was successful on only six of 15 third-down tries against Wyoming. And the Cougars have some competition. Tulsa jumped all the way to No. 2 in the country, converting 64.9 percent of its third downs (24 of 37).

ON THE MEND: Wide receiver Spencer Hafoka, who suffered a contusion on his foot during a punt return against Wyoming, is expected to be ready to play in BYU's next game, on Oct. 3 at Utah State. Cornerback G Pittman sustained a contusion on his upper thigh and is also expected to be available for that contest.


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