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 AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -Air Force coach Troy Calhoun wasn't trying to put the whammy on No. 20 Utah. He just thinks the Utes are a gifted team.
And one that could be playing in a BCS bowl game come January.
``They should have BCS aspirations,'' Calhoun said. ``This is one of the 15 best teams in the country and one of those teams that when the year is finished, it could very well play on Jan. 1 or 2.''
The Falcons could put a crimp in those plans with a win Saturday when they host Utah. Both teams enter with 3-0 marks, 1-0 in Mountain West Conference play.
The solid play of Utah and Air Force has helped shine a glowing light on the conference, along with the performances of No. 14 BYU and TCU, who are also 3-0.
Utah started getting the league some notice after going to Ann Arbor, Mich., in the first game of the season and stunning the Wolverines 25-23, raising some eyebrows.
en BYU rolled UCLA 59-0, handing the Bruins their most lopsided loss since 1929. UNLV also shocked Arizona State 23-20 in overtime, and the Horned Frogs knocked off Stanford 31-14.
Air Force did its part, beating Houston in a game that was moved to Dallas because of Hurricane Ike.
``We talk about wanting to gain respect and notoriety and the way to do that is to do exactly what we did Saturday - to beat quality teams from the BCS conferences,'' said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, whose team is 3-0 for the first time since 2004. ``That's the only way to get people's attention.''
The Utes definitely have the Falcons' focus - and it's easy to see why.
Utah's offense is rolling along, averaging more than 400 yards in the last two games. Quarterback Brian Johnson has thrown five touchdown passes, while tailbacks Matt Asiata and Darrell Mack continue to split carries. Asiata has 35 rushes for 167 yards, while Mack has racked up 160 yards on the same number of carries.
``I think that rhythm is starting to come,'' Johnson said.
It's definitely already arrived on defense, where the Utes are among the nation's best, surrendering just 202.3 yards per game. The front is led by end Paul Kruger, who's leading the nation in tackles for loss.
``Defensively, they are just superb,'' Calhoun said.
Calhoun is not surprised by Utah's success. He expected it.
and I thought they would be pretty good,'' Calhoun said. ``But they're even better.''
The Falcons are looking for their first win at Falcon Stadium over a ranked foe since knocking off No. 20 Colorado State 44-40 in 2000. They have a lifetime record of 12-60-3 against ranked teams.
``We always look forward to playing these teams,'' said Calhoun, whose squad is 7-0 at home since he took over for Fisher DeBerry.
Now if Air Force could only ramp up its air attack. The team is averaging just 30 yards a game.
``I'm not worried about it,'' Calhoun said.
That's understandable, considering the option-oriented Falcons are second in the country in rushing, grinding out 358 yards a game.
``You've got to play run just about every snap against those guys,'' Whittingham said. ``The bottom line is to get them to play catch-up. Typically, an option attack is not real geared toward catching up from a couple touchdown deficit.''
With the way the conference is playing, Whittingham is hopeful the league will start to get its due. But he knows prattling on about the quality of the league isn't the same as showing it on the field.
``You can talk and flap your gums all you want, but until you beat those teams in those situations, that's what's really going to bring the conference the respect and recognition that it deserves,'' Whittingham said.

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