SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -All that stands in the way of second trip to the Bowl Championship Series for No. 8 Utah is No. 16 BYU, the heated rival that would most like to derail the Utes.
The biggest game in the Beehive State is even bigger than usual this time.
Utah (11-0, 7-0) is trying to accomplish what BYU (10-1, 6-1) couldn't, completing a perfect regular season and securing a BCS berth.
The Utes can become the first two-time BCS Busters.
The Cougars can dash those hopes and force Utah to share the Mountain West Conference title, which has gone outright to BYU the last two years.
Losing an undisputed championship would be disappointing to Utah, but having to share the title - or anything else - with BYU would add to the pain and be all the more satisfying for the Cougars.
``This game takes care of itself no matter what the record is. BYU-Utah is always going to be a rivalry game no matter what,'' Utah defensive back Brice McCain said.
s the first time both teams have played each other as ranked teams since 21st-ranked Utah beat No. 20 BYU 34-31 in 1994, long before there was any BCS to bust.
Utah in 2004 - with Urban Meyer as coach and Alex Smith at quarterback - was the first team from a non-BCS league to reach one of the four pinnacle bowl games.
``This is just a big game in general,'' said quarterback Brian Johnson, who was a freshman in 2004. ``We understand the implications of this game. We're not oblivious to it. But at the same time, you don't want to hype yourself up too much and come out and not play well.''
Especially not in this game. Ten of the last 11 meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less, with BYU rallying to win the last two in the final minute. The run of close games has only added to the intensity, which doesn't always get the attention as some other rivalries but can be every bit as nasty.
While the players are careful not to say anything to inflammatory, fans here aren't so diplomatic and have been loading Internet message boards for months with taunts and boasts of why their guys are better this year.
of it is funny, but that's college football at its best.''
The Cougars have pulled out the last two wins over the Utes with little time to spare.
BYU needed to convert on a fourth-and-12 to continue a drive for the game-winning touchdown in a 17-10 victory last year in Provo. Two years ago, BYU's John Beck scrambled from one side of the field to the other as time expired before throwing a touchdown pass to Johnny Harline in a 33-31 win for the Cougars.
Three years ago, Utah won in overtime by a touchdown.
Both teams know well what will be coming at them on Saturday. Utah needs to find a way to stop quarterback Max Hall and receiver Austin Collie, the combination that came through against the Utes on a 49-yard pass play on the long fourth down to save the game for BYU.
Hall has thrown for 34 touchdowns and 3,424 yards this season and Collie has topped 100-yards receiving in nine straight games.
BYU's challenge is to contain Johnson and the top-scoring offense in the Mountain West.
``We've done some good things up until this point, but by no means is our work done or we have arrived,'' Johnson said. ``We've just got to let everything rip - dump the toolbox out and leave nothing back.''
ggled in the month since, they haven't lost again and aren't entirely out of the BCS picture.
At No. 14 in the BCS standings, the Cougars would need to win Saturday and hope for some help, starting with a loss by No. 9 Boise State to either Nevada on Saturday or Fresno State next week.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall didn't want the Cougars considering anything other than the Utes this week and cut off his players' availability for interviews after Monday.
``The more you focus on those things the more distracting it is really to what you're doing,'' Mendenhall said. ``The level of scrutiny and interest is higher now, but I think both teams feel the same way. They're trying to win every game they play.''
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