Curtis Brown needs just 131 rushing yards to become the all time leading rusher in BYU history. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The top two Moutain West Conference teams will battle for first place Thursday as No. 25 BYU welcomes Wyoming to LaVell Edwards Stadium for a nationally televised broadcast. If the Cougars win, they clinch at least a share of the MWC title with two games left. With a BYU win, the Cougars would need to win one of their final two games in order to clinch an outright MWC title. Wyoming enters the contest in second place, a game and a half behind BYU.
LAST WEEK RECAP
Defense propelled BYU, as the Cougars ensured themselves a winning season for the first time since 2001 by beating Colorado State, 24-3 on Saturday.
"I was very pleased with how our team performed tonight," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We knew this game would be a challenge, and I'm pleased with the leadership and poise that our team showed tonight. I was pleased with our defense. They've done exactly what we've asked them to do."
The Cougars, now 7-2 (5-0 MWC), held the Rams (4-5, 1-4) to just 151 total yards while sacking the Colorado State quarterback five times in the victory. Meanwhile, BYU had 402 yards of total offense. John Beck had another efficient day passing, completing 73 percent of his passes (22-of-30) for 290 yards.
BYU and Wyoming will meet for the 73rd time. The Cougars and Cowboys first met in 1922, which was BYU's first official year of football. Wyoming beat BYU, 13-0, in 1922. In recent history, the Cougars have won two straight and five of the last six. The last Wyoming victory was in 2003 when the Cowboys beat the Cougars, 13-10, in Laramie. Last year, BYU beat Wyoming, 35-21. BYU is 8-2 as a ranked team against Wyoming.
IN THE TOP-25
For the first time in 4 years, 10 months and 1 day -- to be exact -- the Cougars have earned a spot in the Associated Press Top-25 poll.
With a 24-3 victory over Colorado State on Saturday, BYU picked up its sixth straight victory and improved to 7-2 on the season. The Cougars rank 25th in this week's poll, trailing Texas A&M (24), Maryland (23), Boston College (22), Oregon (21) and Virginia Tech (20).
"We appreciate the recognition of being considered a top-25 football program," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "When you look back at the great tradition of BYU football, being ranked on a weekly basis is very much a part of that tradition. As we continue to improve and make progress, we expect this type of recognition for our program to continue. I'm very pleased with the direction this program is heading; however, we have a very important game this week. Our focus this week, as it is each week, will be on playing our next opponent."
BYU received 53 points and is ranked 27th in the USA Today Coaches Poll, trailing Clemson with 75 points. The Cougars were last ranked in the Coaches Poll on Sept. 8, 2002. The Cougars have not been ranked in either poll since that time.
- This is the first time BYU has been ranked in the AP Poll since the final poll of the 2001 season -- January 4, 2002.
- The last time BYU was ranked (in any poll) was prior to the Cougars' 31-28 loss at Nevada on Sept. 14, 2002. (After the loss, BYU was no longer ranked.)
- BYU has never been ranked in the Harris Interactive Poll.
- BYU has been ranked a total of 218 different weeks since the 1974 season, including this week's ranking in the top 25.
- BYU is 131-41 (.761) when playing as a ranked team.
- BYU is 8-2 against Wyoming when playing as a ranked team.
- BYU received its first-ever national ranking on Nov. 25, 1974 after beating Utah, 48-20, to improve to 7-3-1 on the season. The Cougars were ranked No. 20 in the AP Poll and No. 18 in the now-defunct UPI Poll.
TALE OF THE TAPE
BYU's offensive line checks in at an average 6-foot-4, 316.8 pounds. The Cougars' front line will be going up against a Wyoming defensive front that averages just over 6-foot-3, 266 pounds. (Advantage: BYU +50.8 pounds per man.) BYU's defensive line weighs in at 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, Wyoming's offensive line averages over 6-foot-5, 305.2 pounds. (Advantage: Wyoming +25.2 pounds per man.)
John Beck had another efficient day passing, completing 73 percent of his passes (22-of-30) for 290 yards against Colorado State, helping to improve the Cougars to 7-2 overall and 5-0 in league play.
Beck also took home some national hardware when he was named the Cingular All- American Player of the Week for his performance against UNLV
"John Beck is putting BYU back on the map for being a quarterback factory. He joins a long list of incredibly talented QB's who know how to shred a defense. He has a rocket for an arm. I have caught bullets from Donovan McNabb for years and John has a similar howitzer attatched to his shoulder. With defenders breaking on the ball as fast as they do, it is critical to get the ball into your hands as fast as possible. With his accuracy and his ball speed, he is making football look very easy right now. The way he spreads the ball around I would hate to be a defender facing the Cougars. With John's great play at BYU, his NFL stock is rising every week."
-- Chad Lewis, NFL All-Pro Tight End (Philadelphia Eagles)
-- Needs just 43 yards to pass Jim McMahon for second place on BYU's career passing list.
-- Needs just 216 yards to pass Jim McMahon for second place on BYU's career total offense list.
-- Leads the Mountain West Conference and ranks sixth nationally, averaging 290.6 total yards per game.
-- Leads the Mountain West Conference and ranks fourth nationally with an efficiency rating of 169.6 on the season.
-- Leads the Mountain West Conference and ranks second nationally with a 71.1 completion percentage.
-- Leads the Mountain West Conference and ranks fourth nationally, averaging 294.75 passing yards per game.
-- Has a touchdown to interception ratio of 20:4 on the season.
-- Holds the Mountain West Conference record for touchdown completions.
-- Has won 18 games as a starter.
COMPARING SENIOR QUARTERBACKS
-- The nation's top-ranked senior quarterback with a completion percentage of 71.1 on the season (185-of-260).
-- The nation's top-ranked senior quarterback, averaging 294.75 passing yards per game.
-- The nation's second-ranked senior quarterback, averaging 290.6 total yards per game.
-- The nation's second-ranked senior quarterback with an efficiency rating of 169.6 on the season.
GOOD GRIEF, CURTIS BROWN
Against Colorado State, Curtis Brown led BYU with 81 yards on 14 carriers. Brown would have had over 100 yards and a touchdown but his late TD run was negated by a penalty. Brown also caught five passes for 30 yards. Brown, who now has 2,840 career rushing yards, narrowed the gap between him and career rushing leader Jamal Willis (2,970) to 130 yards.
In the first nine games of the 2006 season, BYU has allowed just 128 points. With an average of 14.2 points per game, the Cougars currently ranked 11th in the country in scoring defense. BYU's current average is over half (30 points per game) of what it averaged last season through eight games. BYU's current average is the lowest scoring defense mark over the first nine games of a season since allowing just 13.4 points per game back in 1985.
SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE
BYU ranks fourth nationally in passing yards per game averaging 297.7. The Cougars will be going against the Cowboys fourth-ranked pass defense (140.1). Interestingly, the Cougars have already faced the 12th-ranked pass defense in San Diego State. John Beck threw for 240 yards and four touchdowns in just three quarters against the Aztecs.