BYU football: Cougars turn eyes to Utah with national ranking on back
Provo • The BYU Cougars never need a bigger target on their backs when they head into rivalry week against the University of Utah, but they got one anyway on Sunday when they moved into The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time this season, landing at No. 25.
The Cougars (2-0) have now been ranked in one of the two major national polls at least once every season since 2006. They are among the teams receiving votes in the USA Today/Coaches Poll, at No. 30 if the poll extended that far.
"It feels good to crack the top 25, but we still got plenty of work to do!," BYU receiver Cody Hoffman tweeted Sunday afternoon.
BYU's players and coaches already know they will face an angry bunch of Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium, after Utah lost 27-20 in overtime to Utah State on Friday. Utah (1-1) did not receive any votes in either poll; Utah State (2-0) got a vote in the AP Poll for the first time since 1966 from Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal.
Utah State plays at Wisconsin, which fell out of the rankings after a 10-7 loss at Oregon State, on Saturday in Madison, Wis.
The Utah State-Utah game "was a hard-fought game. Both those teams wanted to win and you could tell, and unfortunately Utah State came out on top," Hoffman said Saturday, presumably lamenting the fact that Utah won't be undefeated in the rivalry game.
After throwing for 244 yards and a touchdown while playing only the first half in a 45-13 win over Weber State on Saturday, BYU quarterback Riley Nelson said the Cougars will start "thinking about" Saturday's game at Utah (8 p.m. MDT, ESPN2) on Monday. But coach Bronco Mendenhall replied, "yeah, I think so," when asked in his postgame news conference if he is in Utah week mode yet.
"But there is nothing different, practice-wise, that we will be doing," Mendenhall quickly added.
After the Utes crushed them 54-10 at LaVell Edwards Stadium last season, this will never be just another game for the Cougars, although receiver J.D. Falslev said just that Saturday.
"Everybody gets the hype [going] for Utah-BYU, this and that," Falslev said. "We have to take the focus that it is another game, and be ready, and be focused, just like any other game. ... We still have a lot of things that we can do better, so we will take this week of practice, use it to the best of our ability, and do everything we can to win on Saturday."
Mendenhall said the Cougars "dialed it back" a bit on defense in the second half against Weber State, but offensive coordinator Brandon Doman said he didn't get conservative offensively, despite having backup quarterbacks James Lark and Taysom Hill play the entire second half with Nelson saddled by back spasms.
Still, "There is plenty left [in the playbook]," Doman said. "We need to execute our very best stuff, week in and week out. We are not going to try and reinvent the wheel, this week or next week. There are certain things that hopefully will be new for [Utah], stuff that we have practiced for a long time."
As for Nelson, after watching the Utes play his former school, Utah State, he said Utah college football fans are in for more treats this season.
"Man, we play good football in the state of Utah," Nelson said. "Both those teams battling it out, and I would venture to say, our games, we play both those teams, Utah next week and then Utah State in three weeks, and our games will probably look similar to that just knock-down, drag-out, physical football games. Points will be tough to come by a lot of emotion, a lot of energy, and yeah, last night was the first of that series. It was exciting to watch."
Associated Press Top 25 poll
1 • Alabama; 2-0 (1)
2 • USC; 2-0 (2)
3 • LSU; 2-0 (3)
4 • Oregon; 2-0 (4)
5 • Florida State; 2-0 (6)
5 • Oklahoma; 2-0 (5)
7 • Georgia; 2-0 (7)
8 • South Carolina; 2-0 (9)
9 • West Virginia; 1-0 (9)
10 • Michigan State; 2-0 (11)
11 • Clemson; 2-0 (12)
12 • Ohio State; 2-0 (14)
13 • Virginia Tech; 2-0 (15)
14 • Texas; 2-0 (17)
15 • Kansas State; 2-0 (21)
16 • TCU; 1-0 (20)
17 • Michigan; 1-1 (19)
18 • Florida; 2-0 (24)
19 • Louisville; 2-0 (23)
20 • Notre Dame; 2-0 (22)
21 • Stanford; 2-0 (25)
22 • UCLA; 2-0 (NR)
23 • Tennessee; 2-0 (NR)
24 • Arizona; 2-0 (NR)
25 • Brigham Young; 2-0 (NR)
BYU at Utah
P Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV • ESPN2
Teams making 2012 debut in AP Top 25 Sunday
• No. 22 UCLA (2-0)
• No. 23 Tennessee (2-0)
• No. 24 Arizona (2-0)
• No. 25 BYU (2-0)
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