Rare Air



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For the first time since December of 1992, both the BYU Football and Basketball teams are in the Top 25, and it bears noting that these are not "flash in the pan" appearances, but rather consecutive seasons with national rankings.

It's the first time since 1980-81 and 1981-82 that the basketball team has been nationally-ranked in back-to-back years, while the football team is ranked in consecutive seasons for the first time in 5 years.

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Starting with football, the win over Utah was striking in its parallels to the win at Rice-Eccles in 2000, for obvious reasons--unlikely 4th down conversion, running touchdown in the final minute, successful 2-point conversion to provide the final 7-point margin, etc.

Something else I find interesting is that in both instances, the Cougars almost never got the chance to pull off their 4th down miracles.

In 2000, on the play preceding the 4th down heave from Brandon Doman to Jonathan Pittman, Luke Staley lost the ball on a play that at the time might have been ruled a fumble on the field, pending video review. A replay might indeed have given the ball to Utah, snuffing BYU's comeback hopes.

On Saturday, on the play preceding Max Hall's 4th down heave to Austin Collie, Dennis Pitta had the ball bounce off his hands and legs, up into the air and into the hands of Utah linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, who somehow, dropped the ball. If he secures it, Utah wins the game.

So, while both BYU comebacks were stirring and memorable, they were both thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to never happening. Amazing game, and yes, sometimes, magic does happen.

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BYU Sports Hall of Fame, meet future inductee Max Hall. What Hall pulled off a week after suffering a Grade 3 shoulder separation was just this side of ridiculous. To see him withstand the physical demands of a rivalry game and all of its attendant intensity, and still have enough left to fling the ball 40 yards downfield at the end was inspiring.

Hall has already established himself as the de facto leader of this team, lack of official captaincy notwithstanding--all this past weekend did was cement his status as the Cougars' next great field general.

When Max arrived on campus, he shared with some in the football program his vision of leading BYU to a national championship. Despite the school's non-BCS status, does anyone care to doubt him?

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The San Diego State game will be interesting, since BYU hasn't played a game like this in a long time--that is, a game unrelated to conference standing.

What is significant is Bronco's desire that his team play its best game of the season Saturday.

What's also significant is that BYU maintain momentum and rise as high as possible in the national polls between now and the end of the season. While a BCS bowl bid is the longest of long shots, a top 15 finish would set the Cougars up to be a top 15 or top 10 team to start next season, and with two Pac-10 teams on next year's schedule, the chances will be there to make a strong BCS run.

The start to next season starts Saturday, since BYU is not playing for a conference crown, a bowl bid, a rivalry win, or anything... but national respect. And the pride that comes with knowing you made your last game, your best game.

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I get my postseason MWC awards ballot this week. Without naming names right this second, I see no fewer than seven BYU Cougars getting all-conference nods. And I would have no problem voting for Jan Jorgensen over Beau Bell as Defensive Player of the Year. The Offensive Player of the Year honor is a little more complex, and will take some careful consideration. But both Harvey Unga and Max Hall will be in the mix, along with AFA's "other" Hall. Coach of the Year will be a two-man race.

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To hoops... and consider it "Mission Accomplished" for the Cougars in Las Vegas. The split with national powers Louisville and UNC opened the door to the Top 25, and BYU should stay there at least through next week, assuming wins at Portland and vs. Weber State. The Michigan State game in SLC is shaping up as battle of two Top 20 teams, so win or lose, BYU will benefit.

Interesting that BYU went up 8 spots in the Coach's Poll, went up 18 spots in the AP Poll, yet remained steady in ESPN.com's "Mid Major Top 10." Tough room...

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