By DOUG ALDEN AP Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- BYU has a neighbor in the Top 25.
Utah cracked the AP poll Tuesday at No. 22, joining the 15th-ranked Cougars and putting both members of the state's biggest rivalry in the national rankings for the first time at the same time since 1996.
"That's been a while. It's a good thing. It's healthy for the state -- healthy for the Mountain West Conference," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
The Utes opened the season with a 25-23 win at Michigan and are ranked for the first time in Whittingham's four seasons.
Utah's last appearance in the rankings was in 2004, the unbeaten season that ended with the first Bowl Championship Series berth for a school from a non-BCS conference and a No. 4 ranking in the final poll. Whittingham took over when Urban Meyer left for Florida and although the Utes have had a winning record in each year since, they have never been ranked.
"I'm very proud for our players and pleased for our players because they deserve the recognition," Whittingham said.
Whittingham couldn't remember the last time Utah and BYU -- his alma mater -- were ranked at the same time. It was Nov. 2, 1996, when BYU was 13th and the Utes were No. 20. BYU beat UTEP that day, but Rice routed Utah 51-10, knocking the Utes out of the rankings.
Utah didn't appear in the AP poll again until October 2003.
"We had some tough times. It's good to see this team finally come together and finally play up to its capabilities," said quarterback Brian Johnson, who was a freshman on the 2004 team. "It's a huge accolade for us, and I think this team is mature enough to handle the success of being a Top 25 team."
BYU, which plays at Washington on Saturday, has more of a history in the rankings, including the 1984 national championship, but was slumping during Utah's 22-2 run in 2003 and 2004.
Having both schools in the polls would be a lot more significant if it's still true on Nov. 22, when Utah hosts the rivalry. That's still 11 games away.
"Now the focus is to keep winning and stay ranked," Johnson said. "It's one thing to be there in Week 2. I think we'd like to be there in Week 12 or Week 13."
The Utes host UNLV on Saturday in their home opener.
BYU moved up a spot to 15th after beating Northern Iowa 41-17 at home on Saturday. The margin could have been significantly more if the Cougars had held on to the ball better in the second half, when they lost four fumbles, including one in the end zone for a UNI touchdown.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said it was nice to see another Mountain West team -- even if it's the Cougars' biggest rival -- ranked. Utah's win at Michigan was a good PR boost for the league, which would like to have a representative in the BCS but basically needs someone to go unbeaten to get there.
And staying in the polls in the meantime would help.
"I feel some responsibility, as I think all league members do, if we are in a position to carry the colors so to speak to hold on to it as long as we can and maybe generate some excitement and credibility, which is what I think we're still fighting for," Mendenhall said.
|AP Top 25|
|1||Southern Cal (21)||1-0||1539||3|
|3||Ohio St. (15)||1-0||1497||2|
|Others receiving votes: Clemson 143, East Carolina 108, California 91, Boston College 36, Florida St. 36, Cincinnati 35, Tennessee 30, Boise St. 19, Bowling Green 17, Virginia Tech 14, Connecticut 9, Rutgers 6, Kentucky 5, Nebraska 4, Oklahoma St. 3, Arizona 2, TCU 2, Miami 1, North Carolina 1, Notre Dame 1, Tulsa 1. First-place votes in parentheses|
|USA Today Coaches Top 25|
|1||Southern Cal (23)||1-0||1,462||2|
|3||Ohio St. (10)||1-0||1385||3|
|Others receiving votes: UCLA 91; California 79; East Carolina 56; Tennessee 56; Boston College 36; Florida State 29; Virginia Tech 25; Boise State 24; Kentucky 20; TCU 15; Cincinnati 13; Connecticut 13; Nebraska 12; Arizona 8; Oklahoma State 5; Notre Dame 4; Colorado 3; Bowling Green 2; Georgia Tech 2; Central Florida 1; Miami (Fla.) 1; Stanford 1; Tulsa 1. Dropped out: No. 15 Virginia Tech (0-1, lost to East Carolina 27-22), No. 18 Tennessee (0-1, lost to UCLA 27-24 OT), No. 24 Michigan (0-1, lost to then-unranked Utah 25-23). First-place votes in parentheses|
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-09-02-08 1253MDT