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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Could BYU be Mountain West's ticket into BCS?

The Cougars rocket up the AP and USA Today polls after beating then-No. 3 Oklahoma. No team outside the six power conferences has appeared in the BCS championship game. Yet.

September 09, 2009|CHRIS DUFRESNE | ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Brigham Young is . . . in it to win it?

Bolstered by its 14-13 victory against previously third-ranked Oklahoma on Saturday, Brigham Young jumped 11 spots in the Associated Press poll and 12 spots in the USA Today coaches' index.

BYU is No. 9 in the AP and No. 12 in USA Today, putting the Mountain West Conference team in position to potentially challenge for a spot in this year's Bowl Championship Series title game.

No school from outside the six power conferences has ever appeared in the BCS championship.

"All we'd like to be is treated like everybody else," BYU Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Tuesday on the weekly Mountain West coaches' conference call. "And if it starts to show up in the polls, that's a great sign. Again, we're not looking to be given anything. We're just looking to earn our way to equal access and to be treated the same."

The AP poll is no longer used in the BCS formula, but it still crowns its own champion.

The top two schools in the final BCS standings -- a blend of the coaches' poll, the Harris poll and a computer component -- will play Jan. 7 at the Rose Bowl.

Florida and Texas, big opening-weekend winners, remained in the top two poll spots. Oklahoma's loss bumped USC to No. 3 and Alabama to No. 4.

The AP top 10: Florida, Texas, USC, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Mississippi, Penn State, Ohio State, BYU and California.

USC and Ohio State play Saturday night in Columbus.

The Mountain West has long fought for increased access in the BCS and last spring proposed to scrap the system for its own playoff plan -- which was rejected.

However, if Tuesday's poll movement is any indication, the Mountain West may finally be getting the respect it thinks it deserves.

The 11-point jump in the AP poll matches the number of positions Alabama rose last year after an opening win against then-No. 9 Clemson. Alabama moved from No. 24 to No. 13, then raced all the way to No. 1 before losing to Florida in the Southeastern Conference title game.

BYU's 12-position jump in the coaches' poll was larger than the nine-spot leap Alabama made last year after opening weekend.

Of course, BYU was in a similar position last year too, and faltered. The Cougars started No. 16 in the AP poll and No. 17 in the coaches' poll, rising to No. 8 in the coaches' poll by opening 6-0 before a 32-7 loss at Texas Christian.

BYU also lost its conference season-ender at Utah, which then capped a 13-0 season with a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and finished No. 2 in the final AP poll.

The highest a "non-BCS" team has finished in the final BCS standings was sixth. Utah did it twice -- in 2004 and 2008.

The enhanced reputation of the Mountain West and BYU's nonconference schedule this year could give the Cougars enough momentum to make things interesting.

Having already defeated Oklahoma, BYU plays host to Florida State in Provo on Sept. 19, and the Cougars also have conference games remaining against Texas Christian and Utah, ranked No. 16 and 17 in this week's AP poll.

BYU plays a nonconference game at Tulane on Saturday.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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