Dec 092004
Authors: Preston Cagle

It took seven years and plenty of controversy, but it finally happened. The sixth-ranked Utah Utes finally cracked the code that was the Bowl Championship Series. With help from losses by some top-10 teams late in the season and an undefeated finish, Utah was able to secure the sixth spot in the BCS polls and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl to become the first mid-major to break the ranks of the BCS since its inception. They finished 11-0 (7-0 Mountain West Conference), and got enough help to finish in the top six of the BCS to win a guaranteed BCS at-large bid.

The Utes are led by Heisman-hopeful Alex Smith. He threw for 2,624 yards and 28 touchdowns with only four interceptions and ran for another 563 yards and ten touchdowns. The Ute passing attack has been potent this season with two great receivers leading the way for Smith to throw to.

The Utah defense has also stepped up this season allowing only 20.6 points per game. Combine that with the offense averaging 46.3 points per game and you get an undefeated season and a BCS bowl bid.

Utah will take on Pittsburgh (8-3) in the Fiesta Bowl. Pitt is the champion of the Big East where there was a four-way tie at the top of the conference. Boston College, Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia all finished 4-2 in the Big East, but Pitt won the tiebreaker, winning seven of their last eight games. Junior quarterback Tyler Palko leads the Cougars onto the field. He has thrown for 2,816 yards and 23 touchdowns with only seven interceptions this season and has run for another 183 yards and three touchdowns.

The game starts at 6:30 p.m. on ABC from Tempe, Arizona on Jan. 1.

Like Dorothy and Todo, the Lobos head to the Emerald

The No. 2 team in the MWC has accepted their automatic bid to the Emerald Bowl. The New Mexico Lobos will face the Midshipmen from Navy in San Francisco. UNM comes into the game with a 7-4 record (5-2 MWC) and boasting a 1-1 record versus the BCS top-25. They beat No. 22 Texas Tech, but lost to No. 6 Utah at home.

Junior running back DonTrell Moore leads the Lobos onto the field. He has rushed for 1,082 yards and five touchdowns this season, and caught 24 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore quarterback Kole McKamey is coming into his own on this young team. He threw for 1,065 yards and five touchdowns this season, but also threw seven interceptions.

The Midshipmen come into the game with a 9-2 record this season and are led by a pair of seniors at the quarterback and running back positions. Quarterback Aaron Polanco has completed 58 passes for 1,030 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions. Polanco is also a threat on the ground rushing 220 times this season for 844 yards and 13 touchdowns. Fullback Kyle Eckel compliments the quarterback in the backfield. He has gained 1062 yards on 211 rushing attempts this season for 11 touchdowns. The Midshipmen and Lobos square off Dec. 30 at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

Cowboys in Vegas

Wyoming received its first bowl bid in 11 years earning the MWC spot in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Cowboys finished with a 6-5 record (3-4 MWC) and steadily improved all year. Junior quarterback Corey Bramlet leads the offense on to the field. He has completed 175 passes for 2,102 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, but also has 12 interceptions. Junior wideout Jovon Bouknight provides the deep threat for Bramlet in the offense. He hauled in 58 passes for 968 yards and seven touchdowns this season. In their only two games against top-25 opponents they lost at No. 19 Texas A&M and No. 6 Utah.

Wyoming will take on the Bruins from UCLA, who come into the game with a matching 6-5 record (4-4 Pac-10), but four of those five loses came at the hands of ranked BCS teams. They lost to No. 1 Southern California, No. 5 California, No. 19 Arizona State and No. 24 Oklahoma State.

Junior quarterback Drew Olson is under center for the Bruins. He threw for 2,469 yards with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season. Sophomore running back Maurice Drew has the talent to be a premier back. He rushed for 881 yards and eight touchdowns to go along with 18 receptions for 262 yards and three more touchdowns. The game begins at 7:45 p.m. Dec. 23 on ESPN.

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