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GAME DAY! #22 Boise State at Utah, Kick-off 1:00 pm

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  • SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -Before No. 22 Boise State can really start thinking about becoming the second ``BCS Buster,'' the Broncos need to beat the original.

    If they do that, there might be nothing stopping them.

    Boise State (4-0) visits Utah (3-1) on Saturday in the Broncos' non-conference finale. Both were among the five unbeaten schools after the regular season two years ago, but there was only room for one in the BCS.

    Utah got the Fiesta Bowl berth, the giant paycheck and the notoriety of crashing the system. Although the BCS has expanded, getting in will still be difficult for teams from the Western Athletic and Mountain West conferences, which don't have automatic bids for the league champions.

    ``You almost have to run the table to get yourself in the BCS, to guarantee yourself a BCS situation,'' Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.

    Going unbeaten is impossible for Utah, which lost the season opener at UCLA on Sept. 2. Boise State, of the WAC, is still undefeated entering Saturday's game.

    ``It's a big game, definitely,'' Boise State receiver Legedu Naanee said. ``We don't play these guys year-in year-out. It's a special opportunity.''

    Boise State has won its last 10 games against teams from the Mountain West. A win for the Broncos wouldn't vault them into the Top 10, but a loss would probably knock them out of the AP poll and set back any hopes for the BCS. Boise State has won four straight WAC titles, yet no matter how much the Broncos win, the label of a small school from a small conference seems to follow them.

    ``Every year it just seems that something happens to make us seem like we're kind of the underdog or something,'' Naanee said.

    The Utes have outscored their last three opponents 131-14, although the competition has been Division I-AA Northern Arizona and winless Utah State and San Diego State.

    Boise State could be a little more of a challenge.

    ``They have the capability of being a BCS team,'' Utah quarterback Brett Ratliff said. ``They've been a good team the last few years. They're doing great this year.''

    The Broncos lead the WAC in scoring at 36.3 points per game and have the top rushing average in the league. Ian Johnson averages 156.5 yards rushing per game, easing the load on quarterback Jared Zabransky as he goes against a defense that has seven interceptions in the last two games.

    ``They've got a very balanced offensive attack and they're playing very good defense,'' Whittingham said. ``Their statistical numbers are very similar to ours. There is very little difference between the two football teams, so it should make for a good matchup.''

    Utah shut out Utah State 48-0 two weeks ago and didn't allow San Diego State to score in the last three quarters of a 38-7 win. The Utes also haven't allowed a sack this season.

    That's why Boise State coach Chris Petersen, who took over the Broncos after Dan Hawkins left for Colorado, doesn't want to talk about the BCS implications.

    ``We haven't gotten so caught up in that BCS bowl situation. For us, it's so early. But our players definitely know about Utah,'' Petersen said.

    If Boise State wins Saturday, Petersen won't be able to avoid BCS talk for much longer. Of the seven remaining opponents, only San Jose State and New Mexico State have winning records. Neither has ever beaten Boise State.

    The annual battle against Fresno State (1-2) is in Boise, where the Broncos are 22-1 in the last four years, and the Broncos hold a 4-1 record against the Bulldogs since joining the WAC in 2001.

    So an unblemished record and the BCS will still be possibilities, if the Broncos win Saturday.

    ``It was definitely one of the goals we had this summer and coming into camp,'' Naanee said.