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Mountain West football's best team ever: 2006 BYU vs. 2012 Boise State

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Will the hotly contested top seed justify its position against a quietly great Broncos team that shared its conference title in 2012?

Former Cougar great John Beck leads a controversial top seed into its first-round foray.
Former Cougar great John Beck leads a controversial top seed into its first-round foray.
George Frey/Getty Images

In the last few days, there's been a clamor about the results of the nomination process by which we will determine the best Mountain West football team ever. The 2006 BYU Cougars benefited from the strongest turnout of any fanbase and surged to the top spot in this tournament by the narrowest of margins: a single vote.

But they're not the best team in Mountain West history!

The outcry is loud and clear, yet Cougars fans seem inclined to disagree and this represents their first opportunity to back their claim. Will it be the 2012 Boise State Broncos, though, who were in their penultimate season under head coach Chris Petersen, that topple Provo's favorite squad?

Tale of the tape

Overall record: 2006 BYU - 11-2 (8-0 MWC); 2012 Boise State - 11-2 (7-1)

Best wins: 2006 BYU - @ TCU, 31-17; 2012 Boise State - vs. Fresno State, 20-10

Worst loss: 2006 BYU - @ Arizona, 16-13; 2012 Boise State - vs. San Diego State, 21-19

Seasons summarized in a sentence: 2006 BYU possessed one of the best offenses in conference history, though it didn't really hit its stride until storming through conference play and the Last Vegas Bowl with every victory but one by multiple scores. 2012 Boise State had to replace one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football history and still won a share of the MWC title, anyway, despite a rare home loss against the Aztecs.

Fun fact: Each of the four combined losses between these two teams came by one score.

Memorable players

BYU: John Beck was the conference's Offensive Player of the Year after a season in which he helmed the fifth-highest scoring offense in the FBS. Beck, who would become a 2nd-round pick in the following year's NFL Draft, threw for 3,885 yards and 32 touchdowns against just nine interceptions. Senior tight end Jonny Harline averaged 16.1 yards per catch and hauled in a MWC-best 12 scores. Linebacker Cameron Jensen was the Cougars' only all-conference selection on defense after racking up 104 tackles and four sacks.

Boise State: It was the defense that stepped up after Kellen Moore's departure, and Broncos fans fondly remember Demarcus Lawrence terrorized opposing quarterbacks during his time on the blue turf. In 2012, Lawrence was a sophomore who led the MWC with 8 1/2 sacks, tied for first with 13 1/2 tackles for loss, and even forced four fumbles for good measure. The secondary was also very opportunistic, as Jamar Taylor, Darian Thompson and Jeremy Ioane each had at least three interceptions. On offense, quarterback Joe Southwick was no Moore, but he may have been the second-best signal caller in the Mountain West: 2,730-19-7, with a 66.8% completion rate.