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Mountain West football's best team ever: 2008 Utah vs. 2007 BYU

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The fan vote gives us a Holy War unlike any other in the first round.

Brian Johnson won a Sugar Bowl, but can his 2008 Utes do what he and his 2007 team could not to the Cougars?
Brian Johnson won a Sugar Bowl, but can his 2008 Utes do what he and his 2007 team could not to the Cougars?
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Beehive Boot has gone back and forth from Salt Lake City to Provo for well over 100 years, but in the years in which both the Utah Utes and BYU Cougars played in the Mountain West together (1999 to 2011), the prize was heavily contested. Though Utah won that stretch of the rivalry with eight wins against BYU's five, it was rarely an easy victory: Only three times did the winning team do so by more than one score.

In this latest matchup for our tournament to determine the best Mountain West team ever, both the 2007 Cougars and the 2008 Utes can claim to have won the Boot. Only one, however, can emerge from this matchup with a W.

Tale of the tape

Overall record: 2008 Utah - 13-0 (8-0 MWC); 2007 BYU - 11-2 (8-0)

Best wins: 2008 Utah - vs. Alabama (Sugar Bowl), 31-17; 2007 BYU - vs. Air Force, 31-6

Worst loss: 2008 Utah - none; 2007 BYU - @ UCLA, 27-17

Seasons summarized in a sentence: 2008 Utah ran the table in a Mountain West that featured two other 10-win teams and left no doubt about their credentials with a convincing BCS win against the Crimson Tide. 2007 BYU took a couple of tough losses in non-conference play, though a stifling defense led the way to the Cougars' last MWC title by holding opponents to 14 points or less five times.

Fun fact: The 2007 Cougars and 2008 Utes each featured several future NFL starters, including Austin Collie, Zane Beadles, Paul Kruger and Dennis Pitta.

Memorable players

Utah: Quarterback Brian Johnson was named the conference's Offensive Player of the Year after a season in which he threw for 2,972 yards and 27 touchdowns against just nine interceptions. Most of the big names, however, came from the Utes' elite defense, which not only featured Kruger as an all-conference pick but also Brice McCain and Sean Smith.

BYU: By nearly every measure, Max Hall was the Mountain West's best quarterback in 2007, leading the conference in passing yards and touchdowns and finishing second in QB rating. Collie and Pitta both finished in the top five in receiving yards, while running back Harvey Unga racked up nearly 1,900 yards of total offense. On defense, Jan Jorgensen led the MWC in tackles for loss and sacks.