Cougars making noise on field, in rankings

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PROVO, Utah --- Brigham Young quarterback Max Hall is willing to say what many college football players and coaches won't: He pays attention to the polls.

Hall has good reason. BYU is looking a lot like it used to, in the rankings and on the field, where Hall is building on the school's quarterback legacy.

"It's not something we dwell on, but it's nice to see us move up in the polls," said Hall, who has No. 11 BYU off to its best start in seven years. "We know we need to be up there at the end of the season to have a shot at our goal of a BCS game. The farther up we are right now the better."

If Hall's season continues the way it started, BYU can count on continuing to rise. Through four games, he has thrown for 1,284 yards and 15 touchdowns, tying the school record with seven in a 59-0 embarrassment of UCLA. He has completed 107 of 144 attempts (74 percent) with only two interceptions.

The statistics are impressive, but the number Hall is most pleased with is the Cougars' ranking. After being No. 16 in the preseason poll, BYU is now one spot out of the top 10, territory the Cougars haven't been in since opening the 2001 season 12-0 and reaching No. 8.

The Cougars are viewed by many as the favorite among the potential "BCS Busters," schools trying to break into the Bowl Championship Series from leagues that don't have a guaranteed bid. And Hall's name has come up in early talk of the Heisman Trophy contenders.

Hall credits his teammates, and he isn't just being modest. He hasn't been sacked this season, and the defense shut out the Cougars' past two opponents -- great circumstances for any quarterback. But Hall's passing is what's getting the most notice, which seems only fitting for a quarterback at BYU.

"It's great. We love Max," linebacker David Nixon said. "He's playing well and he deserves all the credit that's been coming his way."

BYU, off this weekend, carries the nation's longest winning streak, at 14 in a row. The streak is not a new thing for the school: BYU won 25 in a row between 1983 and 1985, a span that included the Cougars' 1984 national title.

BYU feels lucky to have Hall. A native of suburban Phoenix, he originally went to Arizona State. Hall redshirted with the Sun Devils in 2004, then went on his Mormon church mission.

He said his faith led him to transfer to church-owned BYU, which he thought would be a better fit.

He had to sit out a year under transfer rules, but took over last fall. Hall finished with 3,848 yards passing and 26 touchdowns, as the Cougars went 11-2.

This year, he has the Cougars poised for an even more impressive campaign.

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