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ON ASSIGNMENT in Europe last month to find out how many Frenchmen could answer the question, "What does Herschel Walker do besides push a bobsled?" the Benson Poll/Educated Guess regretfully missed the first BYU-University of Utah basketball game of the season. Nonetheless, as the traditional arch-rivalry continues tonight in the Huntsman Center, the Poll is back, ready to traditionally predict the outcome.

BYU will win by .8 of a point.Or, raised to the nearest whole number, by a free throw.

As usual, the BP/EG visited the campuses in both Salt Lake City and Provo, fighting the parking hassles in quest of higher education. This year's polling took place in the mathematics buildings at the respective universities - at the James E. Talmage Building at BYU and the John A. Widtsoe Building at Utah, buildings named after famous Mormon pioneer mathematicians.

Neither building was particularly festive Friday morning. The mood was - and this came as no particular surprise - generally pre-root canal. Just the kind of no-nonsense, down-to-business, analytical, serious-minded atmosphere the Benson Poll prefers when it comes to the issue of BYU-vs.-Utah, a highly subjective question involving two variables. How much more algebraic can you get?

(Aside: There were a lot of students going to and from classes in the math buildings, but it wasn't easy to find one of them who is a math major, or is even thinking of becoming a math major. It wasn't until the end of the polling at the U. of U. that an actual mathematics major appeared, Adam Chmaz, a graduate student from Warsaw, Poland, who said evenly that A) He's primarily a Jazz fan and B) BYU will win by one).

Probably the most upbeat of those students polled was Keith Jones of Tempe, Arizona, a BYU sophomore majoring in accounting who didn't have a math class but was working for "BYU Vending" filling the huge "Caffeine Free Coke" machine just inside the Talmage Building entrance. "To tell you the truth, I think BYU will win by five," said Jones, taking a break from stocking the racks mostly with Squirt cans.

"Squirt and Root Beer are by far the biggest sellers," he said. "I guess most people buy the caffeine free Coke once and say, `aw, it's not the real thing,' and then drink the Squirt."

While every BYU student but one favored the Cougars, no one favored them by very much. Eight points was the most generous, by Greg Hale of Fruit Heights, Utah, an accounting major who was intently studying for a statistics test.

The lone BYU dissenter was freshman Mike Drummond, a communications major biding his time before his 9 a.m. algebra class by reading Far Side cartoons on the bulletin board - located conveniently next to a sign in bold letters that read, THINK.

"How many years has it been since they won up there?" asked Drummond, choosing to use the third-person pronoun for the Cougars. "I know it's been a long time (it's been five years), and after the game down here (BYU won by two) the U. of U. will be ready for revenge. I'm afraid Utah by about five."

The majority of students at Utah agreed with Drummond, but four of them didn't, and the Utes who picked the Utes went with a similar narrow point spread as their mathematics rivals at BYU.

One Ute student declined to be polled. Rushing to class, the student said he had just arrived in this country, from China, and knew nothing about the subject (thereby providing new evidence to support the "1 billion Chinese don't care" theory once espoused by former BYU Coach Frank Arnold after a loss).

Eric Operhausley, a pre-electrical engineering major from Ashton, Idaho, was waiting for the Widtsoe Building class break and sitting not far from a poster of a confused looking Albert Einstein (with the caption: "Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics; I can assure you that mine are still greater"). Said Operhausley, "I really have no idea. But it will probably be Utah by five."

He did not specify plus or minus.

Summing it up was the final Ute polled, a math student late for class who didn't have time to leave her name, but nonetheless answered the question.

"I don't know," she said over her shoulder, "I`ll just guess . . . U. of U. . . . that's just a guess."

If it's good enough for college algebra, it's good enough for the Benson Poll.



Benson Poll Educated Guess

Who will win the BYU-Utah basketball game?

(Poll based on face-to-face interviews with 25 students each at BYU and the University of Utah).

BYU Utah

BYU men 12 1

BYU women 12 0

BYU Total 24 1

Utah men 2 12

Utah women 2 9

Utah Total 4 21

Grand Total 28 22

BYU average point spread: BYU by 2.2.

Utah average point spread: Utah by 1.4.

Combined average point spread: BYU by .8.