Quarterbacks

Utah's Alex Smith is a Heisman Trophy finalist who was named national player of the year by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. His pass efficiency rating of 174.9 was second best in the nation. Pittsburgh's Tyler Palko wasn't bad either. He has had 16 touchdown passes over his last five games. Edge: Utah

Running backs

Marty Johnson's 14 touchdowns are a team high for Utah. He and teammate Quinton Ganther teamed for 1,402 yards on the ground this season. Raymond Kirkley, who gained 560 yards in 10 games, is Pitt's leading rusher — a far cry from the days when Tony Dorsett racked up tons of yardage for the Panthers. Edge: Utah

Receivers

The combination of Steve Savoy and Paris Warren gives Utah and Smith one of the nation's top receiving duos. Pitt's Greg Lee may be the second coming of record-setter Larry Fitzgerald. The sophomore netted 1,204 yards receiving this season. Tight end Erik Gill and receiver Joe DelSardo are additional threats to watch. Edge: Utah

Offensive line

Led by all-American left guard Chris Kemoeatu, the Utes have given Smith ample time to operate this season. Utah's line surrendered 18 quarterback sacks in 2004, while Pitt gave up 31. The Panthers do have all-American tackle Rob Petitti, but he's not surrounded by a cast as strong as what the Utes have. Edge: Utah

Defensive line

Tackles Sione Pouha and Steve Fifita give Utah a formidable one-two punch up front. Marquess Ledbetter and Jonathan Fanene provided solid support on the ends. The Panthers have talent and smarts, as well. Starting tackles Vince Crochunis and Dan Stephens, both seniors, are first-team academic all-Americans. Edge: Utah

Linebackers

Spencer Toone led the Utes with 107 tackles this season but was relegated to honorable-mention recognition on the all-conference team. Pitt's Malcolm Postell set a school record by returning three interceptions for touchdowns in 2004. He combined with backers H.B. Blades and Clint Session to pick off nine passes. Edge: Pittsburgh

Defensive backs

Safeties Morgan Scalley and Eric Weddle rank among the nation's best. Cornerback Ryan Smith is a promising newcomer for the Utes. The Panthers had a whopping 17 interceptions this season, but most came from the linebacking crew. Cornerback Josh Lay returned a pick 82 yards for a score. Edge: Utah

Special teams

Utah freshman David Carroll is perfect in 39 PATs and five field-goal attempts. Pitt's Josh Cummings is also a place-kicker of note. He made 18 field goals this season. The Utes, however, have more special teams firepower. They blocked six kicks and rank among the national leaders in kickoff returns and net punting. Edge: Utah

Coaching

Though both Urban Meyer (Florida) and Walt Harris (Stanford) were successful enough to land higher-paying head coaching jobs, only the Utah boss has won 15 straight games. A victory in his finale with the Utes would give Meyer a spectacular 22-2 record in his two-year tenure in Salt Lake City. Harris is 52-43 at Pitt. Edge: Utah

Intangibles

The Utes have plenty of added incentive to prevail. As the first outsider to crack the Bowl Championship Series, they're hoping to cap a perfect season with their 12th victory. The Panthers feel like their head coach was chased out, and they'd love to send him out a winner. The lowest-ranked team in the BCS is fired up. Edge: Utah