BIRMINGHAM, DEC. 21 -- Off the field, the University of Virginia's football team is loose and fun-loving. The players don't really have a flair for the bizarre or outrageous, but they don't rule it out, either.

Compared to Brigham Young University's Cougars, however, the Cavaliers look like a combination of the Los Angeles Lakers, the "Fun Bunch" and the old Oakland A's.

After the Cavaliers showed up at off-the-field events together with the Cougars and ran through practices close to one another for 2 1/2 days, one of Virginia's players joked: "I just hope somebody with a video camera has been going around with each team. I'd love to see how we must look compared to them."

Early Sunday morning, the Cougars unexpectedly visited the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., and one of the players reported he was having as much fun as he did in San Diego before the Holiday Bowl. A Cavalier, who visited a local club Saturday night and like nearly all of his teammates slept through the trip to Huntsville, says if it were not for the Taco Bell in the mall here he could have more fun in Charlottesville.

Tuesday at 8 p.m., the Cavaliers can make their own comparisons when they face the Cougars at Legion Field in the 11th annual All-American Bowl (WFTY-TV-50). And Virginia could use an on-field performance worthy of the Deltas, the "Fun Bunch" and the A's.

"We're going to have to play well and play smart," said senior defensive end and cocaptain Sean Scott, a graduate of Mount Vernon High School. "As long as we can do that, we'll be in a position to win this game."

From the numbers each team compiled during the regular season, it appears the pressure will be on the defenses. And Brigham Young's will be without senior starting linebacker Thor Salanoa, who injured a knee.

Virginia (7-4, 5-2 and second in the Atlantic Coast Conference) has won its last four games. It will enter Tuesday's game averaging 391.4 yards total offense per game, 169.4 rushing and 222 passing. The Cavaliers' lowest offensive output of the season was 306 yards in a 58-10 loss at South Carolina, and they have totaled more than 430 yards five times.

Their quarterback, fifth-year senior Scott Secules from Chantilly, completed 174 of 296 passes (58.8 percent) for 2,311 yards -- all four single-season school record -- 12 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He was selected first-team all-ACC, becoming the first Virginia quarterback so honored since 1966 (Bob Davis), and made honorable mention all-America.

"This season, he's been comparable to the people we've had," said Brigham Young Coach LaVell Edwards, whose people have included Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young and Robbie Bosco. "I've been very impressed with him."

Virginia's defense, on the other hand, is allowing opponents an average of 386.5 yards per game, 188.6 rushing and 197.8 passing. The Cavaliers have held just one opponent to fewer than 310 yards total offense -- VMI, in a 30-0 victory.

Their ability to keep big plays from being made against their defense and to prevent opposing offense from making big plays helped greatly in down-to-the-wire victories against Virginia Tech, North Carolina and North Carolina State.

"You can't really stop them," said redshirt freshman cornerback Keith McMeans, whose nine interceptions led the nation. "We have to control them, keep them from getting the big play and maybe making a few of our own. I think it's real important that we put some pressure on the quarterback and take some of the pressure off the defensive backs."

Brigham Young is 9-3 overall. Its 7-1 record was good for second place in the Western Athletic Conference. It has won its last six games, and will enter this game averging 382.7 yards total offense per game, 291.8 of that passing. The Cougars' quarterbacks, sophomore Sean Covey (Tuesday's probable starter) and junior Bob Jensen, have thrown 49, 60, 48, 49 and 40 passes in games this season, but are averaging 39.8 passes and 38.3 rushes per game. They were held to less than 300 yards total offense in their first three games, of which they lost two. In their final nine games, they have exceeded 400 yards six times, 500 yards twice.

"They are not a one-dimensional team," Scott said. "They are very complex. They use the passing game, but they also use a lot of traps. They get the defensive linemen upfield and then run the ball underneath them."

Defensively, Brigham Young has not been spectacular. It is allowing 352.2 yards per game and has held only Hawaii under 300. However, in their last four games of the season, the Cougars have not allowed their opponents to rush for more than 90 yards.

"I think the key for us is we are are going to have to find a way to run the ball," said Virginia offensive guards and centers coach Tom O'Brien.

"If we aren't able to rush for over 100 yards," said Virginia Coach George Welsh, "it's probably not going to be a good offensive night for us."

Virginia Notes:

Virginia Coach George Welsh has denied reports that he is a candidate for the head coaching job at Ohio State.

"I have not been contacted by Ohio State," he said. "I just have no intention of leaving Virginia."

Virginia Athletic Director Jim Copeland said no one from Ohio had contacted him either. But he added: "They don't have to do that; it's normal protocol to do that."

Asked what he would do if an Ohio State official called and asked for permission to talk to Welsh, Copeland said: "Normal procedure is {to say} yes. But it would also be normal procedure for me to say, 'Let me talk to George first.' And he and I would talk."

Copeland said Welsh's contract with Virginia "runs well beyond this season or next season."