Tom Pennington, Getty Images
ARLINGTON, Texas — In its first season as an independent, despite all of the time spent playing on the ESPN networks these days, BYU has precious few opportunities to make a statement on national television.
But the Cougars have that chance Friday (6 p.m., MT, ESPN) when they collide with TCU at luxurious Cowboys Stadium.
And considering the way the Horned Frogs have manhandled BYU the past three years, the Cougars have a shot at some redemption as well as validation.
BYU is coming off of a 56-3 rout of Football Championship Subdivision foe Idaho State last week. Next week, they have a bye, followed by games against WAC foes Idaho, New Mexico State and Hawaii.
This contest against TCU, a former Mountain West Conference rival and a team that has finished in the top 10 of the national rankings the past three seasons, serves as a marquee matchup for BYU.
"We've got a game against a great opponent," said center Terence Brown. "It will be a great measuring stick to see where we're at. We all plan on playing our best game."
"It's a big game because it's the next one. TCU's a great program," said wide receiver McKay Jacobson. "These big-time games are what stand out in people's minds. At the end of the day, we've just got to go out and do the same thing we've been doing. TCU's been great the past couple of years. We definitely respect them. We're looking forward to the challenge."
The Cougars are riding a five-game winning streak, but are they improving? Or have they simply feasted on struggling, weak opponents?
The answer could come tonight.
"We know that we're getting better. We're slowly finding out who we are as a team," said safety Travis Uale. "I think a great indicator would be this Friday to exactly where we are."
The Frogs have been the Cougars' worst nightmare of late, as TCU has beaten BYU by a combined score of 101-17 since 2008.
"They've been able to execute the past three years better than we have," said linebacker Jameson Frazier. "I really hope we can turn that around this week. I think we're picking up steam and getting some momentum going. I think it will be a good game. We have a lot of history with TCU. They're a really good team to play against. It's going to be a fun game."
Earlier this month, TCU received a coveted invitation to the Big 12 — an invitation that many believed would go to BYU.
"That's great for them," Uale said of TCU's Big 12 invitation. "They've been a great program and they have a great head coach. It's great for them to go to a great conference, especially since it's an automatic BCS qualifying conference."
The Frogs' impending Big 12 affiliation could mean added motivation for the Cougars.
"For us, a win against them now that we know they're going to the Big 12, it might mean a little bit more because of that," Uale said. "We've known they're a good team. That invitation just solidifies that they are one of the elite teams in the country. It's extra icing on the cake if we do win, to say that we're capable of beating teams in the Big 12."
As is his wont, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall isn't placing too much importance on this game.
"I see it as our next game to improve our team and reach our potential," he said. "I like the matchup and I like the game. It should have a lot of intrigue — two teams with similar records. We're anxious to see if we can improve how we play against this opponent. This is a great opportunity for us. A really good team, a lot of exposure. To go any further than that, it's not the way I see it."
After a string of memorable MWC games between the two programs, this could be the last time BYU and TCU play each other for a long time.
Or, perhaps, depending on how conference realignment plays out, this showdown could be a preview of a future Big 12 conference game.
Cougars on the air
vs. TCU (5-2)
Friday, 6 p.m. MT
TV: ESPN Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Heady goes here
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