BYU football: Tonight a 'very big game'
BCS berth, MWC title could be decided tonight
FORT WORTH For BYU, the Road to the BCS goes through Amon G. Carter Stadium.
The No. 9 Cougars (6-0, 2-0) clash tonight with TCU (6-1, 3-0), marking a Mountain West Conference showdown that carries league championship implications as well as national implications.
"It's a very big game," said defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen. "It's great to be able to go out on a Thursday night on a national stage and have an opportunity to play a great top 25 team like TCU (ranked No. 24 in the USA Today coaches' poll)."
Since the Horned Frogs joined the conference in 2005, there have been memorable battles between the two programs. There was the 51-50 TCU win in Provo in 2005, when the Frogs scored a controversial touchdown in overtime. There was BYU's 31-17 defeat of TCU in 2006 as the Cougars snapped the then-No. 15 Frogs' 13-game winning streak. A year ago, BYU edged TCU, 27-22, in a contest that came down to the final minutes.
In each of those seasons, the winner of the BYU-TCU tilt has claimed the MWC title, stoking the flames of this emerging rivalry.
"This game has conference championship implications every single year," Jorgensen said. "One of their coaches came up to me after the game last year and said, 'No more BYU-Utah crap. We want the BYU-TCU rivalry going on.' It's a big game for both teams.
It's been that way the last three or four years since they got into the conference. I think it's going to continue to be that way."
While BYU boasts a top-10 ranking and is eying a BCS berth, TCU has an ample supply of motivation. The Frogs are aiming to halt BYU's 18-game conference winning streak and 16-game winning streak overall, not to mention spoil the Cougars' dreams of earning a BCS bid.
"We've been talking about the BYU game since last January," TCU coach Gary Patterson said this week. "They are the team that has won the conference the last two seasons, so that has to be the mileage marker where you set your sights."
The BYU game, in fact, has become the most important one on TCU's schedule, according to Patterson.
"I think we are growing up as a program," he said. "Big 12 teams are fun to play, but the bottom line of it is you've got to win your conference ball games against the top teams in your conference 'I will say this to you since January there has been a helmet on the blocking dummy downstairs with a Y on it.'"
"I expect a great ball game," said BYU linebacker David Nixon, a College Station, Texas, native. "We've got the bull's-eye on our chests. All these (conference) teams consider us their rivals, and they're going to be coming after us. So we don't expect anything to change."
Quarterback Max Hall said he and his teammates respect TCU and they know they're in for a dogfight. "They're a tough team. It's a big-time conference game. They're a ranked team. There's excitement in the air. That's why you play college football, to play teams like TCU, to go into their place, in a hostile environment, a battle and scratch and claw and hopefully come out with a win."
Two years ago, BYU was well-represented in the stands at Carter Stadium. This week, Patterson has urged the TCU fan base to turn out in droves for this contest, saying he would like to see a "large, rowdy and loud" crowd at Carter Stadium, all dressed in purple. "It will take the whole Metroplex to beat (BYU)," he said.
Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall sees tonight's game as another challenge on the road to reaching lofty goals.
"Our team continues to grow and learn. We'll do the same this week," he said. "The Washington game and maybe the New Mexico game, though one was at home and one was on the road, the nature of those games has given us good preparation for what this one might be like."
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