SOUTH BEND, Ind. — BYU arrives at the college football Mecca that is Notre Dame Friday, but the Cougars consider this strictly as a business trip.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said the team won't do any sightseeing this weekend, though the Cougars will hold its usual pregame fireside in nearby Michigan City, Ind., Friday night. The team is also staying in Michigan City.
BYU and Notre Dame square off Saturday (1:30 p.m., MT, NBC).
On Wednesday, Mendenhall said he wasn't sure if he would speak to his players about the mystique surrounding Notre Dame.
"This particular team I think needs as much focus on just continuing to play the game and improving as possible," he said.
While this is BYU's fifth trip to South Bend, this will be a first for most Cougar players.
Longtime assistant coach Lance Reynolds has been on all four previous visits here. Is it difficult to keep players from being distracted by the aura of Notre Dame?
"Someone asked LaVell (Edwards) about that and he said, 'I'm not so worried about all that as I am the 11 guys on the field,'" Reynolds said. "A lot of these guys have seen this place, this team, on TV. They know who they are, and it's a big deal. It's even a little more of that storied feeling than USC, because of the tradition. Sometimes, it's a little bigger than life and sometimes it feels bigger than life. I like the place."
NOTRE DAME SERIES: When BYU announced it was going independent in football, it also announced a six-game series with fellow independent Notre Dame between 2012 and 2020.
"We were looking for good opponents and good partnerships," Mendenhall said. "I certainly don't think it was a deal-breaker if (a deal with Notre Dame) didn't happen. But I wanted the game. I thought it was a nice, intriguing game and some similarities between the two institutions. I'd like to get something similar with Boston College or the military academies. I think they're good games and they bring interest. It was just the first one that happened to come."
A few weeks ago, the Irish announced a new scheduling arrangement with the Atlantic Coast Conference in football. Soon, Notre Dame will begin playing five games a year against ACC foes.
It is not known how that could affect the series with BYU. Will the two teams end up playing six games?
"Who knows?" Mendenhall said. "With the way things work now, it's hard to say. I haven't had any indications that they won't. I think it's too far for me to say absolutely we'll play at all six."
FIRST GAME AT NOTRE DAME: BYU defensive backs coach Nick Howell spent time at Notre Dame when his relative, Kent Baer, was the Fighting Irish's defensive coordinator several years ago.
However, he has never been in South Bend on game day. "I've seen the stadium and the facilities," Howell said.
He welcomes the opportunity to play at Notre Dame Stadium. "We've played in cool stadiums before," he said. "We've played good teams. It's just another chance to play in front of a big crowd and have fun."
Howell's secondary allowed more than 300 yards passing last week against Oregon State. Saturday's game against the Irish provides a chance for the Cougars to redeem themselves.
"It's a good opportunity. These guys want to play. When we do our assignment, we'll be just fine," Howell said. "They're not flustered, they're not afraid, they're not discouraged, they're not unconfident. They're ready to go. We're going to get them prepared. Our job as coaches is to get them prepared and their job as players is to play as hard as they can. It's the same mindset we always have."
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