PROVO After a long layover, Brigham Young starts its final stretch on a very short turnaround.
The Cougars (6-2, 4-0) host TCU (5-4, 2-3) tonight, trying to extend a five-game winning streak and stay unbeaten in the Mountain West Conference. TCU and BYU both played on Saturday and haven't had much time to prepare this week.
The end of the regular season is less than a month away and the Cougars are within reach of a second straight MWC title, although coach Bronco Mendenhall is trying to keep the Cougars' concentration on the Horned Frogs.
"I think what we can do is focus on the game Thursday night and we'll see who we play after that and where," Mendenhall said. "I've asked our team not to acknowledge any of that and I don't intend to as well."
TCU was the preseason pick to win the Mountain West, but the Frogs fell out of contention by losing three of their first four conference games. The Frogs got it together last week with a 37-0 shutout of New Mexico.
The last time the Frogs visited Provo, they edged the Cougars 51-50 in overtime while on the way to going unbeaten in their first MWC season.
"TCU's a good football team," BYU quarterback Max Hall said. "They're going to play us tough. They do every year."
The 64,000 seats in LaVell Edwards Stadium are expected to be full for the Thursday night game. The Cougars haven't lost at home since 2005, which was also the last time they lost a conference game.
BYU's five-game winning streak hasn't been enough to compensate for losses to UCLA and Tulsa in September and get the Cougars back into the Top 25, where TCU coach Gary Patterson feels BYU belongs.
"I voted for them, because I think they're a very good football team," Patterson said.
BYU is coming off a 35-16 win over Colorado State on Saturday after getting an unexpected break in the schedule. The Cougars' game at San Diego State scheduled for Oct. 27 was postponed until Dec. 1 because of the southern California wildfires.
That extends the Cougars' final stretch by a week, leaving BYU with games against TCU, Wyoming, rival Utah and the Aztecs. Of the remaining opponents, only San Diego State (3-5) has a losing record.
TCU had an extra week to recover from a 27-20 loss to Utah on Oct. 18 and looked well rested with a 17-point second quarter while shutting out New Mexico. The Frogs' speedy defense also held the Lobos to 119 yards of offense.
"You always wonder how a break will help you or hurt you and it looked like it helped us against New Mexico," Patterson said. "We now have a quick turnaround with BYU."
TCU should be a much bigger challenge than Colorado State was for BYU last week. The Cougars took a 28-3 lead and two fourth-quarter touchdowns by the Rams were too late to mean much in the outcome.
The Frogs ran for a season-high 238 yards last week and shut down the second-ranked offense in the MWC. TCU had three sacks and didn't allow New Mexico to top 100 total yards until late in the fourth quarter.
It was the kind of performance that was expected from the Frogs when they were picked ahead of the Cougars to win the conference.
"What I saw was a fresh, energized, fast football team," Mendenhall said. "There weren't any brand new schemes or tactics. It just looked like freshness versus wear and tear."