PROVO Game by game, yard by yard, the BYU Cougars keep coming. A close call at New Mexico. A tougher-than-expected win at UNLV. An easy time at home against Colorado State. The latest: a workmanlike 27-22 win over TCU Thursday night.
Not fancy but definitely consistent.
Maybe they're a little monotonous, maybe they aren't dazzling the pollsters, but it's working. So they march on, under the radar yet ahead of the pack, relentlessly headed for a second straight Mountain West Conference championship.
There are still games remaining against Wyoming, Utah and San Diego State. But with a two-game lead in the standings, they could wrap up a tie for the conference title next week. Go ahead and book those tickets to Las Vegas, a town that loves BYU like it loves the electric company. It's as good as done. Could BYU actually lose its last three games? Yes, and Djibouti could win the Olympics.
Now that the Cougars have won six straight, and are 5-0 in the conference, the obvious question is: How good are the Cougars, really?
Answer: Does it matter?
They're good enough.
"The thing that matters most every week is, 'Are you the best team on that day?'" said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall.
BYU is good enough to have won 15 of its last 16 conference games and 13 straight. Like dinner at Chili's and Clive Cussler books, they may not be the best, but they are decent enough.
So the Cougars threaten to blow the game open with a touchdown to start the second half then give one up. They overthrow open receivers a few times and toss an interception under a little pressure, yet pass for 305 yards, including one that goes for 66. They seem poised to be dominant, and then they're not.
They let the Frogs march down to the 31, after cutting the lead to 24-15 in the third quarter, then stop them cold on a fourth-and-1, again on fourth-and-8. and finally, in the fourth period, they stop them cold once more on fourth-and-8.
Maybe not overwhelming, but as the writing adage goes, great can sometimes be the enemy of good.
That BYU vs. TCU would be a highly anticipated game wasn't exactly a surprise, though the methodology was. Talk about taking the long route. Before the season began, Thursday's matchup was expected to pair the conference favorite (TCU) against the projected runner-up (BYU) in a battle for first place. But trouble happens. BYU took itself out of BCS bowl contention by losing games to UCLA and Tulsa. Yet that didn't stop the Cougars from going through the conference schedule like Rick Majerus through a buffet.
Meanwhile, dogged by injuries and inconsistency, the Horned Frogs promptly lost their first three conference games, rendering themselves inconsequential as contenders.
The Frogs' 37-0 shutout of New Mexico last week resurrected talk about the BYU-TCU game being a difference-maker. And it probably was, considering BYU entered the contest undefeated in conference play, and TCU was still struggling to become bowl eligible. At this stage the Frogs aren't being choosy whose bowl. Toilet Bowl, Cereal Bowl, Bonwood (42 lanes) Bowl any would be fine with them.
Thanks to the short week, both teams were scrambling to prepare, prompting TCU coach Gary Patterson to note that "probably the world could have come to an end, and none of us would have known about it right now."
Wth a 2-4 conference record, their world pretty much is at an end in some ways.
As for the Cougars, it's interesting to quote Aldous Huxley who said, "Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead."If you're the Cougars, all they can say is don't try to wake them up.
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