Eventually, our program will have to, as it once did two years in a row, be able to compete and beat TCU or teams like that at a consistent level so that we can move the program forward.

PROVO — When the opportunity presented itself to schedule a football game against TCU, the defending Rose Bowl champions, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall welcomed the challenge.

"It made a lot of sense. TCU is a program that I respect," Mendenhall said, explaining that the Horned Frogs have won a lot of football games and consistently finish in the top 20 of the national rankings.

From 2005-2010, the two programs competed as members of the Mountain West Conference. Now, the Cougars are independent and the Horned Frogs are jumping from the MWC to the Big 12 next season.

"It's a program that we were matched up with in our conference," Mendenhall said. "Eventually, our program will have to, as it once did two years in a row, be able to compete and beat TCU or teams like that at a consistent level so that we can move the program forward."

Like every week, Mendenhall once again said that his focus is on improving his own team, and not the opponent. But safety Travis Uale said he and his teammates are looking forward to this meeting with the Frogs.

"It does intensify, especially because it's a short week and it's a game that we circle on the schedule," he said. "Now that it's here, that emphasis is a lot more. Personally, I'm going to go in and watch film and put in extra hours if I need to after practice with my coach to make sure that everything's smooth and that I'm prepared more for this game than any other game of the season.

"I think we're ready to take on the challenge. A lot of guys are fired up. After the game on Saturday (a 56-3 win over Idaho State), we were talking about how fun it's going to be to go there and play TCU. We're excited to be able to play such a good team."

THE QB SITUATION: Sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps, who started the season as the starter before being benched in favor of Riley Nelson in the Cougars' victory over Utah State, played last Saturday for the first time since Sept. 30.

Heaps took over for Nelson in the third quarter and completed 8-of-10 passes for 67 yards and an interception.

Mendenhall said Nelson, who has started three consecutive games and completed 11-of-17 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns against ISU, will continue to start as long as he's productive.

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"I like the direction of our team offensively," the Cougars' coach said. "If the team were to struggle and if we weren't able to move the ball or score points, Jake would come in and perform. I like the chance for the quarterbacks to get in rhythm and to play. Until proven otherwise, we'll go down the same road we've been traveling with Riley."

INDY PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Nelson and linebacker Kyle Van Noy were named the independent offensive and co-defensive players of the week.

Van Noy, who recorded two sacks and a blocked punt, shared the honor with Army linebacker Geoffrey Bacon.

Notre Dame kick returner George Atkinson III earned special teams player of the week recognition. He had a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a loss to USC.

email: jeffc@desnews.com