So, the Cougars are ranked in a preseason poll for the first time in 11 years? What does it really mean?

In simplistic terms, it means nothing.

Then it gets more complicated.

If your program hasn't been ranked in any beginners' poll for a dozen years, it speaks to respect. Then you have to go out and earn it.

Remember in 1984 Pitt was ranked No. 3, then lost to BYU and went in the toilet.

On the other hand, if you don't get some momentum in polls these days, you'll be paddling up the river most of the season, even if you run the table.

It's not fair. It isn't the way it is supposed to be. But that's college football circa 2008.

These days, with complicated computer formulas, polls, rankings and votes determining the finish in the lucrative BCS poll, getting ranked in any way, shape or form is imperative. It's like earning one of the preferred spots during a preliminary heat of a race.

There are good lanes and bad lanes.

The coach's poll, published by USA Today, has the Cougars No. 17. Between BYU and the coveted Top 10 loom No. 10 Texas, No. 11 Auburn, then Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech and Arizona State.

If BYU does its part and wins, there's a tough gauntlet to maneuver every week to chip away at those in front of them. But starting at No. 17 is a better spot than Hawaii began its campaign a year ago at No. 24. The Warriors climbed to No. 22 on Sept. 2 before running the table to stand No. 10 in week 14 before the bowls.

Bronco Mendenhall puts little stock in preseason polls or rankings during the season because he knows it doesn't provide a real value, with one exception. He

knows if you want to get where Utah, Boise State and Hawaii did in a BCS bowl, it is a major advantage to be ranked before the season starts than to chip your way in from nowhere.

Other than that, it's puffery and opinions, and one is as valuable as another. Back 11 years ago when the Cougars were last ranked in August, they finished a disappointing 6-5, fifth in the WAC's Mountain Division.

Thud.

Mendenhall recognizes this could happen to his team, just like it did to that of LaVell Edwards. Youth and success, he says, is a dangerous combination in sports; if you get complacent or cocky, you could fall.

Mendenhall told reporters in Las Vegas back in July his team could be set up for a "perfect storm," and that his approach with players like QB Max Hall, TE Dennis Pitta, receiver Austin Collie and D-lineman Jan Jorgensen is to warn them they're just beginning.

"Those who say we've arrived, returned to glory, well, everything I do is to remind them this is the fourth year, not the 29th. My approach is you are just starting, show them by example because thinking you arrived shows a lack of motivation ... setting us up for a letdown."

BYU released a statement from Mendenhall on Friday after the poll hit the wires.

"I believe this acknowledgement is based upon the results over the past two seasons, as well as the intrigue that surrounds our program and its governing principles," Mendenhall said. "Being ranked in the preseason top-25 doesn't ensure a quality season. We will focus on the established pillars that have proven to be successful.

"Being ranked in the preseason doesn't provide any guarantees," Mendenhall added.

"Our goals will continue to be winning at home and winning the Mountain West Conference. We will not focus on an undefeated season or going to a BCS game. While that pressure exists, and we acknowledge that it has been and will continue to be talked about, our focus will be on doing our personal best and doing it as a collective unit on a daily basis."

That collective unit gets curtain call No. 1 today.


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