PROVO With a thorough 59-0 thrashing of UCLA on Saturday, BYU raised eyebrows around the country. On Sunday, the Cougars rose in the national rankings.
BYU jumped from No. 18 to No. 14 in the AP poll and climbed from No. 15 to No. 11 in the coaches' poll. Meanwhile, talk around the nation about the Cougars being a possible "BCS-buster" has grown louder.
On a weekend that saw the Cougars dismantle the Bruins, two other BCS hopefuls didn't fare as well. East Carolina needed a touchdown pass with 1:41 left in the fourth quarter to hold off Tulane, while Fresno State fell to then-No. 10 Wisconsin at home.
East Carolina is now ranked No. 15 in the AP poll and No. 17 in the coaches' poll. Fresno State is No. 25 in the AP poll and unranked in the coaches' survey.
Another BCS hopeful, Utah, moved up to No. 20 in both polls. The Cougars and Utes meet Nov. 22 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Rankings and BCS hype aside, BYU players and coaches insist they are simply focused on their Mountain West Conference opener this Saturday against Wyoming (2-1) at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Last week, the Cougars (3-0) fell three spots in the AP poll after edging Washington, 28-27, on the road. Quarterback Max Hall, who tied a school record with seven touchdown passes against UCLA, said that drop didn't affect his team going into the game against the Bruins.
"I don't think that had any motivation to us at all. We don't have a lot of control over that," Hall said Saturday. "What we have control over is coming out every Saturday and winning football games. Someone else is going to decide what we're ranked, and we can't control it."
Hall acknowledged the BCS is a goal for the Cougars, but added that there's still a lot of work left to do.
"If you're a (Division I) program, and you're not trying to get to the BCS, what are you doing?" Hall said. "If you're not setting your goals to try to get it to one of the best programs in the country, something's not right, in my opinion.
"Coach (Bronco) Mendenhall does a great job of telling us that we've got to believe in ourselves and come to work. Eventually, we think we can get our program to that spot. Again, we can't control it totally. We've just got to play hard on Saturdays and see what happens."
Wide receiver Austin Collie said his team's attitude and work ethic won't change, no matter what is said about BYU or where the Cougars are ranked. Asked about his reaction to last week's fall in the AP poll and much-debated unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Washington's Jake Locker that all but overshadowed BYU's win over the Huskies, at least from a national perspective, Collie said: "There's something unique about this football team. The unique thing about our football team is, it doesn't matter if they told us that we were 15th in the country or first. We're still going to come out, day-in and day-out, and put in the same work because we know where we have to get.
"All that outside stuff, you know, sometimes, clearly, they don't know what they're talking about. We are one of the best teams in the nation. I think we can prove that day-in and day-out. We're going to work on Wyoming. It's our next game. We're going to come out, and we're going to fight.
"We're going to continue to prove it every single week," Collie said.
Mendenhall knows there's a lot of football left to be played.
"We're certainly not finished yet. This team can be better. We can be better defensively, offensively and on special teams," he said. "That's what (the players will) hear from us. I think our team would be the first to acknowledge that.
"The great thing about this particular team is they're anxious to work, anxious to learn. I think they trust us as coaches to point out the areas where we can improve and they take that to heart. I know we can improve."
This week, Mendenhall's job may be trying to help his team guard against overconfidence or complacency. The Cougars say there will be no letdown this week for the Cowboys, who barely survived their game Saturday at home against Football Championship Subdivision opponent North Dakota State, 16-13.
"It's never hard to get up for Wyoming," said BYU defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen. "We know they consider us a rivalry game. We know they're going to come out and they're going to give us everything that they have because they always do. We're going to be up for Wyoming.""Our focus is the Mountain West Conference," said tight end Dennis Pitta. "We need to win it again this year. This is our conference-opener, at home, so we're going to be focused and we're going to be ready to go."
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