Brigham Young is used to being a rival to every Mountain West Conference team, but usually it’s one motivated foe at a time.
The entire league, except for perhaps Texas Christian, is hoping No. 8 Utah beats No. 16 BYU on Saturday. TCU needs a Cougars victory to have a chance to claim part of the conference championship.
But the Horned Frogs are alone for two main reasons.
First, there is the financial incentive. The Utes essentially secure a place in a Bowl Championship Series game if they beat BYU, and that would mean about $650,000 to each of the other MWC members. Athletic directors worried about layoffs and other deep budgetary cuts could no doubt use the money.
Then there is the on-field benefit of a Utah victory. By freeing up a conference-affiliated bowl spot, it would help Colorado State or UNLV try to get into the New Mexico Bowl. The Rams and Rebels each need a victory to become bowl eligible.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall knows his team constantly wears a bull’s-eye, so in that regard this weekend isn’t unusual.
“One of the things I’ve been most happy with over the past three years is consistency through the number of wins and just the readiness to play,” Mendenhall said. “I’m hopeful we can do it one more time.”
The Utes have tried not to make too much of this game.
“Our guys are not oblivious to the big picture,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Obviously, we’ve got smart players. They understand what’s at stake. But all you can do is go out and do your thing. Once the ball’s in the air, it’s just football.”
The Holy War rivalry has had some amazing finishes the past three years, with the Utes winning in overtime in 2005 and BYU pulling out victories with extraordinary escapes in 2006 and 2007.
“I think (this is) one of the greatest rivalries in college football,” Mendenhall said. “This particular matchup, I think, has the quality of football, the emotions that go with it and the passions of the fans that I think would rival any place in country.
“Those that don’t understand that are only from the SEC or the Big 12, etc.”
• SAD GOODBYE — Rocky Long’s resignation Monday after 11 seasons as New Mexico’s coach stunned coaches around the conference.
“Coach Long shaped my coaching philosophy more than any other coach I’ve worked with or worked for,” said Mendenhall, who was Long’s defensive coordinator with the Lobos from 1998 to 2002.
Texas Christian coach Gary Patterson, who served as the Lobos’ defensive coordinator in 1996 and 1997, was passed over in favor of Long when the head coaching position opened.
“He was a lot better choice,” Patterson said. “He’s a Hall of Famer and has roots with the state and understands the state.”
• ALMOST GONE? — Wyoming coach Joe Glenn lacked his usual cheerfulness during the league’s weekly media teleconference. A somewhat somber feeling set the tone as the popular Glenn’s days as Cowboys coach seem to be ending.
Even Saturday’s game against heated rival Colorado State feels different.
“Yeah, it does, very much so,” Glenn said. “Probably a lot of stuff has a different feel to it than it would under different circumstances.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914.