PROVO, Utah — On paper, it’s France against Russia. Or Britain. Or Italy (both times). It’s Bennett against John Matrix. It’s the Easy-Bake Oven against Wolfgang Puck.
On paper, it’s a struggling, defenseless, 23-point underdog against a skilled, irritated, offensive-minded favorite.
It’s a football team that can’t stop an ant from crawling against one capable of putting up 40 points without sweating. It’s a team that has lost three straight games against one that has outscored its last three home opponents 124-3.
UNLV’s game at Brigham Young today could be decided at halftime, but the Cougars will have everything to say about that.
Or, specifically, their mindset will.
The letters BCS first seriously were mixed with BYU late last season, when those who predict spotless records glanced into their oval-shaped crystal balls and forecast the Cougars as a team capable of going 12-0 this year.
The thinking went like this: If BYU could survive a nonleague schedule that included games against Pac-10 opponents UCLA and Washington, there existed no Mountain West Conference team good enough to wreck the Cougars’ perfect run at a Bowl Championship Series game and a big enough payday to fill all 64,045 seats at LaVell Edwards Stadium with crisp green bills.
Problem: Texas Christian never received the memo. The Horned Frogs did more than wreck BYU’s undefeated season Oct. 16.
They exposed the Cougars.
"A wake-up call for everybody," BYU quarterback Max Hall said of his team’s 32-7 loss in Fort Worth. "A kick in the gut. I think we got caught up thinking about the future, about getting to a BCS game. But now we have to get back on track.
"It’s the brutal facts. We were shown that maybe we weren’t as good as we thought. The fact that we have to take a few steps back before going forward might be a good thing. The chances at a BCS game are now very, very slim. The only thing we can do now is focus on the task at hand."
It’s what a competitive, driven, disappointed, upset quarterback says on a Tuesday conference call.
How well he and his teammates follow through today is unknown, an approach that also might determine how much of a dental floss-thin chance UNLV has of winning.
The wrong part about BYU having to forget any opportunity at being invited to one of five major bowls is the same brainless reason that has defined the BCS since its inception. Inequality. Discrimination. The BCS is as much a cartel as OPEC, only with a bigger agenda to keep the smaller guys in their place.
Utah is the current undefeated team being hyped as a potential BCS buster, and doesn’t that say it all? Until a time comes when automatic inclusion to such riches isn’t limited to six conferences, until television and print media cease covering and talking about non-BCS leagues in arrogant and belittling ways, flawlessness remains the lone way by which to earn an invitation.
It’s as unjust as it is foolish, but we have known that for some time.
"There’s a lot of pressure on the idea that you have to win every week to stay in it," Hall said. "The only thing we can do is hopefully return to playing like we normally do and still have a chance at winning conference.
"I think (UNLV) is pretty good defensively. I think they’re pretty good in the secondary."
Hall must be running for some political office around here when he’s not throwing touchdown passes, or accidentally took the wrong film from the "U" drawer this week and instead watched Utah games. UNLV is anything but good defensively. Nothing is pretty about them trying to stop anyone.
But how teams say they will recover from a crushing loss and how they ultimately compete the next game can be far different realities. There could be no better time for the Rebels to play BYU than now — and no worse one.
"You never know," Rebels coach Mike Sanford said. "I don’t have a feeling exactly where BYU is mentally. I have no idea. That’s not my concern. My concern is making sure we are at our best either way. I can’t comment on whether I would rather play them after they (win or lose). I know they will be ready to go.
"We can’t completely copy what TCU did to them. Some things we do offensively are similar (to TCU), and some things we do on defense are similar."
What, wear helmets?
On paper, today is your neighborhood coffee stand against Starbucks.
And yet, even France won the French Revolution. Not that it should have counted.
Ed Graney can be reached at 383-4618 or firstname.lastname@example.org.