BYU remains in running for league championship

Believe it or not, Brigham Young is ranked and still has a chance to win the Mountain West Conference title.

It’s easy to forget given the hype surrounding Thursday’s game between No. 11 Texas Christian and 10th-ranked Utah in Salt Lake City.

BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall understands why the game is hogging the spotlight but knows his team still deserves plenty of attention.

“I think over the next three weeks, the rest of it will sort out,” Mendenhall said. “I think the two teams playing on Thursday night deserve that attention, and then it will shift to another story after Thursday.”

For No. 17 BYU to become the story, the Cougars first need to beat last-place San Diego State on Saturday. They’ve been living on the edge, eking out back-to-back victories over UNLV and Colorado State.

But Mendenhall said the focus that he wanted to see is back. He fretted earlier in the season — back when BYU was the conference’s headlining act — about his players losing concentration.

But getting pounded 32-7 at TCU on Oct. 16 got their attention.

“That loss to me was the greatest gift we’ve been given in terms of getting back just focusing on our program and what we can do to improve it and continue to work,” Mendenhall said. “Even though the execution hasn’t been as clean, their will, their heart and their battling to the end has been something I’ve been very pleased with.”

• NOW ABOUT THAT BIG GAME — Coaches don’t like to look ahead, but TCU’s Gary Patterson did so Tuesday to make a point.

As big as his game against Utah appears to be, he made sure to let the media on the weekly league teleconference know there were more games to be played.

And he’s right.

After Utah, TCU finishes its regular season Nov. 22 at home against a tough Air Force team.

The Utes play at San Diego State on Nov. 15 and host BYU on Nov. 22.

“So to me, it’s a two-week battle,” Patterson said.

New Mexico coach Rocky Long, whose Lobos lost to both teams, was asked for his opinion on the game.

“If I was to bet on this game, which I wouldn’t because I would never bet on a college football game, I’d say both defenses are so strong that I think both offenses will struggle a little bit,” Long said.

And would he predict the winner?

“In private, I will,” Long said.

• SYMPATHY PAINS — As someone whose future has been in question all season, Wyoming coach Joe Glenn can relate to Phillip Fulmer, who was forced out Monday after 17 years as Tennessee’s coach.

Fulmer will coach the Volunteers’ final three games of the season, including Saturday’s against the Cowboys in Knoxville, Tenn.

“It’s a hard part of this game,” Glenn said. “I don’t understand it: the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of deal. I’m sure Coach Fulmer feels violated, and he should.”

After this trip to play a nonconference game in the Southeast, Wyoming will have a short week of rest before playing UNLV on Nov. 13 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

“I don’t know if it’s enough of a turnaround to be our best by Thursday on the road,” Glenn said.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

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