Another crazy day in the world of conference realignment/expansion, with reports coming from everywhere Tuesday that the Big 12 has accepted an application from, and invited, West Virginia to leave the Big East and join its party. Of course, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe has acknowledged that BYU has been talking to the Big 12 about joining as well, so today's news is not exactly what Big 12-hungry BYU fans wanted to hear.
Have the Cougars been passed over again? Looks that way -- for now. If the Big 12 decides to expand to 12, 14 or 16 teams, obviously BYU will be right back in the conversation.
After football practice tonight, I asked coach Bronco Mendenhall for a reaction to the news that West Virginia got the Big 12 invite.
"I think we just stay the course," he said. "Yeah, it is news to me, but still to me it doesn't [change]. Nothing changes for me. I just keep coaching the team, and hopefully produce a product that warrants the attention and the respect and the exposure that we deserve. And so, we are looking forward to a strong finish. Four regular season games, and then a bowl game, and that could add a lot of consistency in year seven. And it is hard to stay consistent."
Driving home, I caught parts of Mendenhall's coach's show on KSL radio where he gave a longer, more detailed, uninterrupted answer to basically the same question. Mendenhall brought up the issue of "culture," and how unique BYU is as an institution, and said a conference has to want "a school that has the values we have."
After practice, head athletic trainer Kevin Morris provided an injury update:
* Defense linemen Loni Fangupo and Romney Fuga were actually cleared to play last week against Idaho State, but were held out by the coaches. They have practiced all week, "and they look great," Morris said. Expect them to play vs. TCU.
* Defensive backs Preston Hadley and Corby Eason didn't participate in live drills Tuesday, but only because DBs coach Nick Howell wanted to give them an extra day to recover, Morris said. Neither is injured.
* Defensive end Graham Rowley missed a few plays against ISU because he got bent back funny and his back was sore. He went right back in, however, and is fine.
* Ziggy Ansah (MCL sprain) practiced Tuesday and "looked good, streaking down on a kickoff," Morris said. "I thought he was questionable until I saw that. Now I would move him up to game-time decision." It hasn't been determined yet whether Ansah will be on the travel squad, however.
* Morris said the only player who is definitely out is Austin Heder. He got a pretty bad stinger in the OSU game and is still recovering.
Posted some video earlier tonight of the first half of Mendenhall's post practice chat with reporters. Here's more from the second half:
On whether TCU's defense is still as good as it was:
"They are. They are a little younger in the secondary. That's where you will see the biggest difference. Not that they are not fast and talented. They are just a little less experienced."
On whether he is putting a premium on not turning the ball over:
"Oh, it is critical. If you look at the number of turnovers in these games that have become the 30-7 games, special teams and turnovers have been the clearest advantage they've had. So that's a huge part."
On whether they don't have superstars on defense:
"I will tell ya, I watched them today, and I am not sure you will notice much difference. I mean, I didn't. Today was the first day I watched their defense. I just put it on, and it looked to me [like they are just as good]. I couldn't tell. They looked very good."
On who poses the biggest threat offensively from TCU:
"It is the collective. They have good running backs. They have a quarterback who throws it well. He doesn't run it quite as well as [Andy] Dalton. Really nice receivers, and a good plan. It is just their system, with good players."
On not being able to get away with things you could get away with vs. Idaho State, etc.:
"There will be an adjustment period, because they are fast and they are a really good team. I believe we have been making progress, but in terms of how that is going to measure, how that is going to show, especially early, hard to say."
On whether guys got healthy after the Oregon State game:
"I think so. They are all practicing, so that's a good sign."
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