"I think you can look at any of those other games and say, ‘Maybe BYU is not as good because we're not playing ranked opponents,' but I think we are moving forward," said safety Travis Uale. "In playing TCU, it will be a good measuring stick to see where we are in compared to the other great teams in the country."
It is difficult to gauge exactly how far the team has grown given the fact that BYU has recently executed well against lesser talent.
Some could point to Oregon State, a Pac-12 program, as being a measuring stick. But even when Oregon State had seven first-team all-conference players – the most in the conference – in 2009, the Cougars beat the Beavers 44-20. And, Oregon State is struggling this season, having only won two games so far.
"You know, we know that we are getting better," said Uale. "I think we are slowly finding out who we are as a team even though it's the middle of the season. A great indicator will be this Friday to know exactly where we are, but as of right now I think we know how good we can be. Right now it's a matter of preparation this week and how we go out on to the field this Friday and perform."
BYU's high level of execution in all four quarters against a lesser opponent in Idaho State was encouraging to some degree.
"I think it prepared us because [ISU] throws the ball a lot," Uale said. "Our pass defense, in our head, wasn't the best and we had some errors there and we had to clean up some things, and I think we played pretty well against the pass. You know, if you compare the two teams I don't think they compare very much, but I think if you just look at us as a defense we've improved in not only covering the pass but sacking the quarterback."
ISU threw the ball 60 times against the Cougar secondary, completing 34 of those attempts. But comparing ISU's receivers to TCU's isn't a fair comparison.
Coach Mendenhall compared TCU's speed to that of Texas, Ole Miss and UCF, an assessment that Uale agrees with.
"I think it's accurate," said Uale. "I think they're fast like Texas, you know, you have Shipley from Texas and I think they have guys like him with that type of speed. Although they did lose Jeremy Kerley, they do have very capable guys stepping up now and filling in his shoes, so we have to prepare for them like we prepared for those other teams at the beginning of the season."
The Horned Frogs beat BYU four of the six years they faced each other in the MWC. So, why has TCU been as dominant as they've been over BYU in recent years?
"They've had a really good defense and a really good offense," said Uale. "Last year when we were rebuilding, with a new quarterback and things like that, it was hard because we were a young team and still are. I'm not really sure the years before because I didn't play, so I didn't pay attention to exactly why they were better or why they won."
TCU had recently accepted an invitation to the Big East, before then accepting an invitation to the Big 12. That validated the program that head coach Gary Patterson has built.
"Yeah, that's great for them," Uale said. "I mean, they've been a great program and have a great head coach, so it's great to see them going to a great conference, especially one that is automatic BCS qualifying."
Given TCU's eventual entry into the Big 12, beating the Horned Frogs would be big for BYU.
"Oh yeah, I think a win against them – now that we know they're going to the Big 12 – I think it might mean just a little bit more just because of that," Uale said. "We've known that they are a good team, but that invitation just solidifies that they are one of those elite teams in the country."
Beating TCU could also potentially further solidify the perception that BYU would be a good candidate for the Big 12.
"I'm not sure about that," Uale said. "I just think us playing to the best of our ability and being able to be a dominating team like we want to would prove that by winning on Friday."
According to Uale, TCU's invitation to the Big 12 doesn't give BYU extra incentive to go out and beat TCU either.
"I think it's just icing on the cake if we do win. You know, to just say we are capable of beating teams that are in the Big 12 and things like that."
BYU needs to not only win, but win against quality opponents in order to develop as a top-quality program and also be measured among some of the best teams in the country. With a win on the road against TCU, the Cougars would definitely know where they stand as a program and in the eyes of possible skeptics.