Less than a week after surviving its lowest-scoring game of the season, BYU will put its unblemished record on the line against one of the nation's best defenses.
The ninth-ranked Cougars look to extend the longest win streak in the country and improve to 7-0 for the first time since 2001 when they visit stingy TCU on Thursday night.
TCU's Andy Dalton will start at quarterback in the critical Mountain West Conference game. Dalton hasn't played since suffering a right knee injury against Oklahoma, but he returned to practice recently.
Dalton's backup, Marcus Jackson, has started the past two games for the Horned Frogs (6-1), who hope to spoil the 6-0 Cougars' bid for a Bowl Championship Series game berth. TCU, keyed by a running game and strong defense, did win both games.
After recording two shutouts and outscoring opponents 137-14 over its previous three games, BYU (6-0, 2-0 Mountain West) received an unexpected challenge Saturday. The Cougars were held to 382 total yards -- more than 70 less than their season average -- and a season-low point total, but defeated New Mexico 21-3.
"It's a great win for our football team in the way that it came hard-fought, inch-by-inch, foot-by-foot," coach Bronco Mendenhall told the team's official Web site. "I was proud of our football team. It was the most physical and hard-fought game that we have played this season."
BYU's victory extended the longest win streak in the nation to 16, dating to a loss at Tulsa on Sept. 15, 2007. It also gave the Cougars their first 6-0 start since opening 2001 with 12 wins.
Remaining unbeaten could be a challenge against the Horned Frogs (6-1, 3-0), who received the 27th-most votes in this week's AP poll thanks in part to their dominant defense.
TCU, which suffered its only loss Sept. 27 on the road to then-No. 2 Oklahoma, has held five of its seven opponents to seven points or fewer. Only the Sooners scored more than 14 points against the Horned Frogs, who rank ninth in the nation in scoring defense with 11.4 points allowed per game.
TCU is No. 1 in the nation in total defense at 207.4 yards per game and tops in the Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing defense at 20.7 ypg.
The Horned Frogs' defense looked a little shaky in its opening series Saturday, but recovered quickly after giving up a touchdown on that drive as TCU beat Colorado State 13-7.
"I like the way they stood up," coach Gary Patterson said. "A couple of times (Colorado State) got inside the 35-yard line and (we) didn't give up any points. We've played that way all year, and I'm just glad that it turned out this way today."
TCU held the Rams to minus-49 yards rushing in the second half and 11 yards on 28 total carries.
"That was the real defense the rest of the way," linebacker Robert Henson said. "We kept our composure. Luckily, we have a lot of veterans on the team. They kept everybody humble and made sure everyone did their job."
TCU will have its work cut out for it against BYU's Max Hall, who ranks among FBS leaders with 1,852 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. Hall, 17-2 as a starter, completed 22 of 34 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns against New Mexico, and has thrown at least two TDs in each of his last eight games.
Austin Collie has been on the receiving end of many of those scoring plays. The junior receiver caught nine passes for a career-high 162 yards and a TD last weekend, and has eight touchdowns in his last five games.
Dalton was 18-for-30 for 165 yards, a touchdown and an interception against BYU on Nov. 8, when Hall went 26-for-44 for 305 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the Cougars' 27-22 home victory.
BYU has taken five of the teams' seven all-time meetings, including three of four at TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium. The Cougars won their last trip to Fort Worth 31-17 on Sept. 28, 2006, one of the Frogs' four losses in their last 32 home games.
Information from STATS LLC and ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad was used in this report.
Top 25 Overview
Unbeaten BYU faces its stiffest test of the season Thursday when it travels to TCU. The Cougars, who were held to a season-low 21 points last week, face a defense that's ranked No. 1 in the country in total defense.