TCU and BYU: Big 12 foes?

FORT WORTH -- Cowboys Stadium is the site for tonight's midseason nonconference showdown between TCU and BYU. Forgive the parties involved if it doesn't feel like an out-of-league affair.

"We consider this like a conference game," Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson said of the 7 p.m. kickoff on ESPN. "We played BYU for so long."

The two private schools were conference opponents for six years. This year they're not. Perhaps in the future, they could be again.

Such is the revolving door that is realignment.

BYU left the Mountain West for independent status this year. TCU bolts the MWC next year for the Big 12. Tonight, the Horned Frogs and Cougars are playing more so out of necessity than familiarity.

"I'd rather not play a non-conference game in the middle of the season," Patterson said. "This is the only time BYU and ourselves could work it out."

Lineup changes in the MWC, plus Texas Tech pulling out of this year's scheduled trip to Amon G. Carter Stadium, left TCU with slots to fill. BYU was also in a scramble mode after ditching the MWC.

ESPN and Cowboys Stadium entered the picture, and a marriage was made. Not much courting was needed.

"We've played them since 2005, so I don't think it's any different than playing Colorado State, Wyoming, Utah," Patterson said.

Now, could these two meet again in the Big 12? The Cougars had been at the top of the heap when it comes to potential expansion candidates before the additions of TCU and West Virginia. BYU craves the automatic BCS qualifying status that TCU will enjoy and rival Utah gained in the Pac-12.

Asked if BYU was a Big 12-caliber program, Patterson answered: "I don't know." It makes sense not to offer an opinion, especially since TCU won't be in the Big 12 until next summer.

TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte has taken part in a few Big 12 meetings and said the subject of posible expansion schools hasn't come up with him. Del Conte added he hasn't been asked about BYU.

"We've never been asked anything about any member," he said. "Those conversations are happening above my pay grade."

Del Conte did say he prefers a 10-team league, going back to his days in the Pac-10. The Big 12 expects to be at 10 next season with West Virginia coming onboard.

Patterson said the membership of the Big 12 eventually is going to be a subject of interest.

"It will, but right now it's the games that I have left," he said. "Is the chicken going to be warm in Wyoming as the pregame meal? Is it going to snow? What kind of crowd are we going to have at the BYU game? Are my kids' legs and shoulders going to be back by Friday? Those things are what's important to me know."