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Unrivaled: BYU Must Add Games To Improve College Football Playoff Rankings

(#36) Talmage Gunther celebrates after he gains possession of the ball at the beginning of the fourth quarter. BYU played Houston at TDECU Stadium in Houston, Texas on October 16, 2020. (Courtesy of BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – The initial College Football Playoff rankings were not kind to the 9-0 BYU Cougars as they came in at No. 14, behind a pair of two-loss Big 12 teams, and seven spots behind Cincinnati.

It should not come as a shock that non-Power 5 teams get shorted when it comes to these rankings. Seeing the Cougars come in at No. 14 was mildly surprising but the biggest issue with the rankings is the disparity between the Bearcats that have a strength of schedule of 84 per Jeff Sagarin while the Cougars are at 108. Neither schedules are great but is that difference worth a seven-team gap, probably not.

Both the Cougars and Bearcats are inside the top 13 in defensive yards allowed and yards gained on offense. No other team that is ranked 14 or higher in the initial playoff rankings can make that claim. There is the strength of schedule again to consider but the Cougars have been flat out dominant against a schedule that had to be pieced back together in August. There is very little they could have done with who they played.

This is not just BYU fans saying the Cougars deserve better but the ESPN crew of Kirk Herbstreit and others on the broadcast were surprised that BYU was as low as they were.

“That’s one of the biggest shocks to me, BYU being down all the way at No. 14, which I just don’t understand,” Herbstreit said of the Cougars ranking. “I wonder if the committee watched BYU play.”

There is a lot to be said for watching teams play and not only using analytics – that should especially be the case this year with so few non-league games. Seeing what BYU has done has arguably been the most impressive of any team this year, they lead the country in margin of victory at 31.4 points per game, and the only other team to win by an average of 30 per contest is Alabama.

Yeah, BYU is dominating in every aspect of college football.

Adding Games Is A Must

Normally when the College Football Playoff rankings are released there is the cautionary note that there is still a lot of football to be played and so many things can change. That is a bit different this year and especially so for BYU.

Typically, there are about five or so games left for teams to make their mark but in this pandemic year of 2020, the Cougars have just one game left and it is against a middle-of-the-pack Mountain West team in San Diego State. A lot of what can change is out of BYU’s control.

As of now, they are on the outside of earning a bid for a New Year’s Six game. To be selected, BYU needs to be around the top 10 to be automatically selected. Every conference champion from a Power 5 league gets in and right now the Pac-12 is outside the top 12, meaning the Cougars need to be 11 if the season ended today, and also maybe be No. 10 if the Group of 5 automatic bid goes to a team ranked outside the top 12. With Cincinnati within the top 12 and No. 7 that helps BYU to not have to be 10 but can be 11, again if the season ended today.

The only thing BYU can do is add more games.

There was a kerfuffle on Twitter over the weekend about BYU and Washington trying to add a game. Ultimately, it came down to the Pac-12 wanting to have the option for the Huskies to play a league game and so they could not fully guarantee a game against BYU. That is what happened as Utah’s game against Arizona State was canceled, and the Utes are now playing the Huskies.

Sitake also made it clear speaking to local media and on ESPN that his team was not avoiding anyone.

“It just didn’t work out for whatever reason. There was this narrative out there that we were hiding, ducking or waiting, and that is not true,” Sitake said on ESPN. “It is a false narrative. I want to make sure everyone understands we are not afraid of anybody. Nobody is afraid of anyone. We are not afraid of Washington and they are not afraid of us.”

Not only is Sitake not happy with how the Cougars were ranked neither was KSL Sports’ Alex Kirry – especially teams with two losses ahead of BYU.

“I’m OK with BYU being a little bit further down on this ranking like this I think we thought maybe it’s further down, but Cincinnati needs to be right next to him. Right?” Kirry said. “I’m saying the reason that it stinks to me is it Cincinnati is at seven and that’s the big problem. When Cincinnati got rolled out in that seventh spot everyone saw something’s going on here, because when they talked about strength of schedule and that was the massive strike against BYU.”

It is a ding against the Cougars and not really their fault but they still were able to put together 10 games. Now, BYU needs to go out and try to add more games. There is an opening for both Cincinnati and BYU on Dec. 5, so that could be an option and there has been talks of trying to get an undefeated Marshall, reschedule with Army, or even Texas A&M out of the SEC on Dec. 19.

At this point, BYU can’t be overly picky because they have just one game left on the schedule to make their case and that is not enough for them to get into a New Year’s Six bowl.

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