Playoff Committee Knocking BYU Football For Strength Of Schedule Is Weak Excuse
PROVO, Utah – Another week has come and gone with BYU football being far lower in the College Football Playoff rankings than many feel they should be ranked.
In case you missed the made-for-TV spectacle on ESPN, BYU moved up one spot from No. 14 to No. 13. The College Football Playoff Committee made a statement loud and clear that everyone in the college football world –Urban Meyer, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, numerous others– who were stunned by BYU’s low ranking a week ago that they, not them, are the wrong ones.
When asked by ESPN’s Rece Davis why BYU continues to remain low in the Playoff rankings, Committee Chairman Gary Barta said the following.
“Great respect for BYU, but what is it that holds them back? If you compare the games they’ve played, the teams against whom they’ve competed, and you compare those to some other teams, it’s really the strength of schedule or the games that they are playing not being as strong as some of the teams we’re ranking ahead of them.”
Strength of schedule continues to be the CFP’s knock on BYU Football
No one is going to say BYU’s strength of schedule is great. The Cougars currently have the 106th ranked schedule according to the Sagarin ratings. But for that to be the only data brought up for BYU is a weak argument.
Especially in this crazy season of 2020, where everyone else seems to be receiving the benefit of the doubt from the committee amidst the global pandemic we all move forward through. Ohio State, who’s played four games heading into December, is in the top four. Wisconsin has played only three games is just three spots behind BYU at No. 16.
BYU’s efforts in scheduling
Barta should acknowledge that BYU had six Power 5 lined up on the schedule before COVID scheduling changes hit the sport. The Cougars then pitched the Big 12 on being a one-year fill-in member. Big 12, as they have always done, declined the offer. BYU also had an agreement in place reportedly to play Alabama to open the season, but that was blown up when the SEC decided on a Conference-Only schedule.
BYU’s scheduling efforts led by Tom Holmoe, Gridiron’s Dave Brown, and Kalani Sitake had to get whoever was actually willing to play the Independent Cougars to have a season. A season that national reporters said had no chance of being played this season, but BYU stayed the course.
Big XII and ACC teams had openings to allow for one non-conference game each. You don’t think BYU was trying to get those games? If they didn’t, BYU fans were sure to blow up Holmoe’s Twitter mentions to give him friendly reminders every 10 minutes.
Look at the data on the field
What happened to quality control being a data point that the committee points to in determining teams? BYU has only trailed in 20:25 of game action this season. That’s through nine games. A threshold of games that only 35 other FBS teams have reached this season.
Whenever a non-Power 5 team makes a push for the Playoff, what’s the argument from talking heads that always gets brought up if they want to have a chance at playing in the last four? Dominate your opponents. BYU has done that this season.
The Cougars are No. 1 in the country in point differential at 31.4 points per game. So those bad teams that the Cougars are are playing, BYU is treating them like the far inferior programs that they are in the eyes of the Committee.
There’s enough data and statistical breakdowns available at the Committee’s disposal to point to that would make a compelling case for BYU to be higher in their rankings. Don’t forget who dominant and physical BYU has been this season on film. The Cougars have the best offensive tackle in football according to PFF in Brady Christensen. This BYU team stylistically is built to compete against any team the sport has to offer. What they are running is not a gimmick offensive attack we’ve seen in past years from teams outside the power conferences.
But Barta and his committee, who make these weekly decisions behind closed doors, don’t seem interested in looking at data besides the opponents’ names on BYU’s schedule. Data isn’t needed apparently when there are opportunities to rank a pair of two-loss teams at No. 8 and No. 9.
Pro Football Focus currently grades BYU as the No. 1 team in the country with the No. 1 offense and No. 10 defense, tied with Alabama. The Cougars have the No. 4 offense in efficiency ratings and No. 25 on defense. Are those metrics that would suggest BYU should be as low as they currently are?
BYU’s product on the field has been impressive in 2020, but is there anything else the Cougars can do at this point? The Playoff is out of sight and out of mind. New Year’s Six, on the other hand, is something that BYU should be apart of. Sitting at No. 13, BYU is still outside of the top-12 to be in the at-large pool pulled from to pick NY6 teams.
What can BYU Football do to improve its ranking?
ESPN’s Mike Golic Jr. asked Barta after the rankings were revealed that question on what BYU can do to improve their ranking moving forward.
“The only thing that can change that [ranking] is the people around them or if they get a chance to play more games that the Committee has a chance to evaluate.”
Gary, BYU would love to have more games. As Tom Holmoe wrote on his social media, “feelers are out.” But ultimately, you need to have another willing party. BYU would have been a perfect game for Miami this weekend after Wake Forest had to cancel, but the ACC didn’t want that. Instead of a pair of Top 13 teams playing in Miami at Hard Rock Stadium, the college football world instead gets Miami and Duke playing in a meaningless game that has zero impact on anything.
BYU is willing to do everything that it can to improve its strength of schedule. So why is that the only knock on them? It just doesn’t make any sense, especially in a year where everyone’s schedules have flaws. Ohio State has only played four games. Those four victories were against Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers, and Indiana. The Cornhuskers and Nittany Lions each only have one win apiece this season.
How would BYU fare against an elite team in college football? I honestly don’t know. But I also don’t know if anyone outside of Alabama is elite this year in the sport. BYU is good enough this season to earn a spot in the New Year’s Six.
You’ve wanted BYU football to play a real opponent. BYU wants the chance to play more games. Give them the chance and put them in the New Year’s Six.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.
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