You cannot question No. 8 BYU’s best intentions.
The Cougars are doing whatever they can do increase their national profile in a season impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that includes traveling to No. 14 Coastal Carolina on Saturday with less than 72 hours to prepare.
It’s a battle of 9-0 teams. BYU (9-0) is trying to increase its standing with the College Football Playoff selection committee, which has the Cougars at No. 13 and the Chanticleers at No. 18.
While the focus will be on what it means for a four-team playoff that neither team will make, it should be on the teams themselves. Coastal Carolina and BYU are having amazing seasons, and the fact that this is the best matchup on the Week 14 schedule — better than No. 1 Alabama at LSU and No. 6 Florida at Tennessee — is the proof.
That leads to questions about the system those two teams — more so BYU in this case — are trying to manipulate in their favor.
Sporting News outlined No. 7 Cincinnati’s playoff case after the second set of CFP rankings unveiled Tuesday. The Bearcats’ opponents have a combined record of 38-31 this season, a winning percentage of .551 — which is the highest among the top seven teams.
By adding Coastal Carolina, BYU’s opponents now have a 43-44 record, a .494 winning percentage that is right there with Clemson at 45-46 (.495) and Alabama at 38-39 (.494).
It’s unbelievable scheduling work by BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe to put together that 11-game schedule — even if the committee would not have treated it much different than the Cougars’ original schedule which featured Power 5 opponents in Utah, Michigan State, Arizona State, Minnesota, Missouri and Stanford.
This is BYU’s first real chance to push that debate, but it might have come in 2014. Taysom Hill suffered a season-ending leg injury in the fifth game, however, and the Cougars have been searching for that break-through season ever since.
That’s been happening since the Cougars won the AP national championship in 1984. They are the only team not playing in a Power 5 conference this season that has won a national championship in the past 50 years. Fellow independent Notre Dame — which won its last national championship in 1988 — is playing in the ACC in 2020.
The ’84 BYU team, led by third-team All-American quarterback Robbie Bosco, did that despite only one win against a ranked team — a 20-14 season-opening victory against No. 3 Pitt. The Cougars beat a 6-5 Michigan team 24-17 in the Holiday Bowl. BYU’s opponents had a combined record of 60-82-3.
“We were getting closer and closer and heard a lot of negative stuff. We got up to No. 5 early, and it became kind of a distraction,” Bosco told SN at the time. “On one hand, we had a chance to do this. On the other hand, you had people saying you don’t deserve this.”
That sentiment grew when BYU did not schedule Washington this year. Could the Cougars win the Pac-12? That depends on who you ask.
There is no question that BYU has talent. Quarterback Zach Wilson has 2,724 passing yards, 26 TDs and two interceptions. The Cougars rank fourth in the FBS in scoring offense (47.6 ppg.) and scoring defense (13.9).
What the Cougars don’t have is a system that will give them the same chance they had 36 years ago despite scheduling with the best intentions amid the most challenging environment possible — maybe ever.
The end game is all too predictable. If BYU goes undefeated, then the most-likely best-case scenario would be a New Year’s Day Six Bowl, probably against Cincinnati. Is that better than a quarterfinal that would put Wilson against one of the other potential Heisman finalist quarterbacks such as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Alabama’s Mac Jones or Ohio State’s Justin Fields? Notre Dame’s Ian Book will likely get that chance, and the difference was joining a conference.
That’s the system at work, even if it does not work for everyone. Certainly not the ones that will travel across country on 72 hours’ notice to put that unbeaten record on the line.
Progress is made with good intentions. BYU can say it is making progress.
Can the College Football Playoff do the same?
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