BYU Now Poised to Run the Table
Its 41-7 whipping of the Texas Longhorns Saturday night was big for the BYU football program on many levels.
It sends the message once again that the Cougars would be a fine addition to the Big 12, or any of the so-called P-5 conferences.
After all, BYU is now 6-1 all time against Big 12 bluebloods Texas and Oklahoma and have outscored them by a combined 211-87 in those seven games.
The Cougars are a combined 3-1 against the Longhorns and Sooners since 2009.
The win also lifted the BYU into the AP Top 25 released on Sunday, its first appearance in any major poll in two years.
Most importantly, it now sets the Cougars up with a legitimate shot at running the table and finishing the regular season undefeated in the first year of the new college football playoff system. As it appears right now, Bronco Mendenhall’s team will likely be the favorite in each of its remaining 10 games.
The toughest remaining games are likely to be road tests at UCF and Boise State later in the season. The Knights lost a hard-fought game against Penn Sate 26-24 in their opener in Ireland, while the Broncos were soundly defeated 35-13 by Ole Miss to start the season before bouncing back to take out Colorado State 37-24 in Boise on Saturday night.
Prior to those key roadies are home tilts against Houston, Virginia and Utah State. Any of those teams are capable of coming into Provo and pulling off the upset if BYU doesn’t come ready to play. However, given the fact that the Cougars played a one-point game at Houston in 2013, were upset at Virginia and have watched USU become a legitimate program over the past few years, they should come into those contests well-prepared.
They should be prohibitive favorites in games against Nevada, Middle Tennessee, UNLV and Savannah State, while the season finale at Cal has become a tad more interesting given that the Bears have already doubled their win total from last season in the first two weeks of 2014.
Virtually every team that has ever run the table during the regular season has been the beneficiary of lady luck at one point or another. Case in point is BYU’s 1984 team that was eventually tabbed as the consensus national champion. The Cougars escaped with narrow wins over Pitt (20-17), Hawaii (18-13) and Wyoming (41-38) that season.
Robbie Bosco’s pass late in the game to Adam Haysbert brought BYU from behind against the Panthers, while Kyle Morrell’s famous game-saving leap over the line to stop a Hawaii quarterback sneak preserved national title hopes. Against the Cowboys, the Cougar defense made two key goal-line stands to hold off a pesky bunch from Laramie.
Though this year’s lack of strength of schedule would make it difficult for the Cougars to make the four-team playoff, even if they were to finish 12-0, a berth in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games is certainly not out of the question if they can take care of business the rest of the way. Such an accomplishment would be huge for a program that is in tremendous need of becoming nationally relevant once again.
At least one national media outlet thinks that the chances of BYU going undefeated is more than just a pipe dream. ESPN’s current Football Power Index ranks BYU as the most likely team in the country to finish the regular season undefeated with a 20.9 percent chance of winning out, better than Oklahoma (19.2), Florida State (13.2) and Oregon (10.4).