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What Happens if BYU Has a Special Season?

26 June 2014 Brett Richins
Taysom Hill hopes to lead BYU to a special season. (BYU Photo)

BYU QB Taysom Hill hopes to lead the Cougars to a special season in 2014. (BYU Photo)

This time of year, hope springs eternal for every college football team.

For example, in Provo, many are envisioning the Cougars getting back to winning double-digit games and ending the season ranked in the top 25.

That might be considered a lofty goal for a team that has endured combined double-digit losses over the past two seasons.

However, there is real reason for optimism in Cougartown in 2014.

For starters, the go-fast, go-hard offense should be considerably improved from last season when BYU struggled to sustain drives and was dreadful in the redzone.

Quarterback Taysom Hill has spent the offseason working hard to develop himself as a passer, the offensive line is expected to be much improved and the Cougars welcome an infusion of speed at wide receiver.

Better execution on offense combined with what is expected to be an easier schedule should translate to an improvement over the 8-5 records BYU posted in 2012 and 2013. Just how much improvement is the question.

Here’s an interesting thought, what would happen if the Cougars were to somehow go 12-0 in the regular season? Implausible you say? Maybe so, but if they happen to exit Austin in early September at 2-0 things could get pretty interesting.

During football media day on Monday, former BYU lineman and ESPN college football analyst Trevor Matich said that if the Cougars were to win all of their games this coming season they “would be in the conversation” when it comes to the new college football playoff.

While they would no doubt be discussed, the chances of an undefeated BYU being selected to play for a national championship this year would be virtually nil. The strength of schedule simply isn’t there.

Of BYU’s 12 opponents in 2014, two of them (Cal and Savannah State) won just one game last season and had exactly zero wins against FBS opponents. Virgina finished 2-10 in 2013 with the victory over the Cougars being the Cavaliers’ lone win over an FBS program. Then there is UConn, which won its last three games against Temple, Rutgers and Memphis just to get to 3-9.

And while Texas, Houston, Utah State, UCF, Boise State and Middle Tennessee State all won at least eight games last season, the Longhorns are the only team from a Power 5 conference on that list. BYU isn’t going to generate a tremendous amount of street cred by running the table against that group even though most of those teams are expected to be pretty solid once again.

Bronco Mendenhall has said on many occasions that it may take BYU going undefeated two years in a row in order to get a shot at playing for a national championship. Even in the new playoff era that might be the case, particularity when the schedule shapes up as it does this season.

What BYU would likely have to do in order to be a serious contender to make the playoffs is win out in both 2014 and 2015, with road wins at Nebraska, Michigan and UCLA to start the 2015 season. That’s a very tall order indeed.

While a special season may not get BYU into the playoffs this year, it could potentially open the door for the Cougars be selected to play in one of the the other “New Year’s Six” bowl games.

After slotting the four playoff teams, the selection committee will then pick the other teams to play in the other four bowls. While their are conference tie-ins with the Orange Bowl, the committee is free to select “at-large” teams (read non-Power 5 teams) to participate in the Fiesta, Cotton and Peach Bowls.

Basically, they way things shake out in this new era, if the Cougars finish the regular season ranked in the committee’s top 12 then they’ll be headed to one of the top bowls. That means that BYU could potentially play in one of the New Year’s Day games, even if it finishes the regular season with one loss.

The bottom line is that the Cougars will essentially be locked out of playing for a national title in 2014 no matter what they accomplish on the field, however there is a chance that BYU fans could see their team playing in a big-time bowl if it puts together one of those special seasons.

Note: We’ll begin a series next week, previewing each of BYU’s 2014 opponents.

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