BYU’s 43-26 victory over Houston last Friday helped the Cougars jump again in the major polls, as they are now ranked 12th in the AP Top 25 and tied with Miami (Fla.) at 11th in the Coaches Poll. Most notably, the Cougars leapfrogged North Carolina, after the 5th ranked Tar Heels lost to Florida State.
The Cougars also got a bump from Bill Connelly of ESPN and his SP+ rankings. BYU moved up six spots this week to 15th according to Connelly’s predictive metric. Their overall rating of 15.2 puts them just behind Washington — who has yet to play — and Oklahoma State — who is 3-0 with wins against Tulsa, West Virginia and Kansas.
SP+ considers BYU to be the 12th ranked team offensively and the 7th ranked team when it comes to special teams play. According to SP+, Houston is ranked 52nd in the nation and BYU’s next opponent, Texas State, is ranked 110th.
Jeff Sagarin’s ratings continue to hold BYU among the elite teams in college football and rank the Cougars 6th in the country, just behind Alabama, Oklahoma State and Georgia. According to Sagarin, BYU’s strength of schedule got significantly more difficult after playing Houston — although this is likely at least partially a result of Houston being ranked 28th this week and having the 10th most difficult schedule, which includes only Tulane and BYU.
BYU Football Rankings:
— Benjamin Criddle (@CriddleBenjamin) October 19, 2020
It’s fairly uncommon for a team to jump 15 spots following a loss and it appears as if Houston’s ranking is helped by their small sample size of only two games — their only loss coming in a fairly competitive contest against BYU. If Houston can manage to stay in the top 35 teams for the remainder of the season it should help BYU’s strength of schedule remain respectable, but if Houston drops at all, BYU could see their schedule rank out in the bottom quarter of teams once again.
The Cougars saw slight improvement in their ranking according to Football Outsiders FEI Ratings, going from 18th to 15th. Offensively, the Cougars ranked 11th according to FEI. BYU is still one of the highest scoring teams in college football this season, with 4.06 points per drive. Alabama (8.62) and BYU (8.48) constitute an obvious top tier when it comes to yards per play; the third highest ranked team is Florida with 7.97 yards per play.
Interestingly, FEI Ratings are still high on LSU, who is unranked in almost every other poll, but rank 9th here. LSU is 1-2 so far this year but boast one of the more efficient offenses according to Football Outsiders. They will be a team to watch in coming weeks to help measure the effectiveness and predictability of the FEI Ratings system.
BYU saw a minimal increase in ratings according to ESPN’s Football Power Index which has them ranked 20th — up from 21st last week. FPI validated the win over Houston as a critical game for BYU, as the Cougars’ chances of going undefeated (47.7%) and making the College Football Playoff (10.3%) both doubled.
Massey Ratings gave BYU a similar place in their rankings this week at 22nd. Massey’s overall numbers are highly correlated to strength of schedule and don’t factor overall record or wins into their algorithm as much. They rank BYU’s strength of schedule so far 106th, and have their schedule getting even easier going forward. Even Texas State will have a more difficult schedule than BYU at the end of the season if Massey’s ratings from this week held.
BYU can’t do much about their weak schedule through five games this season but there is consensus across the board that BYU has done all they can to make their case for inclusion among college football’s elites. Good teams usually find a way to dominate bad teams, and for the most part the Cougars have done just that.
This coming weekend will be a crucial one for BYU in the rankings. With the Big Ten and Mountain West beginning play, BYU will have a dozen more teams to compete with — not just for wins and losses but for national airtime and attention. It also provides the Cougars with an opportunity. Multiple polls and metrics consider Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State to be top 15 teams and if any of them stumble out of the gate it could provide BYU a chance to claim their place as legitimate contenders.
Saturday night’s matchup between No. 9 Cincinnati and No. 16 SMU will also have big ramifications for BYU’s chances at making a New Year’s Six bowl game, as the loser will likely be out of the picture for an at-large bid.
Written by Bridger Beal-Cvetko
Bridger is a student at Utah Valley University where he studies journalism and mass communication. He is the sports editor of the on-campus newspaper, The Review. Bridger is a life-long Cougar fan and college football enthusiast.