After an impressive 10-3 season and 24-21 bowl game victory, the Cougars finished the 2011 season with a No. 25 ranking, according to the USA Today Coaches Poll released late Monday night.
This season marks the fifth time in the last six seasons that BYU has finished in the top 25, a feat accomplished by only 11 other Division I schools (Boise State, LSU, Ohio State, Oregon, Oklahoma, TCU, USC, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Virginia Tech).
Junior linebacker Brandon Ogletree and sophomore wide receiver JD Falslev both said the team’s final ranking will prove important in setting a precedent for the 2012 season.
“Teams will be looking out for us a bit more,” Falslev said. “We’re becoming an elite, nationally recognized team, which will make it so we can play more high quality opponents.”
According to Ogletree, the team came into the season, its first as an independent, with high expectations and goals.
“The team was hungry to prove ourselves,” he said. “We definitely expected to be successful and 10-3 puts us up there with some elite programs.”
The Cougars had a slow start to the season, but according to Falslev, they were able to come together and finish strong.
“Our execution wasn’t spot on,” he said. “We had a lot of young guys that didn’t fully grasp what it takes to play against tough opponents in big games. Under that kind of pressure you can either grow or crumble really fast and the fact that we finished in the top 25 shows a lot about this team’s true character.”
While the Cougars ended on a high note, Ogletree and Falslev also said it wasn’t enough.
“No one on this team is satisfied with 10-3,” Ogletree said. “10-3 is good but we know we can do a lot better. Next year we have a lot of experienced juniors and seniors coming back and we’re expecting to win.”
Falslev referred to BYU’s rich football history and tradition when talking about the team’s high finish.
“We’re excited about where we ended and it feels great to be in the top 25,” he said. “But with the rich history here at BYU, the top 25 isn’t good enough. It feels good to be nationally recognized, but we feel like we can compete more.”
BYU’s most recent ranked seasons have been in 2011, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006. Of these five seasons, BYU has finished in the top 20 three times (2006, 2007, 2009). Their highest ranking was in 2009 when they finished in the No. 12 spot.