Most of BYU’s pre-season talk involved discussing how the coaching staff believes the team is worthy to join a Power 5 conference, as well as how none of the Power 5 conferences could “find room” to fit BYU in.
The Cougars ended the discussion by showing the college football world what they could do. Now that BYU is 3-0 and ranked No. 21 in the AP polls, the team is turning heads and garnering attention from big-time conferences and especially from the red neighbors up north.
ESPN.com recently published an article claiming that according to ESPN’s FPI (or Football Power Index) BYU is the most likely team to go undefeated this season, with a 17.2 percent chance of a “perfect” season. But what came after the news that made Cougar fans jump for joy? The line that said, “Thanks to (BYU’s) 75th-ranked remaining schedule.”
That’s where the Utes come in.
They say old habits die hard, and even though BYU and Utah are not set to play each other again until the 2016 season, the rivalry spirit still flows strong in the Utah air. Since there is no game or score to squabble over, BYU and Utah fans have to find something else over which to get at each other’s throats. The topic of choice? Conferences and the difference in schedule strength, of course.
Granted, the fact that the Utes belong to the PAC-12 does set them apart to a point. But to be completely honest, the Utah football team is pretty low on the PAC-12 pecking order.
Last season the Utes went 5-7 in their overall season and only 2-7 in conference play, even worse than their 3-6 conference play record in 2012. For the first time in years, the Utes weren’t invited to a bowl game — for two seasons in a row — simply because their record didn’t make the cut.
In their defense, the Utes’ schedule is probably the hardest of all the Utah college football teams, playing the likes of ranked teams and traveling to teams that are tough opponents on their home turf. But when their conference schedule gets so hard they don’t even qualify for a bowl game that sounds a little too hard.
All in all, here’s the way I see it: BYU is doing it right. It isn’t necessarily doing it gracefully, but it is doing it right. The situation the Utes and Cougars find themselves in can be compared to high school football. In high school, there is a difference between the junior varsity and varsity teams. Varsity is seen as more prestigious, because it takes the best to make it onto that roster.
Right now, by joining the PAC-12, Utah has gotten itself a spot on that varsity roster — not as a starter, though, but as a second-string benchwarmer that never sees any playing time. BYU, on the other hand, has taken the junior varsity spot. While not as prestigious, BYU will take it because it will allow some play time and could eventually lead to an earned spot on the varsity team.