Standing with a strong 4-0 record, BYU claims status as one of the nation’s 25 remaining unbeaten teams within the Football Subdivision. A No. 20 overall ranking, a Heisman candidate quarterback and a relatively soft schedule put the Cougars in a prime position to win out.
But what would an undefeated season actually mean?
It may prove insufficient as the playoff committee considers the nation’s top performances for playoff consideration. Excluding games played against the Cougars, BYU’s opponents are currently 10-18 (.357) against FBS competition, a stat that must improve to boost a legitimate playoff résumé. Texas, Virginia and Cal are the only schools from a Power 5 conference on BYU’s schedule, added in with a mash-up of Mountain West, American Athletic and Conference USA opponents. None of the teams have been ranked as of Week 4.
“We’re worried about controlling the controllables,” wide receiver Jordan Leslie said. “We just try to take it game by game and not think down the road. We came into the season wanting to be undefeated, so we’ve got to not worry about what they ranked us as, or who we play down the road.”
The only realistic scenario in which an undefeated BYU is awarded a playoff spot would be if every other team in the nation finishes the regular season with at least one loss. Conditions of this type are highly improbable, but not unprecedented. In 2007, a barrage of upsets left everyone in the top four with at least one loss — including eventual national champion LSU.
“Hopefully if we just keep winning we’re going to get more recognition nationally,” safety Craig Bills said. “We’ll just worry about ourselves and winning first and foremost.”
Though a playoff berth may be out of the question, an at-large invitation to one of the prestigious New Year’s Day bowls would serve as a consolation prize for an undefeated Cougar squad. Here’s a look ahead at BYU’s biggest remaining obstacles to a perfect season:
Oct. 3 vs. Utah State: Senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton and the Aggies enter next Friday’s game at LaVell Edwards Stadium with a disappointing 2-2 record. Utah State was blown out 38-7 in its opening game at Tennessee and is coming off a 21-14 overtime loss at the hands of Arkansas State. The Cougars have won three straight against Utah State and are 23-2 against the Aggies since 1983.
Oct. 9 @ UCF: BYU will have the national spotlight for this Thursday-night matchup. UCF rose to prominence in 2013 with a Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor but has stumbled early this year with losses against Penn State and Missouri.
Oct. 24 @ Boise State: BYU became the first team ever from the state of Utah to beat the Broncos in last year’s 37-20 victory in Provo. The Cougars will attempt to make history a second time when they take the blue turf, where the Broncos are 95-4 since 1999. In the 2012 visit to Boise, the Cougars’ defense shut out the Bronco offense, but a defensive score led to a 7-6 loss.
Nov. 29 @ California: Cal would still be undefeated had it not allowed Arizona to score 36 fourth-quarter points, including the game-winning Hail Mary touchdown on the game’s final play. BYU last faced the Golden Bears in the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl, where it fell 28-35.