Quantum physicists theorize of infinite alternative universes existing in time and space. If that’s true, then somewhere deep in the abyss of a different dimension lies a universe slightly different from ours. For our purposes here, let’s say its course became altered from ours on one football play.
What would a universe look like where Taysom Hill didn’t break his leg on a two-yard run against Utah State, the Cougars didn’t implode during the middle four-game stretch, and the college football playoff committee was forced to take an undefeated BYU into consideration when choosing teams for the playoff field?
Disclaimer: I don’t believe the 2014 team would have gone undefeated even had Hill remained healthy (or Jamaal Williams, or Alani Fua, or Adam Hine, for that matter). Putting up big yards and scoring points wasn’t the problem, nor was Christian Stewart’s play at quarterback. It’s tough to think that even a otherworldly performance from Hill could make up for, say, the 55 points scored on the Cougar defense at Boise State. But we’re operating with rules from a parallel universe, so let’s say he did. How would the season have turned out?
Oct. 3, 2014—BYU 38 Utah State 28: The Aggies take a 21-14 second quarter lead following a mishandled Hill-Williams handoff. Hill responds by driving the Cougars to the Utah State 47-yard line, where nothing of consequence happens. Hill then throws a strike to Jordan Leslie to set up a Cougar field goal, which Trevor Samson knocks through as the first half expires.
Following a defensive stop, Hill drives the offense to the eight-yard line before calling his own number for the score to take the lead. Nick Vigil and the Aggies respond late in the third with a touchdown of their own to go back up 28-24, but Hill engineers two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to ultimately put the game out of reach.
BYU AP rank: 14
Oct. 9, 2014—BYU 34 UCF 17: The Cougars overcome a slow start to beat the Knights; even a slew of controversial pass-interference penalties isn’t enough to keep UCF in the game for long.
BYU AP rank: 11
Oct. 18, 2014–BYU 49 Nevada 35: Wolfpack quarterback Cody Fajardo begins to heat up in the third quarter, but a steady dose of read option runs from Hill and Williams makes it too little, too late for Nevada.
BYU AP rank: 10
Oct. 24, 2014—BYU 56 Boise State 55: Hill and the Cougars head to Boise in what is by far their toughest test of the season. A wild shootout ensues on the blue turf with each team trading touchdown after touchdown. A third-quarter Fred Warner pick-six shifts the momentum in BYU’s favor.
Down 48-55 and 54 seconds remaining: Hill scrambles his way into the end zone from four yards out. Rather than kick the extra point and go to overtime, Bronco decides to go for two and the win. Hill rolls right and finds wideout Terren Houk in the corner of the end zone for an exhilarating finish.
Despite the impressive win, the Cougars are disappointed with the playoff committee’s inaugural playoff rankings.
Committee rank: 12
Nov. 1, 2014—BYU 45 Middle Tennessee 7: Miffed at being dropped two spots in the committee’s rankings, the Cougars put on a show in Tennessee. Hill’s Heisman campaign begins to seriously heat up behind his 300 yards passing and 150 yards rushing. The committee remains rather unimpressed with a win over lowly Middle Tennessee.
Committee rank: 11
Nov. 8, 2014—BYE: Cougar fans are delighted to see Auburn, Kansas State, Michigan State and Notre Dame all go down.
Committee rank: 9
Nov. 15, 2014—BYU 49 UNLV 23: Fans pack LaVell Edwards Stadium even in spite of the chilly 30-degree temperature at kickoff. The Cougars cruise, while Auburn and Arizona State go down.
Committee rank: 7
Nov. 22, 2014–BYU 64 Savannah State 0: This game has very little difference from our universe’s version. Committee members don’t see this game as improving the Cougars’ overall “body of work” and move them down a spot.
Committee rank: 8
Nov. 29, 2014–BYU 49 Cal 28: Trying to make one last push for a Final Four spot, the Cougars maul the Bears in War Memorial Stadium. ESPN First Take has a segment the following Monday where they debate whether the Cougars belong in the playoffs.
Committee rank: 6
Dec. 22, 2014–Idle: This is where BYU really screwed up with its scheduling. While everyone else ranked in the top ten is playing conference championship games (and TCU and Baylor are at least playing), BYU can do nothing but sit at home waiting for everything to unfold. The final rankings are revealed, and …
Final Committee rank: 7
Dec. 31, 2014 Fiesta Bowl—BYU 38 Arizona 30: Though disappointed in being shut out of the college football playoff, the Cougars take pride in playing in a New Year’s Day bowl. Hill shows a national audience why he finished third in Heisman voting by bringing BYU back from an early 20-7 deficit. Down 38-30, quarterback Anu Solomon drives the Wildcats down to the eight-yard line with 14 seconds remaining. On the ensuing play, Solomon rolls right and is sacked by Alani Fua, sealing a perfect 13-0 season.
Noticing BYU’s magical run is Big-12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. With Baylor and TCU snubbed from playoffs, Bowlsby decides to officially invite BYU and Cincinnati to the conference in order to stage a Big-12 championship game the following year. With a perfect record and a returning Heisman favorite, BYU makes it on everyone’s short list as a national championship contender in 2015.
Editor’s Note: Alex Clark is a sports editor with The Universe. While theoretical physics is not his full-time passion, the official end of the 2014 football season seemed to require an otherworldly approach.