Zach Wilson takes off to evade a Houston defender on Oct. 16 at TDECU Stadium. Wilson had a career-high 400 yards and four touchdowns in a 43-26 comeback victory. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

Zach Wilson and BYU Football off to historic and hype-filled 5-0 start

Junior quarterback Zach Wilson threw three touchdowns in the final 16 minutes of BYU Football’s meeting with Houston on Oct. 16 to erase a double-digit deficit and win 43-26 to give the Cougars a 5-0 start for the first time since 2008.

BYU has started 5-0 just six times in program history: 2020, 2008, 2001, 1984, 1981 and 1979, with the 1984 season ending with a national championship. The impressive streak by this year’s team is gaining attention from national media, with the Cougars moving up two spots to No. 12 in the AP Top 25.

According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, BYU has the second-best odds in college football to win out and go undefeated on the season, at 47.7%. According to the same index, the Cougars are favored to win in each of their remaining games, with the closest matchup being at Boise State on Nov. 6, when BYU is still favored at 59.1% odds to win.

BYU has gone undefeated just once in its 98-year history, when the Cougars went 13-0 in 1984 to secure their lone national title. The closest record in recent memory was a 14-1 campaign in 1996, led by current Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian at quarterback.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Wilson is not only helping this year’s squad to incredible team records but is being recognized for his individual excellence as well.

Zach Wilson scans for receivers in the pocket against Houston on Oct. 16. Wilson is receiving Heisman Trophy and NFL Draft attention for his accurate and eye-catching play so far this season. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

The BYU signal-caller currently leads the FBS in pass completion percentage (minimum 100 attempts) at 78.7%. Super Bowl MVP Steve Young set the record for single-season completion percentage at BYU in 1983 at 71.3%, putting Wilson in all-time territory if he continues at his current rate.

Wilson currently owns the sixth-longest streak of passes without an interception in BYU history at 132, and is the first BYU quarterback since Ty Detmer in 1991 to go four games without an interception.

Detmer won the Heisman Trophy in 1990 – the only BYU player to win college football’s highest honor – and Wilson is getting some Heisman hype of his own after the first 400-yard outing of his career against Houston.

According to Vegas Insider, Wilson has the fourth-best odds to win the Heisman at 20/1 (+2000).

“If you’re looking for a long-shot play in the Heisman Trophy futures market, keep an eye on BYU signal-caller Zach Wilson,” Vegas Insider said. “The Cougars have started the season 5-0 and will be favored in all of its final five games. Wilson has accounted for 18 total touchdowns in the five wins and is completing 78.7 percent of his passes for 1,641 yards.”

National football writer Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports put Wilson at No. 3 on his “Week Seven Heisman Hype” rankings on Twitter, behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Alabama’s Mac Jones.

During the Alabama-Georgia game in primetime on Oct. 17, CBS showed a graphic with the title, “Heisman Watch,” featuring Wilson alongside Lawrence, in a side-by-side comparison of statistics from their previous games.

Lawrence went 24-for-32 on passes and threw for 404 yards, with five touchdowns and one interception against Georgia Tech, while Wilson went 25-for-35 on passes and threw for 400 yards, with four touchdowns and no interception against Houston

Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson were featured in a “Heisman Watch” graphic on CBS during the Alabama-Georgia game on Oct. 17. Wilson would be the first Heisman winner at BYU since Ty Detmer in 1990. (CBS Sports)

In addition to the Heisman hype, Wilson has been getting plenty of NFL attention as well, both from players and draft analysts. Super Bowl MVP and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes retweeted a video of one of Wilson’s touchdown passes against Houston, which mimicked a play the Chiefs used just the week before.

“Well done!!” Mahomes said, quoting a Tweet from ESPN College Football that said, “Very Patrick Mahomes of you, Zach Wilson.”

The play was a no-look shovel pass to fullback Masen Wake for a run up the middle into the end zone.

Mel Kiper, an NFL draft analyst for ESPN, has Wilson at No. 5 on his 2021 Draft quarterback rankings. Mike Renner, the lead draft analyst at Pro Football Focus, tweeted, “I’m ready to start talking about BYU QB Zach Wilson as a first-rounder.”

If Wilson gets drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, he would be the first BYU player to do so since Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah in 2013, and the first BYU quarterback to do so straight out of college since Jim McMahon in 1982. Steve Young was technically taken in the first round of the 1984 supplemental draft, which only included players from the now-defunct United States Football League.

Heisman hype, shout outs from NFL superstars and a potential first-round draft pick is uncharted territory for BYU Football in recent memory and puts this special Cougar squad among some of the best in BYU history.

The team takes on Texas State at home on Oct. 24 next, as BYU tries to extend the win streak to six games in front of 6,000 fans in LaVell Edwards Stadium — the first game in Provo with fans this season. The game will be broadcast on ESPN at 8:15 p.m. MDT.

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