Kalani Sitake before the BYU vs. Virginia game. (BYU Photo)

Rise and shout, the rankings are out: where does No. 15 BYU go next?

“We want ‘Bama, we want ‘Bama” — an age-old college football chant. 

While Alabama came in at No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings this week, BYU sits only one rung behind No. 14 Texas A&M, who in the upset of the century, crushed Alabama’s 100-game winning streak against unranked opponents. With that dynamic in mind, what do the CFP rankings mean for No. 15 BYU for the rest of the season?

If the 2020 COVID season hadn’t seen the SEC going to a conference-only schedule, BYU could have played Alabama after all, and had its very own A&M moment. Though the chances of a BYU-‘Bama meet-up are slim, there are three certainties for BYU football the rest of the season: Idaho State, Georgia Southern and USC. 

One of the two teams BYU lost to this season, Baylor, comes in above BYU in the CFP ranks at No. 12. In discussing the reasons why BYU may not be ranked higher, BYU Sports Nation host Jarom Jordan said that the real issue was BYU’s two losses, with Boise State being the other loss. However, with Baylor only ranking three spots ahead, a win may not have solidified BYU’s chance at an NY6 game anyway. Baylor sits at 7-1 with a loss to No. 11 Oklahoma State, while BYU sits at 7-2.  

The 2021 CFP rankings released on Nov. 2 (Graphic by College Football Playoffs)

BYU’s remaining opponents are all unranked. After a 66-49 win against Virginia over the weekend, the same score range on BYU’s behalf may be their one saving grace for a bowl game invitation. The need for high scores and large winning margins in the coming few weeks are just two things that need to happen in order for the Cougars to inch up the CFP ladder.

“It has to be other teams losing, combined with BYU winning,” Jordan said. “BYU needs to beat USC by 17 plus.”

USC is currently 4-4 and is third in the Pac-12 South divisions. The last time the Cougars played USC was in 2019, with the Cougars winning 30-27 and fans rushing the field. Even though the Cougars are favored to win their upcoming games, the BYU coaching staff is reiterating the importance of focusing on upcoming games, and not on rankings.

“We’re trying not to be overly focused on that,” offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said. “That’s a cool thing, it’s nice to be recognized, but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t keep playing well.”

Head coach Kalani Sitake said, “There’s so much information out there on social media and online. I tell them not to worry about that. When we’re in the building, it’s all about Idaho State. Our focus is on Idaho State. That’s how college football works. When you go off that path, things can really hurt you.”

BYU meets with Idaho State this weekend for the Cougars’ senior night and last home game of the season. Jordan said the only team that is going to hold BYU under 66 points on Saturday, is BYU itself. Judging by Sitake’s remarks on BYU’s game focus rather than CFP rankings, Jordan’s prediction may just be right. BYU prepares to face the Bengals this week at LaVell Edwards Stadium, amidst the hype of a No. 15 ranking. 

Can BYU jump five spots in the next month to make it back in the top 10, and gain a chance at a New Year’s Six bowl game? In the words of Greg Wrubell, “Before you get the 10-2, you need to get the 8-2.”

BYU vs. Idaho State is available to watch on BYUtv at 1:30 p.m. MDT on Saturday.

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