Preview 2017: What Happens If BYU Goes 13-0?
How would the College Football Playoff system handle it if BYU goes 13-0?
What happens if BYU goes 13-0?
Don’t blow this off.
If it sounds insane that a program that went 9-4 last year and hasn’t been within 100 miles of a national title discussion since 2001 – when it started out 12-0 before getting obliterated 72-45 by Hawaii and quarterback Nick Rolovich, the current head coach of the Rainbow Warriors – could run the table, then look back to what coulda/shoulda/woulda happened last year.
Granted, what looked to be one of the most impossible schedules of all-time – at Arizona, at Utah, UCLA, West Virginia (in Maryland), Toledo, at Michigan State, Mississippi State, at Boise State, and at Cincinnati – turned out to be far, far tamer than expected, but still, BYU won nine games against the brand-name teams and almost pulled off the impossible.
If BYU had gone unbeaten – its four losses came by a grand total of eight points, all in tight battles that could’ve gone either way – would it have knocked Ohio State or Washington out of a CFP spot? 12-0 might have done it, but would 11-1 have been good enough, considering Western Michigan wasn’t even close going 13-0?
As long as we’re living in the land of the What If, how would the committee have considered the Cougars at 11-1 if that lone loss was in the final seconds against a strong West Virginia team?
They start this season on August 26th against Portland State, and finish it off against Rolovich’s Hawaii on November 25th. No matter what comes next, the schedule is set up to make the trip to Honolulu like a bowl game in a place better than we’ll all be at in late November, but what if there’s a lot more to do?
There’s no automatic bowl tie-in for the program this year, but some post-season exhibition would gladly find a way to offer an invite if BYU is eligible. And, of course, there’s no conference championship title to shoot for, and nothing beyond that Hawaii game and a bowl appearance to fight for.
But let’s just say this isn’t another season full of exhibitions. Let’s do what coaches and athletic directors and College Football Playoff types won’t and deal in hypotheticals.
No, really, what happens if BYU goes 13-0? Or 12-1? Does that mean that BYU could have this whole thing figured out after all?
After years of being told it should be back in the Mountain West – and getting spurned by the Big 12 and Pac-12 – could remaining independent pay off in every way possible if the team turns out to be good enough to run the table?
Going forward, everything depends on what happens in the big conferences – and that’s where BYU has its biggest issue.
If there are four 13-0 Power Five champs, those four would in no matter what and BYU would be out no matter what. Even though the school has gone out of its way to schedule the big boys and create a national profile, the Power Five conference world might be impossible to break through without being perfect, and entertaining, and dominant.
If you’re wondering why the whole idea of BYU being considered for the College Football Playoff might be an offseason theoretical discussion worth figuring out, it’s because this year’s team is probably better than the 2016 version that, again, was eight points away from being perfect.
Tanner Mangum is a better passer than Taysom Hill was, and while the running backs and receivers might not be as strong as last year’s units, the tight ends should be fantastic and the offensive line will be a killer.
The defensive front needs to emerge in fall camp, but the back seven in the new 4-3 alignment is outstanding, led by a trio of velociraptors at linebacker – Fred Warner, Butch Pau’u and Francis Bernard – who’ll be a massive problem for the big boys on the slate.
And that becomes the real key. With the LSU game at Houston, followed up by Utah, followed up by Wisconsin, and with Boise State at home, and the one truly tough road game coming right after at Mississippi State, there’s a real chance the Cougars can start out 6-1 if they hold serve in Provo.
And if they’re really that good.
It would be an interesting test for the system if BYU really did come up with a magical year. Would it prove that being in a conference just doesn’t matter? Would it encourage others to think about doing the same? And just how much weight would the committee put on a 12-1 BYU team if that one loss was a close call against a powerhouse like LSU or Wisconsin?
Okay, okay, okay, BYU is probably more 11-2 on the high-end than a 13-0 national discussion, but if the team really is able to come up with some of those big early wins …
We live in a world now where the idea of the “new normal” is a part of our daily lives. Maybe, if BYU really is good enough to pull this off, it might be able to change the entire dynamic of what it takes to compete in still-emerging playoff system.