2019 is the Year for BYU Football to Make the CFP, Even with a Loss
Okay I know, this is crazy but hear me out... 2019 is the year for BYU Football to make the College Football Playoff as an Independent. Do I think it will happen? Absolutely not! But if it were to happen, 2019 is set up perfectly to do it.
There are a few ways why it could actually happen if the cards played out right. Again these cards would have to be like getting four aces or a full house on the first hand but it could happen.
1. BYU is better than we think
While the expectations are definitely higher than they were last year, many still believe that BYU is a 7-5 regular season team. But what if having Utah as the first game of the year has given the team a motivation that has never been seen before.
When the first game is Portland State or even Arizona there isn't much of an emotional connection, especially in June and July when the team isn't meeting as regularly together. The time between Spring Football and the actual season seems far away for most players which makes doing the extra lift or running another route less exciting.
Maybe this motivation changes things and we see the opposite of what happened in 2017 when the Cougars came out flat. Perhaps the team will come out so ready that they steamroll through the first few games while other teams are still finding their footing and playing FCS schools.
2. Utah and Washington are worse and USC and Tennessee are better than expected
Remember in 2016 when BYU had Michigan State and Mississippi State on the schedule and going into that season both games appeared to be automatic losses? Also remember how West Virginia and Toledo ended up being better than anyone expected? That is another scenario that could play well into the Cougars favor. Utah and Washington will both likely be ranked in the Top 15 when BYU plays them. If they actually aren't as good any everyone thinks that won't make itself manifest until weeks after the Cougars play them, sort of like Wisconsin last season. Those two wins alone would propel BYU into the Top 20 even if both teams end up going 6-6.
This happened back in 1984 when BYU played No. 3 Pittsburgh in week one and won the game. The Cougars jumped up in the rankings and even though Pitt ended up being awful that season it didn't matter because in the eyes of the pollsters, BYU beat the No.3 team in the nation.
That isn't everything though. USC and Tennessee also have to be better than expected. With USC and Tennessee early in the season, the Cougars could take advantage of inexperience and lack of tough competition. If Tennessee and USC go on to finish 8-4 or better and be ranked in the Top 25, that would give BYU two quality computer wins and two big psychological wins in the eyes of the polls.
3. There is a lack of dominant teams around College Football
This is not in BYU's control AT ALL but if there is only one or even two undefeated teams at the end of the season and a lack of dominant teams, an undefeated or even one loss BYU with an 8-9 game winning streak may find themselves in the conversation. In 2017, there wasn't a single undefeated team in the nation going into the bowl season. But there needs to be more than that.
Essentially what would need to happen is two of the P5 Conferences have two loss champions.
We already know that the Pac 12 is probably going to be down this year, again.
The Big 12 could beat itself up pretty bad with Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia and TCU all being good teams with sleepers like Kansas and Oklahoma State on the rise.
The Big 10 is a mess as well. There is going to be a lot of teams in the Big 10, but with Ohio State losing their quarterback and coach and Michigan struggling in rivalry games, this could realistically be a conference that beats itself up between Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa, Penn State and a sneaky Minnesota team.
Overall, I see Alabama and Clemson as elite teams and everyone else as questionable, which opens up the door to an outsider like BYU.
How this gets BYU in even with one loss
First off, BYU's Football schedule is strong enough to where if the Cougars ran the table with the scenario explained above, they would make the playoff unlike UCF the past few seasons who despite going undefeated were left out. With four P5's and enough good teams (BSU, USU and SDSU) to finish out the season, it would be enough to crack the Top Four.
But let's say BYU rolls to a 3-1 start, losing either to Tennessee or USC. The Top 15 win against Utah gets BYU ranked in the Top 20 going into week two. A win in week two would have the Cougars in the Top 15, a loss would kick them out into the "receiving votes" category. Go into week three and win or lose and BYU is still ranked around No. 25 in the nation. Beat Washington, who at this point will have played nobody and is in the Top 10 and suddenly BYU is back in the Top 20.
If the Cougars then went on to finish 8-0 with solid wins over good Boise State, Utah State, South Florida and San Diego State teams, the Cougars would find themselves in the Top Five going into Championship weekend. The Pac 12 champion would be irrelevant as far as passing BYU since the Cougars probably beat the South and North Champion already in Washington and Utah. The Champion of the SEC/ACC would be in as the first two teams.
The debate would all come down to whether an 11-2 Big 12 and Big 10 champion gets in over an 11-1 BYU. My guess is, it depends on the team. If it is Ohio State and Oklahoma then yes. If it is Wisconsin and TCU, it's anyone's guess.
Again, all of this would have to play out perfectly in order for BYU to be considered for the playoff. If 2018 happens again with four regular season undefeated teams, and two teams with only one loss, forget about it. But with the way that schedule plays for the Cougars and the lack of dominant teams that there appear to be this season, it is a good time for BYU to take advantage.