Pro Football Focus Puts BYU Football Just Outside of Top 25; Are we Missing Something?
BYU Football is ranked on the outside looking in in PFF's 'Way too Early Top 25".
BYU Football finished the 2019 season in about the most undesirable way possible, two losses. Those losses gave the Cougars a 7-6 record and a national FPI finish of 57. Normally when a team finishes in that fashion, they are completely ignored nationally during the off season, especially if they are not a name brand P5 team.
For some reason though, Pro Football Focus (PFF) has put BYU in their list of teams on the outside of the Top 25 alongside big name teams like USC, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Iowa. This came as a complete shock to me as I tried to figure out how an outside source would even consider BYU a top 30 team. This is what I came up with.
I almost feel like you would have to be an avid BYU fan to even know that there may be a really big QB battle this off season, but perhaps PFF caught this. After Zach Wilson had an underwhelming season and both Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney had spectacular performances, there is no way that this job is Wilson's automatically. Often times, when there is a big QB battle, the team gets significantly better because the QB's are pushed even harder in the off season as to not get beaten out. Is it possible that PFF saw this and figured that this competition would make BYU better? Maybe.
This one seems a bit odd to me as well as the Cougars are losing most of their running backs and wide receivers. This past year the WR's were really good as well as graduate transfers Ty'Son Williams and Emmanuel Esupka. With those losses, I turned to the return of Matt Bushman and Kyhris Tonga as possible ranking boosters. Overall, the defense will be returning most of their production, but not to the extent of teams like Minnesota who essentially will return their entire starting offense. For this reason it seems odd that the Cougars would jump up 25+ spots in the rankings rather than just staying in the mid 50's.
Let's be honest, the Cougars were REALLY close to beating Toledo, USF and Hawaii and were within striking range of San Diego State. If the Cougars could flip those games to a 3-1 record, suddenly, BYU Football is coming off a 10-3 season, worthy of a Top 30 ranking. Is is possible that PFF saw how close BYU was this season and gave them the benefit of the doubt? Unlikely, because in reality most teams around college football can point to three or four games and say "could have, should have, would have".
BYU Football ended up with some really nice wins against USC, Tennessee and Boise State. They also had convincing wins against decent Utah State and Liberty teams. Perhaps those kind of wins showed PFF that the Cougars are capable and able to being a Top 25 if they can avoid tough losses. Historically, when a team struggles against bad teams and beats good teams the next season they drastically improve. Could this be the case?
Secret BYU Fan?
As a sports writer, especially a beat writer like myself and the author of the piece featured on PFF, a personal preference can come out. No writer appears on the article, but what if they happened to be a BYU fan and decided to throw the Cougars on there? It's not like anyone (besides me) is really going to call them out for it. Also, they left the Utes off completely, another hint that maybe he is a Cougar fan. Sadly, of all the possibilities, this one seems the most likely.
Regardless of whatever the reason is that BYU is getting this attention from a credible source, it really does not matter. Of the 32 teams ranked in the preseason poll from last season, 16, including all from the 20-32 range ended up not ranked at the end of the season. Some of those teams included Northwestern, Missouri, Army, Stanford, Washington State, Nebraska and Syracuse, all teams that had really disappointing seasons. So it is interesting? Sure. Important? Not a bit.