This Saturday May Define the Season for BYU and Tennessee
Both BYU Football and Tennessee are coming off of tough losses.
Tennessee had perhaps the worst season opener in the history of their program after losing to Georgia State 38-30. Last season, Georgia State finished 2-10 in the Sun Belt Conference, often considered the worst conference in the FBS Division One level. The loss was about the equivalent of if BYU were to lose to Idaho State later this season.
Unless you've been out of the country until right now with no connection to the internet you know what happened to BYU against Utah. While the loss was not nearly as bad as Tennessee's it most definitely was upsetting and emotionally draining. All summer the chant to break the huddle was "Beat Utah". Having not completed that task, it certainly has taken an emotional toll on the Cougars.
Both teams have to get up and play this Saturday. Both teams probably wish they had a bye week. But they don't and the loser of the game is going to have a season defining loss, while the winner will take a step in the right direction and potentially still have a special season.
If Tennessee Wins
Flukes happen. Remember Kansas taking down Texas in 2016? Granted, that was a conference game but the talent gap was about the same between the two teams. While that is absolutely no excuse at all to be losing to probably one of the ten worst teams in the nation, it can almost, kind of, not really but sort of be understood if they can come out and beat BYU.
To you Tennessee fans that are reading this, BYU lost to Utah in a game that was closer than what the scoreboard showed. The Utes had two pick sixes against a quarterback who otherwise had a pretty good game and a fumble recovery inside their own twenty yard line. I'm making no excuses because what happened is part of the game, but Utah only scored ten offensive points the entire game.
A win over BYU would be a better than probably expected win for the Volunteers and would set them up for an alright season that could lead to a bowl game.
If BYU Wins
Utah looks really, REALLY good. Maybe they go on to win the Pac 12 Championship and looking back it won't look all that bad. BYU is definitely in a better situation than Tennessee right now and a win would start to get some interest from the general fan base. Beating an SEC team, even if not named Alabama and Auburn, on their homefield is a big deal for BYU. It is one of their big recruiting points. The win would put BYU at 1-1 going into a game against USC that is looking much more winnable than it did a few days ago with their QB injured. A 2-1 start against Power Five teams is nothing to be ashamed of and the Cougars would still have a very good chance on winning seven or eight regular season games. Ultimately this win would be like taking two steps backward and one step forward. The fans and team still wouldn't be where they were before the Utah game, but they would at least be going in the right direction.
If Tennessee Loses
Again, BYU is a good team and a loss would be acceptable, although upsetting in a normal situation. This isn't a normal situation though. Trust me, I am from the south and I know that BYU sounds no different than a Colorado State or UNLV but they are. BYU plays in bowl games nearly every season despite scheduling 4-5 Power Five teams every season, unlike most G5's that only schedule one, maybe two.
The loss however would hurt Tennessee to a point of perhaps no return. Teams need to feel like they are being supported and starting 0-2 against a bad G5 team and BYU would probably mean that upper bowl seats at Neyland would be empty for the rest of the season.
The route to a bowl game becomes very difficult with the team only being able to lose four more games and they still have Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Miss State. The season wouldn't be over for Tennessee, but it would possibly be the knockout punch.
If BYU Loses
Kalani Sitake's seat starts to get pretty hot. Tennessee actually did no favors to BYU by losing to Georgia State. Fans are upset right now and losing to the team who lost to Georgia State wouldn't help that cause. BYU would still have a good chance at making a bowl game with an easier back half of the season and again a weaker USC team in week three. The overall feel right now among BYU fans is they are one step out the door but looking back at what happens over the next three weeks. A 0-2 start would shut the door for many fans and even a 1-3 start would keep fans disengaged. The Cougars really need this game to show that they are good enough to hang with P5 teams, even if they aren't the top P5 teams.
Either way, this is a really big game for both programs as they hope to save their season from getting ugly real quick.