Let’s see if we’ve got this straight. BYU has eight months to prepare for a rematch with Utah at home and the game turns into a rerun, complete with another pick-six (two of them this time) and another Utah victory celebration, its ninth in nine meetings.
And the only team in the country that feels worse than BYU is Tennessee — BYU’s next opponent?
Who arranged this game, Kyle Whittingham?
Did we mention that the game will be played AT TENNESSEE, in a 102,000-seat stadium?
This can’t be good, playing a team from the prestigious SEC a week after being embarrassed.
Tennessee lost its season opener 38-30 to … Georgia State. Some are calling it the worst loss in school history, but that doesn’t do it justice. It’s one of the worst losses in the history of college football, ranking with Michigan’s loss to Appalachian State in 2007 and Baylor’s loss to Liberty — the school, not the bell — in 2017.
Georgia State has won only 30 games. E-ver. The Panthers began playing football in 2010 (apparently, it took the school 100 years before deciding that this football fad was going to stick and decided to sign up for the fun). Since then, the Panthers have compiled a won-loss record of 30-77 — or 19-54 since joining FBS competition. They won two games last season. They were a 25-point underdog against Tennessee.
Get the picture?
There actually might be more hand-wringing this week in Knoxville than in Provo. Let’s go to the Tweets from Volunteer fans:
Fire the entire staff.
No matter what happened to your team today at least you aren’t Tennessee.
I said before the season that Tennessee was the second best team in the East. I was incorrect.
When does Tennessee basketball begin?
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt delivered the post-game eulogy, explaining that his team needs to “go back and practice the right way,” as opposed to whatever it is they did before the opener. He also said his team is “young and inexperienced and we’ve got to continue to grow,” so maybe the Volunteers need to put on a little weight, too. The loss means the Vols picked up where they left off last season, when they finished with lopsided losses to Missouri (50-17) and Vanderbilt (38-13).
Saturday evening’s matchup between BYU and Tennessee is shaping up as the revenge bowl. They both got punched in the nose last week and they’re going to take it out on the first team they see. The Cougars and Volunteers will have chips on their shoulders the size of railroad ties. Both of them self-destructed, committing three turnovers apiece.
Against Tennessee, the Cougars will confront the SEC mystique. Memo to Cougs: Get over it. While Tennessee was losing to Georgia State last week, Missouri lost to Wyoming, Ole Miss lost to Memphis, and Arkansas and Auburn barely won against underdogs, beating Portland State by seven and Oregon by six, respectively. The headline on the WholeHogSports website: “(Coach Mark) Richt Tries to Talk Razorback fans off Ledge.”
But back to BYU. The Cougars are coming off a crushing loss to Utah. After the game, coach Kalani Sitake said the Cougars have “put the game behind us.” Fine, let’s do that — after a few more sentences. The nine straight losses to Utah are baffling and deflating for a program that has such a rich history and a serious commitment from its university, resulting in an indoor practice facility, a large stadium, a training center, more competitive coaching salaries, a broad recruiting reach, and so forth.
Maybe it’s just one of those rare mood swings that occur even in the best of rivalries. Michigan has lost to archrival Ohio State 14 of the last 15 games, and BYU beat Utah 19 of 21 times during one stretch in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Anyway, where were we? With the Utah game behind them, the Cougars go to Tennessee and then the difficult part of the season begins. Much has been made of the Cougars’ schedule since they became an independent in 2011. This year they will face, besides 13th-ranked Utah, name-brand programs in Tennessee, USC, 14th-ranked Washington, South Florida, and 24th-ranked Boise State, as well as a rising Utah State team that has beaten BYU three of their last five meetings. The schedule ranks 26th nationally according to the Sagarin rankings.
It’s a schedule that is necessary for a school that is auditioning for an invitation to join a Power Five conference; it’s the caliber of schedule they would play if they belonged in one of those leagues. Now they just have to win some of those games, starting with a winnable contest at Tennessee.