How will the College Football Playoff committee treat BYU?
The Cougars are ranked No. 17 in the latest AP poll, but with two losses they are climbing an uphill battle for inclusion in the CFP rankings
At 5 p.m. MDT Tuesday, the first College Football Playoff rankings will be released, and there is a good chance the BYU Cougars won’t be on it.
The Cougars are 5-1 against Power Five programs this year, and their two losses came to a traditionally strong Group of Five team (Boise State) and on the road against a good Big 12 team (Baylor).
BYU has a neutral-site win over Arizona, a road win over Washington State and took care of business at home against a trio of P5 teams (Arizona State, Utah and Virginia) that are a combined 16-9 this season.
Additionally, the Cougars have wins over over six teams with winning records, at least three of which are currently in contention for their conference championships (Baylor, Utah and Utah State).
And yet ...
Since the CFP rankings were created, no non-Power Five team with two or more losses has ever been ranked in the initial poll.
In the inaugural 2014 poll, only one G5 school made it in the first rankings at all — East Carolina at No. 23. The Pirates were 7-1 with a loss at South Carolina but had wins over Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
In 2015, Memphis (No. 13), Temple (No. 22), Toledo (No. 24) and Houston (No. 25) all made the initial poll, but the Tigers, Rockets and Cougars were all undefeated, and the Owls had just barely lost to Notre Dame, their only loss to that point.
In 2016, there were two teams of the non-P5 variety in the first CFP poll — Western Michigan and Boise State. The Western Michigan Broncos were undefeated and would be all year until a bowl loss to Wisconsin. The Boise State Broncos, meanwhile, had one loss, to Wyoming, but wins over Washington State, Oregon State and BYU.
In 2017, UCF and Memphis were the best of the G5. The Knights debuted at No. 18 and were undefeated. The Tigers came in at No. 23 and had one loss, a double-overtime setback to UCF in Orlando.
In 2018, UCF debuted at No. 12 with an undefeated record, the highest initial ranking by a G5 team since the inception of the CFP rankings. Fresno State also broke into the poll at No. 23 and was undefeated with wins over Minnesota and UCLA.
There is a theme developing, but let’s keep going.
In 2019, Cincinnati, Memphis, Boise State, Navy and SMU all made the initial poll, ranking between No. 20 and No. 25. All five teams had one loss — Cincinnati to Ohio State, Memphis to Temple, Boise State to BYU, Navy to Memphis and SMU to Memphis.
In last year’s initial rankings, Cincinnati debuted at No. 7, a significant step forward for the G5, but the Bearcats were undefeated. BYU debuted at No. 14 and the Cougars were also undefeated, as was No. 20 Coastal Carolina and No. 21 Marshall. Tulsa made the poll as well, with a loss at Oklahoma State.
In the history of the CFP rankings, the committee has never put a two-loss non-P5 team in the initial rankings.
There is an argument to made — a factual one — that BYU’s schedule this season has been the most difficult played by a non-P5 program since the CFP poll was created. Additionally, plenty of P5 programs have been ranked in the poll with two losses, and it is not as though the Cougars’ defeats this year are egregious.
Many projections have BYU making the poll.
The Athletic, CBS Sports and NCAA.com all have the Cougars in, ranging from as high as No. 16 to No. 24. FiveThirtyEight and others outlets have BYU out, though, and ESPN doesn’t include the Cougars’ in their playoff predictor (understandably so).
By traditional metrics, BYU is probably the second-best team in the West (meaning teams in the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences) this season.
Just don’t be surprised if the Cougars are left out of the initial CFP rankings.