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‘Meaningless’ preseason ranking actually meaningful for BYU. Here’s why

It’s been 13 years since BYU was ranked in the Preseason AP Top 25 and that’s a sign of momentum for the Cougars heading into Big 12

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BYU players get in three-point stances Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, during fall camp in Provo

BYU players get in three-point stances Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, during fall camp in Provo. Earlier in the day, the Cougars cracked the Preseason AP Top 25 for the first time in 13 years.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

It’s been 13 years since BYU appeared in the AP Preseason Top 25 poll, marking a milestone for the program Monday when votes by members of the media were revealed.


It’s a big deal if you are an independent BYU.


For a lot of reasons. A 13-year drought from starting the season ranked is a thing.

Scouring Twitter on Monday, we learned that for the first time in 22 years, LSU is not ranked. Texas was not ranked for the first time in six years. Kentucky was ranked Monday and that is the first time for that SEC team since 1978 — 44 freaking years. 

So, the Cougars being ranked No. 25 to start the season is news.

These rankings generally are earned by successes from the previous year. Well, that is unless it is 4-8 USC that hired Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma and he signs some transfers.  Then, you slide to No. 14 without playing a game.

But again, you generally earn it on the field.

Familiarity helps.

Voters across the country tend to know teams in their own conference and there are more than a few voters taking care of their own, a kind of in-club familiarity that goes along with regional bias.

It isn’t out of the ordinary for voters who cover Pac-12 teams or Mountain West voters who are familiar with teams in the Rockies to shine a little sunshine on league teams.

And, if you are not ranked in the preseason, it makes it even harder to climb into the polls and whittle a path to a top-10 ranking, thus CFP relevancy.

This is why Utah’s No 7 ranking is a great start for the Utes before the opener at Florida.  Kyle Whittingham had a bonus of $15,000 kick in for that ranking. Lunch is on him.

News that BYU begins at No. 25 gives Kalani Sitake’s team a little grease to climb forward.  Start outside the top 25 and there’s a barrier that has to be broken from Week 1.

Back in 2009 the Cougars were coming off a 10-3 season with Max Hall at the helm. That team knocked off No. 3 Oklahoma at Jerry’s World just outside Dallas in the Cowboys stadium. That squad had wins over No. 22 Utah, 26-23, in Provo and No. 16 Oregon State, 44-20, in the Las Vegas Bowl.

This version of Sitake’s team will play four teams ranked in the top 25, including No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 10 Baylor, No. 11 Oregon and No. 19 Arkansas. 

If you divide this poll by future conference affiliation, the SEC, as expected, leads with seven teams. The Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 are tied with five. The Pac 12 has three (Utah and Oregon; USC is not future), and all G5 schools combined are locked out. That means no USU, Boise State or San Diego State in this preseason exercise of guessing things.

The Big 12 has No. 9 Oklahoma, Baylor at No. 10 and No. 12 Oklahoma State with future members Cincinnati at No. 23 followed by Houston at No. 24 and the Cougars at No. 25.

That’s a strong showing for the future Big 12.

It is one thing to be ranked now and stay in the top 25. It takes a favorable schedule in September, a little momentum and some key victories with unique window dressing to rise week after week.

BYU has the chance to do just that with Baylor coming to Provo after opening up at South Florida.

Sitake will correctly tell you, as will the CFP committee, that the AP ranking in August means very little — it’s how you finish that ultimately counts.

But this is August. 

Discussing polls and potential is what we do.


BYU head coach Kalnai Sitake smiles during practice Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, in Provo. Sitake and the rest of the Cougars had something to smile about Monday when the Preseason AP Top 25 was released.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo