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Can BYU’s season be considered a success without a bowl berth?

BYU heads to Oklahoma State in search of a sixth win and a bowl invitation

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BYU head coach Kalani Sitake puts his hand on associate head coach and defensive coordinator Jay Hill on Nov. 18, 2023.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake puts his hand on the head of defensive coordinator Jay Hill as BYU and Oklahoma play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. Next up for BYU is a tough test at Oklahoma State.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Kalani Sitake will use Thanksgiving holiday week for a trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Saturday to face Oklahoma State (8-2, 6-2). The Cougars (5-7, 2-6) are in search of a sixth win and a bowl berth. 

BYU Cowboys TV box

Cougars on the air


BYU (2-6, 5-6)
at Oklahoma State (6-2, 8-3)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MST
Boone Pickens Stadium
Stillwater, Oklahoma
TV: ABC
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM

BYU defied many prognosticators last week in a 31-24 loss to No. 14 Oklahoma. Many believed it would be a blowout like the West Virginia and Iowa State games.

Here is some of our coverage of that game:

BYU’s 14-point mistake mars upset attempt (Dick Harmon)

More on the ill-fated play call that cost BYU (Jay Drew)

Effort shows players haven’t abandoned ship (Jay Drew)

BYU coughs up ball three times in loss (Jay Drew)

Aidan Robbins rises up — finally (Dick Harmon)

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: Would BYU’s football season be considered a success if the team loses to Oklahoma State and does not make a bowl game? Predict the score.

Jay Drew: It all comes down to this for the BYU Cougars and their first season in the Big 12. Beat Oklahoma State as a 17-point underdog, go to a bowl game and declare the season a success no matter what happens in December. Lose in Stillwater on Saturday, finish with a 5-7 record, miss out on a postseason game for the first time since 2017, and accept the fact that the team didn’t reach its stated goal when the season began — a bowl game.

So yes, in my opinion, this is a make-or-break, do-or-die contest for BYU. It would especially have to be called a disappointing season because of the way the Cougars started, opening with a 5-2 record. Ending the season on a five-game losing skid doesn’t look good, particularly when it comes to recruiting. There’s a lot on the line at Boone Pickens Stadium, in more ways than one.

I will say this, however: If the Cougars can keep it as close as they did last week against No. 14 Oklahoma, and look like a bona fide Power Five program, that will take some of the sting off the late-season collapse.  

Prediction: Oklahoma State 45, BYU 24.

Dick Harmon:  Way back in August when season prognostications were made, I optimistically projected BYU would win seven games and make it to a bowl game in the first year of Big 12 play. At 5-7, that can still happen if they win this Saturday, with the caveat that the Cougars win a bowl game and get to seven wins.  

But obtaining that will be a reach in Stillwater, where the Cowboys will have Senior Day and are in contention for a Big 12 playoff berth. This Cougars team proved many wrong by beating the spread in a loss to Oklahoma, a one-score loss. But there are far too many warts (turnovers) that are killing improved chances at wins down the stretch, especially on the road to a venue they’ve never played.

For a little perspective, however, BYU was handed the league’s toughest schedule and one of the hardest challenges in the country. USA Today (Jeff Sagarin) ranks BYU’s schedule the seventh toughest in the country. Consider that BYU’s second half of the season has included league leader Texas, and playoff contenders Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Of the league’s bottom dwellers, BYU only faced one-win Cincinnati and won, but did not get a crack at UCF, Houston or Baylor, who are tied with BYU with 2-7 records. Trade any of those teams in the November mix for the Cougars and they’d be bowl-eligible. 

Prediction: Oklahoma State 35, BYU 21.

Cougar tales

BYU’s women’s soccer team advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament and will host North Carolina on Friday night. The men’s cross-country team finished third in the national championships this past week in Virginia. Mark Pope’s basketball squad has skyrocketed up in the KenPom rankings to No. 14 with an undefeated record heading to Las Vegas for a showdown with Arizona State and a chance to play North Carolina or Vanderbilt this week. In a win over Morgan State, a second-half run buried the foe. 

From the archives

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Comments from Deseret News readers:

The BYU fans need to chill. BYU actually outperformed the predictions by one win. BYU was to win only four games, they won five. Declare victory, suck it up and start thinking about next year when you will have to play teams like Utah and Arizona, which will add status to the conference and make it that much harder for you.

— Whattodo

What’s frustrating to me is that this could have been a different season, it should have been a different season. I’m not saying that we should be undefeated or anything like that. I was expecting to lose some games, but to be taken to the woodshed like we have in the way that we have was just ridiculous.

It looks like they have the talent. I mean, look at how we fared against Oklahoma, one of the best teams in the nation. Obviously, we can make big gains to improve recruiting and developing talent.

I understand that (Aidan) Robbins and (Kedon) Slovis have been hurt, but it seems that our talent has been underutilized. That’s the frustrating thing — it could have been different.

— Jolson14

Up next

  • Nov. 23 | 10 p.m. | Men’s basketball | Arizona State | @ Las Vegas
  • Nov. 24 | TBA | Men’s basketball | NC State/Vanderbilt | @ Las Vegas
  • Nov. 24 | 6 p.m. | Women’s soccer | NCAA Tournament Elite Eight | North Carolina | @ Provo
  • Nov. 25 | 1:30 p.m. | Football | Oklahoma State | @ Stillwater, Oklahoma
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Oklahoma State’s Jaden Bray (5) celebrates with Josiah Johnson after a touchdown catch against Houston Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Houston. The Cowboys close out the Big 12 regular season with a home game against BYU on Saturday.

David J. Phillip, Associated Press