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‘This team’s legit’: ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit says BYU should ‘have their hat in the ring’ of playoff discussion (+ Zach Wilson interview highlights)

Zach Wilson joins ESPN crew to talk about the Cougars’ undefeated season

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Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) passes during the game against the UTSA Roadrunners at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit says that if the currently undefeated BYU Cougars win out, they should be in the discussion for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

“I think they should have a chance to at least have their hat in the ring and in the discussion. Of all the teams that I cannot wait for four weeks from now that the committee is going to rank, it’s BYU, assuming they keep winning,” Herbstreit said on ESPN Tuesday evening.

Herbstreit highlighted BYU’s margin of victory — an average of 31 points, good for fifth in the country.


Kirk Herbstreit being interviewed as ESPN’s College Football GameDay hosts do media interviews Friday, Nov. 5, 2010, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

“It’s a veteran team, a physical team on both sides, a lot better skilled than you might realize at running back and receiver,” Herbstreit said.

Herbstreit praised Cougar quarterback Zach Wilson, calling him one of the best in the country, but wished BYU had a tougher schedule.

“You need a difference-maker at quarterback. This guy is playing as well as anybody in the country. I like him. I like him a lot. I just wish they had bigger and better tests, more opportunities with their original schedule, we could really see how good they are, but this team’s legit,” Herbstreit said.

BYU is currently 6-0, ranked No. 11 in the country and will play Western Kentucky this week before setting up a Top 25 matchup against Boise State on Nov. 6 in a test to show how good the Cougars really are.

Wilson joined ESPN’s College Football Playoff Top 25 preview show on Tuesday, talking with Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer and Herbstreit. Here are highlights from that interview.

On this year:

“You know, just not taking football for granted. We’re just excited to be here, excited to play no matter who wants to step up and play us. We’re happy to be here and we’ll play whoever. You know, we had a great schedule in line and our athletic director and coach has done a great job giving us another schedule. We’re just happy to play football this year.”

On using the “eye test” when evaluating teams early in the season:

“You gotta look at the execution overall, not necessarily who you’re playing on offense or defense, but just the consistency of a team, you know? About the strength of schedule. You look at the teams that we’ve played this year and some of the teams we played last year, we had some losses against some teams that are similar to teams this year that we should have beat. We were just inconsistent. The consistency of the team this year is one way to look at how much more dominant that we have been.”


Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) warms up before the game against UTSA at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

On how he feels being healthy this year vs. coming off injuries last season:

“Last year it just felt rushed. You know, I’d say rushed was probably the biggest thing. The offseason flew by. Didn’t have a lot of time to train and get healthy. I was so looking forward to this year just cause it was finally the first time that I felt like my arm was 100% and I had some time to train, some time to get some speed back, work with the receivers. Physically and even mentally, your confidence shoots through the roof. When you feel like you went from being on a leash last year, getting held back and now this year, you know, you feel like you can just let it rip and that you can make any throw on the field. The mentality just changes, just having a high confidence, being healthy.”

On what he tried to improve this offseason:

“Accuracy was one of those things. I worked a lot with 3DQB and John Beck this off season on just repetition of routes, just routes that I’m going to be throwing multiple times in a game. Me and the receivers working on them, I was out there working on them, throwing off balance. Just the repetition, I think was a huge thing. The more that you throw that come back to the sideline, the more consistent you’re going to get. I feel like that was just a huge part of the game I was able to add by having an off season.”