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What if the rankings are right about this BYU football team?

The Cougars are riding high these days. If the stars continue to align, could this be 1984 all over again?

BYU takes the field in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.
BYU takes the field in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

What if the Cougars really are this good?

What if all the hand-wringing and griping about the perceived weakness of the schedule are actually just a distraction and the Cougars really are as good as their 6-0 record and their No. 10 ranking in the Coaches’ Poll and their No. 11 ranking in The Associated Press?

What if, egads, the people on Cougarboards are right? We’ll never hear the end of it, that’s what.

What if the polls — the ones produced by human beings — are right?

What if the polls that use computers to generate rankings are right. By the way, they indicate that BYU is ranked too low by the human polls.

Colley’s “bias-free” computer-generated college football rankings — never heard of it — place BYU No. 2 behind Alabama.

The widely respected Sagarin rankings place BYU No. 6 despite a schedule that ranks only 76th. The Cougars, according to Sagarin, trail only Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, Notre Dame and Georgia. The computer doesn’t care about the schedule. The Cougars don’t either; they’re dealing with the hand that was dealt.

The Massey ratings, a composite of 32 different ratings systems, rank BYU No. 9. Eleven of those rankings place BYU in the top 10, three of them at No. 1.

Any questions?

Here’s one: What if this is 1984 all over again? The Cougars are playing a schedule like the one they used to play in the Western Athletic Conference and in ’84 they won over the polls and plenty of detractors despite the perceived weakness of their schedule. At the end of the year they were voted national champions, simply because they couldn’t be ignored anymore despite the best efforts of many critics. All they did was keep winning, 13 times.

BYU’s 2020 season is one big accident, of course. They were originally scheduled to play a killer schedule but after most of their opponents canceled their games because of the pandemic, the Cougars rebuilt their schedule with leftovers — whatever teams were similarly hard up for opponents. It’s a schedule of no-names, with one big exception. Next week the Cougars will play Boise State, whose 42-13 win over Utah State in its opener was impressive enough to put the Broncos in the national rankings, at No. 25.

Boise State has been BYU’s nemesis, having won seven of the last 10 meetings and three of the last four. They both have games this week — BYU against Western Kentucky and Boise against Air Force — before they meet next week in Boise.

Meanwhile, the debate continues about BYU’s merits as a top-10 team, and the Cougars keep winning, big.

What if the Cougars are as good as the statistics indicate they are? They have outscored their opponents by an average score of 45-14. They rank fifth nationally in total offense at 547.3 yards per game (7.82 yards per play) and in scoring offense at 45 points per game. That would be impressive if they were doing it against Bingham High.

What if the school formerly known as Quarterback U. can reclaim the old nickname? Zach Wilson is being touted as a Heisman candidate. Wilson ranks second nationally in passing yards (1,928), fifth in completion percentage (.781), fourth in passer rating (a whopping 210.4) and fifth in touchdown passes (16). To simplify the effectiveness of a passer, boil down the numbers to two things: touchdown passes to interceptions (16 to 1) and yards per attempt (12). Those are phenomenal numbers.

Wilson’s childhood buddy and partner-in-crime, Dax Milne, the walk-on kid, is becoming a favorite receiver. He has been placed on the Biletnikoff Award watch list given to the country’s best receiver. Milne has caught 37 passes for 639 yards and five touchdowns.

No matter what anyone believes about BYU’s merits as a top-10 team, there’s no doubt they have made a quantum leap in performance this season. They’re routing teams they might well have lost to in recent years. They were 4-9 just three seasons ago, losing to Utah State, East Carolina, Fresno State and even Massachusetts. They were 7-6 each of the past two seasons and lost to teams such as Northern Illinois, Toledo, South Florida and Hawaii.

What if it really is a new day for BYU football?