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No. 8 BYU football wants more games, but it could depend on where it lands in initial CFP rankings

Coach Kalani Sitake and offensive lineman James Empey want more games added to 9-0 BYU’s schedule, but athletic director Tom Holmoe is waiting for the College Football Playoff rankings to be released before making a decision

SHARE No. 8 BYU football wants more games, but it could depend on where it lands in initial CFP rankings
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BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake, center, walks onto the field with his team after the Cougars defeated North Alabama in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

BYU football coach Kalani Sitake got right to the point on Saturday as the sun was beginning to set on LaVell Edwards Stadium after the Cougars thumped FCS foe North Alabama 66-14 in another lopsided game that was settled before halftime.

The No. 8 Cougars (9-0) don’t want to wait three weeks to play their next game (Dec. 12, vs. San Diego State), Sitake said. He reminded reporters that BYU was “the only ones that were committed to playing football in the West in August” when some conferences had, temporarily, decided to push their seasons to 2021.

“If you are going to assume anything, you should probably assume that we want to get games,” Sitake said. “And (BYU athletic director) Tom (Holmoe) is not a hard guy to get ahold of.”

However, Sitake might have some persuading to do.

Holmoe told BYUtv Saturday that a lot depends on where the Cougars — who remained No. 8 in both major polls released Sunday — land when the initial College Football Playoff rankings are released Tuesday night.

“Our schedule has been set for awhile. We have been committed to playing football, and so I want to remind everyone that we have been that way from the very beginning. When things were looking bleak for a lot of teams to play, we stuck with it and our leadership and administration and everybody stuck with it.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake

Obviously, if BYU likes where it is — say in the top 10 or close to it — it might not be willing to take the risk because a loss would knock it out of contention to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game. But if the Cougars are outside the top 12, for example, a win over San Diego State on Dec. 12 probably won’t be enough to give them the bump they would need.

The Aztecs fell to 3-2 with a 26-21 loss to undefeated Nevada on Saturday in Reno. They were scheduled to play at Fresno State on Friday but the game was canceled Sunday due to COVID-19 contact tracing within the FSU program.

San Diego State hosts Colorado State on Dec. 5 before meeting BYU in what will be the first December game ever played at LES.

A day after releasing a video about BYU’s new fundraising campaign called “All In” and telling BYU fans the athletic department is “projecting a financial shortfall just short of $20 million by the conclusion of the 2021 athletic season,” Holmoe clearly isn’t interested in paying another overmatched opponent somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000 to come get clobbered in Provo.

The 15-year AD made it clear on BYUtv that he won’t add a game just for the sake of adding a game. As it is, BYU is the only 9-0 team in the country.

Where will the Cougars be ranked on Tuesday?

That’s difficult to predict, but it was not a positive sign that they fell from No. 9 to No. 16 in the Sagarin Ratings as teams they’ve defeated posted another unspectacular week. That resounding 51-17 win over Boise State continues to look better, though, after the Broncos improved to 4-1 late Saturday with a 40-32 win over Hawaii. 

Boise State still has San Jose State, UNLV and Wyoming on its schedule, so a 7-1 finish and a re-entry into the national rankings is entirely possible, although SJSU did beat SDSU and is having a strong season.

Another indicator that BYU’s stock is dropping: The Cougars slipped to No. 14 in ESPN’s College Football Power Index (FPI), down two spots from last week.

How will the 13-member committee of men and women that includes Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman, former San Francisco 49ers great Ronnie Lott (Holmoe’s former teammate and friend) and former Air Force coach Ken Hatfield look upon the Cougars and their less-than-demanding schedule patched together by Holmoe in August?

“Our schedule has been set for awhile,” Sitake said, coming as close to lobbying for consideration as he has all season. “We have been committed to playing football, and so I want to remind everyone that we have been that way from the very beginning. When things were looking bleak for a lot of teams to play, we stuck with it and our leadership and administration and everybody stuck with it.”

Does such perseverance deserve to be rewarded?

The pollsters have been nice to the Cougars, keeping them at No. 8 despite a bye and an FCS opponent the past two weeks. The story of how BYU’s rugged schedule that was to include the likes of Utah, Arizona State, Michigan State and Minnesota was blown up by pandemic-related cancellations is well-documented.

Now the football sits in the committee’s hands.