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No. 13 BYU deserved a course correction from the playoff committee, but didn’t get it

Cougar fans who were hoping the CFP committee would realize the error of its ways in first rankings last week are again disappointed

BYU and Boise State resume their college football rivalry on Saturday in Provo.
Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) loads up for a long pass as BYU and Boise State play a college football game at Albertsons Stadium in Boise on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. BYU won 51-17.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

So much for that course correction BYU football fans were hoping for.

The College Football Playoff committee dug its heels in Tuesday as far as the Cougars were concerned, moving undefeated BYU (9-0) up just one spot from No. 14 to No. 13 in its second rankings release.

A week’s worth of criticism did little to sway the 13-member committee, which pretty much stuck to its guns despite getting blasted by some of the most prominent college football observers in the land.

Just like last week, CFP chair Gary Barta defended the decision on ESPN’s 30-minute ranking show when he was questioned about it by host Rece Davis. Summing up the attitudes of many, Davis told Barta he personally disagreed with BYU’s placement.

Again, BYU’s lackluster list of opponents was fingered by Barta, Iowa’s athletic director, although within minutes he excused No. 4 Ohio State’s lofty ranking although the Buckeyes have played just four games.

The hypocrisy was thick.

“I said last week that we have great respect for BYU, but what is it that holds it back as you compare BYU’s (schedule)?” Barta said. “(It is) the games they have played, the teams against whom they’ve competed, and you compare those to some other teams, it is really the strength of schedule, or the games they are playing not being as strong as some of the other teams that are ranked ahead of them.”

BYU’s strength of schedule is ranked 106th in the Sagarin Ratings, which has BYU’s overall ranking at No. 9. The Massey Composite Rankings, which include more than 50 ratings systems across the country, have BYU at No. 7.

The Cougars, No. 8 in the AP Top 25 and Amway Coaches Poll, moved past Northwestern, which tumbled from eight to 14 after losing 29-20 to Michigan State last week.

Conventional wisdom is that BYU needs to get to the top 12, maybe even the top 10, to realize its dream of getting an at-large berth into a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Even though athletic director Tom Holmoe has worked tirelessly to get the Cougars an opponent this week, according to multiple sources, his efforts will likely be futile. BYU probably won’t get a chance to impress the committee until its Dec. 12 game against San Diego State (8 p.m. MST, ESPN2), but that ship might have already sailed.

Tuesday’s ranking sent the message loud and clear: The schedule that Holmoe built from scratch after six Power Five opponents scrubbed BYU off their slates is not drawing sympathy votes. Who cares that the Cougars were the only team playing in the West for much of the season?

That’s the drum that BYU coach Kalani Sitake has beat for weeks now, but those who matter most aren’t listening.

“Disrespect for @BYUfootball is real and I don’t understand,” tweeted Joel Klatt of Fox Sports.

Also puzzling for BYU fans is the committee’s apparent love affair with Iowa State. Despite having two losses, including one to Louisiana of the Sun Belt Conference, the Cyclones (7-2) jumped four spots to No. 9 after edging 5-3 Texas 23-20 last week in Austin.

Perhaps as maddening for BYU fans is that Indiana (5-1) remained at No. 12 — a spot BYU covets — after a lackluster win over Maryland last week. Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr. sustained a torn ACL in the 27-11 win and is lost for the season, but the committee didn’t hold it against Indiana.

“The committee respects them still, even without Penix,” ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer said.

Some wonder why the weak schedule argument isn’t applied evenly.

For instance, Georgia (6-2) kept its No. 8 spot although the Bulldogs’ opponents this season have a combined record of 12-29.

So what has to happen for BYU to move up?

The Cougars will obviously be cheering for the teams above them to lose, most notably Indiana (the Hoosiers have a tough game at Wisconsin coming up) and No. 10 Miami (7-1), which has a toughie against North Carolina.

If there was a positive development for BYU and other teams on the outside looking in, it was that for the first time six non-Power Five teams have cracked the top 25: Cincinnati at No. 7, Coastal Carolina at No. 18, Marshall at No. 21, Tulsa at No. 24 and Iowa State-beating Louisiana at No. 25.

Clearly, the committee is not as impressed with BYU as the 62 people who vote in the AP Top 25. None of those voters had BYU lower than 13th last week, and only two had the Cougars lower than 10th.

“BYU’s (CFP) ranking is completely unfair,” former Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard said on ESPN’s GameDay program last Saturday. “There is absolutely no way that you can watch BYU play games and think that they deserve to be ranked No. 13. That’s asinine to me.”

Unfortunately for Cougar fans, the committee wasn’t listening.