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BYU moves up to No. 18 in AP Top 25, its highest ranking since starting 4-0 in 2014

Cougars will play host to undefeated Troy on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium; Troy’s offensive coordinator is former BYU offensive line coach Ryan Pugh

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BYU offensive line coach Ryan Pugh celebrates after a play as BYU and Hawaii play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. BYU won 49-23. Pugh left BYU in 2019 to become Troy’s offensive coordinator. He will return this Saturday when BYU hosts Troy at 8:15 p.m. MDT on ESPN.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PROVO — When offensive line coach Ryan Pugh left BYU in January of 2019 to become the offensive coordinator at Troy University in Alabama, most Cougar fans probably believed they would never see the up-and-coming coach again.

But nothing about 2020 has gone as planned, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that has greatly altered BYU’s schedule. Athletic director Tom Holmoe added a game with the Trojans on Aug. 13, and BYU will host Troy on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium (8:15 p.m. MDT, ESPN).

Both teams are 1-0, but only BYU is ranked.

The Cougars checked in at No. 18 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Sunday afternoon, up three spots from last week’s ranking in that poll of media members who cover college football. It is BYU’s highest ranking since 2014, when the Cougars got off to a 4-0 start and climbed to No. 18 before getting upset at home by Utah State.

BYU was idle this weekend after its scheduled game at Army was postponed because a small number of people within the football program tested positive for the coronavirus and others were also quarantined after contact tracing indicated they were exposed to the virus.

The Cougars have now been ranked for 10 weeks since they went independent in 2011; They’ve been ranked for four weeks in the Kalani Sitake era, which began in 2016.

BYU dropped a spot to No. 23 in the Amway Coaches Poll, which is already allowing votes for Big Ten teams. Army (2-0) dropped out of that poll, after athletic director Mike Buddie was unable to find a replacement for the Cougars.

While questions linger whether the BYU-Army game will be played in November, the Cougars turn their attention to another team off to a strong start.

Troy (1-0) routed Middle Tennessee State 47-14 in its opener Saturday in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, scoring 40 unanswered points to break open a 7-7 game. 

“It is extremely exciting,” said Troy coach Chip Lindsey. “At one point we weren’t sure if we would play. I told our guys that before we played today, ‘Let’s appreciate this opportunity to play, we weren’t sure we were going to get to. Let’s go out and play every snap like it could be our last, because you never know.’ I think our guys have taken that to heart and I’m really proud of their effort today.”

With Pugh calling plays, Troy put up 496 yards and 30 first downs. The Trojans were 13 of 19 on third-down conversion attempts.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Gunnar Watson completed 26 of 37 passes for 248 yards and two TDs in his first career start, with one interception. Running back B.J. Smith averaged 8.1 yards per carry. 

Four different Trojans rushed for TDs, including prized freshman Kimani Vidal, and seven Trojans scored TDs. Evan Legassey kicked a 47-yard field goal.

About the only non-positive development for Troy was that Watson was sacked four times.

Troy’s defense had a safety and three interceptions, two by Terence Dunlap.

The Trojans will test a hot BYU team that walloped Navy 55-3 on Labor Day but won’t have played in 19 days. 

A member of the Sun Belt Conference, Troy went 5-7 last season but is picked to finish higher this year in a conference that boasted three wins over Big 12 teams a week ago.

The Trojans are 1-0 in the state of Utah, having downed Utah State in Logan in 2003.