Facebook Twitter

No. 22 BYU stays in new-look national rankings, turns attention to also-undefeated Louisiana Tech

After walloping Troy 48-7 on Saturday night at empty LaVell Edwards Stadium, Cougars have scored 103 points in their first two games of pandemic-impacted 2020 season

SHARE No. 22 BYU stays in new-look national rankings, turns attention to also-undefeated Louisiana Tech

BYU fullback Masen Wake (13) scores on a 10-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter during the Cougars’ 48-7 victory over Troy at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020.

BYU photo

PROVO — Fears among BYU football fans that the Cougars would drop out of the national rankings this week because teams from all 10 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences can now be included proved to be unfounded on Sunday.

Of course, BYU took care of business, and them some, Saturday night to ensure it wouldn’t be left out with the addition of Big Ten and Pac-12 teams, specifically, to this week’s polls. The Cougars walloped Troy 48-7 at empty LaVell Edwards Stadium, smashing the overmatched Trojans in all three phases of the game.

The Cougars, who have outscored their opponents 103-10 in two games, are now ranked No. 22 in both major national polls. They dropped four spots in the Associated Press Top 25 and rose one spot in the Amway Coaches Poll.

Five teams from the Big Ten or Pac-12 joined the AP Top 25 this week, which is why BYU dropped in that poll. The five are No. 6 Ohio State, No. 10 Penn State, No. 14 Oregon, No. 19 Wisconsin and No. 23 Michigan.

Utah was among teams also receiving votes in the AP poll; Louisiana Tech (2-0), which travels to Provo for a Friday night showdown with BYU, received two votes in the coaches’ poll.

“I know people look at the scoreboard and things like that, and that’s OK. But I feel like we were able to play our style of football and represent the right way.” — BYU coach Kalani Sitake

Three weeks is the longest stretch BYU football has been in the national rankings since 2014, when it started 4-0.

After backup quarterbacks took a knee inside the opponents’ 5-yard line in both BYU wins, coach Kalani Sitake reiterated late Saturday that he does not believe in running up the score to impress pollsters.

“I don’t believe in style points,” he said. “I believe in just winning the game and establishing an identity that we want to get done for that game. … I just feel like this is the right thing to do, play with sportsmanship and do things the right way.”

Sitake said taking a knee late in games might hurt the offense’s red-zone scoring percentage stats — a point of emphasis this season — but he would rather be in those situations than not.

“The other 59 minutes were full of our team playing the right way,” he said. “You can look at those minutes for the style points.”

Pollsters apparently did just that. Some voters, such as Brett McMurphy of Stadium.com, continued to only vote for teams who have played games.

“At the end of the year, I will rank the best 25 teams — with no bias whether they played 7, 8 or 10 games,” he told the Associated Press.

Also positive news for BYU: computer-based ratings have the Cougars among the top teams in the country. For instance, Jeff Sagarin’s ratings for USA Today have BYU at No. 17 this week.

“I know people look at the scoreboard and things like that, and that’s OK,” Sitake said. “But I feel like we were able to play our style of football and represent the right way.”

Part of the reason the Cougars kept it classy Saturday night was the presence of former BYU offensive line coach Ryan Pugh, now Troy’s offensive coordinator, said Cougars defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga.

“I like scoring, but Kalani is a classy guy and coach Pugh is on the other side and there is always respect there,” Tonga said. “Something I love about coach Kalani is no matter who the opponent is, we will always show respect and class and good sportsmanship. And so we don’t see it at the moment, but we realize it as soon as it happens.”

So BYU, which has scored its most points (103) through two games to open a season since 2001, turns its attention to La Tech and a short week with the traditional Friday game before General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“We are a good offense, but it means nothing if we just stop it now,” quarterback Zach Wilson said. “We got to keep getting after it in practice, preparing for our next opponent. La Tech is a great team and we got to come out ready to play against those guys. All (the hot start) means is we are just one more step closer to where we want to be.”

BYU opened as more than a three-touchdown favorite over Louisiana Tech, despite that the Bulldogs are undefeated and count wins over Southern Miss (31-30) and Houston Baptist (66-38) the past two weeks. La Tech’s opener at Baylor was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Bulldogs racked up 542 yards on HBU, but gave up 501. La Tech QB Luke Anthony threw five touchdown passes and ran for another score in front of 7,140 fans at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston, Louisiana.

Without a conference championship for which to play, climbing the polls as much as possible, and a berth in a New Year’s Six bowl game, becomes BYU’s biggest priority. Of course, the Cougars will try to do that in as classy a way as possible.

Sitake wouldn’t have it any other way.