BYU's No. 14 Ranking Causes Upheaval Among College Football Gurus, And For Good Reason

Brigham Young University decided a few years ago to go independent as a college football team, meaning they could play anyone, anywhere at anytime. It meant tough road games against great programs or home games against lesser-known up-and-comers.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of things about college football. Some colleges decided to postpone their seasons until further notice, and independents like BYU, Notre Dame, Army, Navy, Liberty and others scrambled to find teams to play.

Notre Dame found a temporary home in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for a single season, and they have a full schedule of Power 5 teams. BYU, on the other hand, stayed independent, and had to schedule some lesser-known teams like UT-San Antonio and North Alabama. This was because teams from major conferences were forced to cancel all, or most, non-conference games.

BYU is 9-0 for the season and Notre Dame is 8-0. Notre Dame's biggest win of the season was a 47-40 win at home against Clemson in double overtime. Clemson was without their top player—quarterback Trevor Lawrence. BYU's biggest win was on the road at Boise State, 51-17.

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is mentioned among Heisman Trophy favorites this season. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book is mentioned among Heisman contenders.

BYU Football
Dax Milne #5 of the BYU Cougars catches a pass and scores a touchdown in the first half against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium on October 16, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

In the initial College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings Tuesday night, Notre Dame was listed at No. 2 by the CFP committee. BYU was ranked No. 14. There are eight teams ahead of BYU that have a loss so far. Three of those teams have two losses.

That means there are five undefeated teams ahead of BYU:

No. 1 Alabama (7-0)
No. 2 Notre Dame (8-0)
No. 4 Ohio State (4-0)
No. 7 Cincinnati (8-0)
No. 8 Northwestern (5-0)

Here are the full rankings from the first CFP standings.

Gary Barta, who is Iowa's athletics director and chair of this season's CFP committee, was asked immediately about BYU's ranking as compared to Cincinnati's.

"When you look at the schedule, look at the teams, as I mentioned earlier tonight,
right now BYU's best win is over Boise State, and in that game I think they got down to their third string quarterback," Barta said. "BYU has played three teams against .500 or better opponents, but when you move over to Cincinnati, they're 4-0 against .500 teams and had quality wins as recently as this past weekend against Central Florida but also earlier against SMU. And Cincinnati is in the top 20 both in scoring offense and scoring defense. Those are some of the differences as we took a look at it."

Cincinnati trailed against UCF, took a lead and then had to stave off the Knights in a weird-ending, 36-33 win for the Bearcats.

The rankings obviously had media personalities in the college football world talking. Here are some of the remarks from media, athletes and fans.

Brett McMurphy said BYU likely won't be able to climb high enough into the rankings to get a New Year's Six bid.

"BYU biggest loser in inaugural @CFBPlayoff rankings," McMurphy tweeted. "At No. 14, doubtful BYU could climb high enough to earn New Year's 6 at-large bid."

BYU biggest loser in inaugural @CFBPlayoff rankings. At No. 14, doubtful BYU could climb high enough to earn New Year’s 6 at-large bid

— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) November 25, 2020

The College Football Playoff matches the No. 1 ranked team vs. No. 4, and No. 2 vs. No. 3 in semifinal games that rotate annually among six bowl games—the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl Game. The rankings also help determine which teams go to certain bowl games.

BYU's original 2020 schedule included Utah, Michigan State, Arizona State, Minnesota, and Missouri. The current schedule does not have a Power Five team. That's why the Cougars are No. 14.

— Tony Barnhart (@MrCFB) November 25, 2020

And *this* is why Cincinnati and BYU should play each other. Cincy needs quality wins to move up from 7 to 4. And BYU *really* needs one to move high enough to reach the NY6.@ChrisVannini and I discussed.https://t.co/HlwlufpMY3

— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 25, 2020

No. 14 in the first #CFP poll isn’t great, but a number of teams ahead of BYU have losses coming up. Work to do. #BYUFOOTBALL pic.twitter.com/SekRt8Pgcg

— Dave McCann (@DaveMcCannKSL) November 25, 2020

#BYU coach Kalani Sitake on the No. 14 ranking: “Great motivation for our guys."

— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) November 25, 2020

BYU (9-0) comes in at No. 14 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings.

Ohio State was No. 16 in the first CFP rankings back in 2014 and we all know what happened next 🤫 pic.twitter.com/jKwiS96tCs

— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) November 25, 2020

Besides weighing for # of games, these rankings feel similar to committees past.

They love good defenses (Cincinnati No. 7) and the SEC (Georgia No. 9).

They dock bad schedules (No. 14 BYU, No. 21 Marshall).

They're not buying the Pac-12 (Oregon at No. 15).

— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 25, 2020

ESPN college football analyst David Pollack said, "My gosh, BYU (at) No. 14? That is absolutely nuts to me, just watching how dominant they are, not just analytically, but physically, when you turn on the tape."

David Pollack: "My gosh, BYU (at) No. 14? That is absolutely nuts to me, just watching how dominant they are, not just analytically, but physically, when you turn on the tape."

— Jay Drew (@drewjay) November 25, 2020

BYU's only remaining scheduled game this season is Dec. 12 at home against San Diego State University. That is, unless another team wants to step out of their comfort zone (conference) and play the Cougars.