Where does BYU belong?
It’s a question that comes up frequently as it pertains to college football and the answer seems to vary each week in 2019. After the Week 1 loss to Utah, the Cougars looked like they fit squarely into the “mid-level Group of 5” category. After overtime wins against Tennessee and USC, it appeared BYU might be seen as a threat to the Power 5 teams on its schedule. A win versus Washington and maybe the Cougars could actually make an argument they could compete in the Pac-12.
After Saturday’s 45-19 beat down at the hands of the Huskies? BYU was outclassed and dismantled by a really good team and are likely viewed as a good, but not great, Group of 5-type team.
Nobody in the country other than BYU played a four-game stretch against P5 opponents to begin the season. Very easily, the Cougars could be 0-4 today. Instead, they are 2-2, and many fans are proclaiming that mark exceeds expectations.
Maybe. But the problem with that thinking is that BYU was fortunate to win two overtime games and wasn’t really competitive in the two losses. Sure, Utah and Washington are expected to be two of the top teams in the Pac-12, but USC beat Utah on Friday, so the Utes are beatable. And Washington lost to Cal.
The Cougars didn’t put themselves in a position to beat Utah or Washington, and that’s the biggest takeaway from this brutal four-game stretch of games.
Then there is the cost. Two of BYU’s best players – safety Zayne Anderson and running back Ty’Son Williams – are injured and there are others banged up as well. Anderson is out of the year (again) and Williams’ season is now in danger.
What BYU administration and fans want is to belong in the Big Boys Club of college football. Or more specifically, to be good enough to belong. They can do that in independence, but performances like Saturday are a stark reminder that maybe the Cougars are further away than they think.
Defensively, BYU was pretty hopeless on Saturday. Nothing they did put Washington in an uncomfortable position and Jacob Eason looked like he was ready for the NFL. On offense, BYU was able to pick up some chunk yardage plays but the turnovers swung momentum to Washington’s side at critical parts of the game. Special teams? Ugh. Jake Oldroyd’s 53-yard field goal was really the only highlight and the punt return by the Huskies for a touchdown was inexcusable.
The schedule is still difficult the rest of the way but there are no P5’s left to play. Boise State and Utah State are formidable opponents and have been beating BYU pretty regularly as of late.
If the Cougars are to show any progress at all this year, they have to win at home against the Broncos and in Logan against the Aggies.
BYU is very capable of going on a nice run to the end of the season and finishing with eight, nine or ten wins. Capable, yes. But there has to be cleaner play on both sides, better execution and better response to adversity.
Where will the Cougars belong then? No one knows for sure. BYU likes to think of itself as unique and special. What’s obvious is that it’s a long way to travel from where BYU is now to where it wants to be.