With the weekend off, BYU didn't lose any votes in the polls, keeping the Cougars ranked about 30th, just outside of the BCS top 25. The November schedule could easily make or break BYU's year with two big games against the biggest opponents of the year. BYU probably isn't getting quite as much respect as they should, but the horrible loss at Virginia really set the tone for the year for skeptics everywhere. As a commentary on the BCS system I would like to simply say that #24 Wisconsin has an average ranking of 30.0 by the 6 computers used, while unranked BYU has an average of 20.6. I believe in computers and stats much more than I trust in the opinions of 60 media members or coaches. I hope the playoff selection committee at least looks at computer rankings from time to time, just to get an idea... just saying. Now onto the teams:
The Badgers have been looking strong this year with only one "real" loss (to #4 Ohio State) they looked absolutely dominant otherwise in Big 10 play until last weekend. After three quarters in Iowa City, the Badgers were just 5 points up on the Hawkeyes, yet they sealed the deal with two fourth quarter touchdowns to make it look like a 28-9 blowout. Wisconsin showed resiliency on the road and finished strong. Wisconsin has a great run game, an NFL receiver, and a defense only allowing 15 points a game, by all accounts a well-rounded team who have racked up a 283-57 score over their 6 wins. This is looking to be the game of the year for BYU. Computer rankings say BYU has a 21% chance to win, with a healthy dose of home field advantage given to the Badgers. I am still confident that BYU will make it a very close game at the least.
Now that we're finally approaching this game I'll give a little more info about it. The Bengals are not just a Big Sky team, they're a pretty bad Big Sky team, currently 10th in a conference of 12. BYU will surely win this game, and hopefully rest many of the starters through the second half. 100% win chance for the Cougars.
The Fighting Irish have looked similar to the last year's #2 team, except instead of winning games they should have lost they actually have lost two of them, but still barely scraped through several others. Last week it was Navy that held the three point lead with nine minutes to go, but the Fighting Irish did what they do best, fight. They drove the length of the field and scored the game winning touchdown with 3 minutes to spare. BYU definitely has a shot at beating Notre Dame this year, they just need to be focused and play their best. Computers give us a 58% shot to win it.
Our final game of the year will be a trap game for sure, win or lose in Madison and South Bend, the Cougars will come into Reno thinking they've seen the worst of it and if they relax, the Wolfpack could catch them off guard. I know this isn't the same Nevada team that came into Provo in 2010 led by some Collin kid and beat the Cougars, but if BYU lets down their guard even a bottom of the pack MWC team could be the new "worst loss" on BYU's record. Computers say we have a 97% win chance, but don't buy into it! I for one want revenge from 2010 (and yes I do cheer against the 49ers these days).
Our former opponents have done some to help bolster our respect, primarily led by Texas. After the defeat to BYU everyone saw Mack Brown with one foot out the door, but with only one loss since then the Longhorns are suddenly on top of the Big 12 (with the three of the hardest games still to come).
Georgia Tech and Houston have both not lost a game since losing to BYU, but have big tests against ranked teams in their following match ups (Ga Tech against #7 Clemson, Houston against #23 UCF). I expect to only see two or three more losses between these two teams, with Houston getting a possible BCS bowl as champion of the American Athletic Conference.
Utah, Utah State, and Middle Tennessee have mostly been net-neutrals on BYU's rating (outside of simply adding to the 'W' count), winning some, losing others, and being average teams in their own respective conferences, while Virginia has found its place at the bottom of the ACC where even a win against second-to-last North Carolina next week won't help them salvage what could be a 9 or 10 loss season.
Overall BYU is looking great, and looking at the toughest month of the season (I would say the second toughest month of independence, after last year's October with Oregon State, Utah State, Notre Dame, and Ga Tech). Having big games every month is something great that independence has brought us and if we can continue to improve and play well, BYU will get the respect they deserve. For me I think the key is to diversify, we have lots of great players and they all need a chance to step up to make big plays like we have had in recent games. BYU has a good shot at going 10-2 this season, and that begins on Saturday.