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BYU Football Season Rankings: 30-26

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In Part 3 of my football season rankings, we wade into the mediocre. I think some are going to have a problem with where I put 1974, but I think the other teams on this list are pretty clear.

30. 1995
29. 2004
28. 1987
27. 1974
26. 1998

Criteria
Part 1: Nos. 40-36
Part 2: Nos. 35-31

30. 1995
Coach: LaVell Edwards
Record: 7-4
Ranking: NA
Bowl: NA
Point Differential per game: 3.64
Opp. Winning %: .523
SRS: 2.16

What you didn't know: Not a single team on BYU's 1995 schedule would win more than 8 games or lose less than 4 that season. It's the only such season in the past 40 years.
Summary: 1995 was a pretty boring year, and I don't think anyone saw the awesome 1996 coming. Playing a mediocre schedule, the Cougars played mediocrely. Steve Sarkisian played well but not great, and the defense struggled to contain good offenses. Change those the following season? You get a tremendous team. The best thing that can be said about 1995 is what it would become a year later.

29. 2004
Coach: Gary Crowton
Record: 5-6
Ranking: NA
Bowl: NA
Point Differential per game: -2.55
Opp. Winning %: .586
SRS: 4.18

What you didn't know: For the only time in the past 40 years, BYU played two undefeated teams: 13-0 national champion (kind of) USC, and 12-0 Utah. Writing that sentence made me sick.
Summary: According to Sports-Reference.com, the Crowton-led Cougars played the two toughest schedules in the past 40 years: 2003 and this season. Again, I'm not defending Crowton, but these were killer schedules. Five of the six losses (excepting UNLV) were not easy games (including a mediocre Stanford on the road). This team's greatest hole (a Crowton trademark) was poor defense, giving up more than 26 points per game, 8th worst in school history. Crowton has 4 of the 10 worst BYU defenses in school history, and you can kind of give him credit for a 5th (2005) -- Bronco Mendenhall's first season.

28. 1987
Coach: LaVell Edwards
Record: 9-4
Ranking: NA
Bowl: 22-16 loss to Virginia in the All-American Bowl
Point Differential per game: 4.38
Opp. Winning %: .487
SRS: 3.43

What you didn't know: Fred Whittingham was the leading rusher for this team with only 486 yards. Virgil Carter, Brandon Doman, and Steve Young (twice) nearly rushed for that many yards during a season as a QB.
Summary: The good news: BYU's only conference loss was to a good 10-3 Wyoming team. Bad news: They lost to a 5-6 TCU team and to a pair of fairly mediocre 8-4 teams in Pitt (to open the season) and Louisville (to finish the season).

27. 1974
Coach: LaVell Edwards
Record: 7-4-1
Ranking: NA
Bowl: 16-6 loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl (before it became a New Year's Day bowl)
Point Differential per game: 9.42
Opp. Winning %: .439
SRS: 4.28

What you didn't know: BYU won the WAC title in 1974, only its second conference championship in school history. The Cougars would only relinquish that title again once (1975) until a three-year drought started in 1986.
Summary: I will probably catch flack for this ranking. There is a lot to like about the 1974 season: a conference title, a very good QB in Gary Sheide, and a stingy defense. But they lost or tied 5 games against below-average competition. Historically, this season is important as just the second conference title in school history, the other being in 1965. This wasn't a great team, but the signs of LaVell's terrific run were beginning to emerge.

26. 1998
Coach: LaVell Edwards
Record: 9-5
Ranking: NA
Bowl: 41-27 loss to Tulane in the Liberty Bowl
Point Differential per game: 8.00
Opp. Winning %: .467
SRS: 4.22

What you didn't know: Before losing to Air Force (12-1) and Tulane (12-0) to end the season, the Cougars three earlier losses were to Alabama (7-5), Washington (6-6) and Fresno State (5-6).
Summary: I was in Las Vegas for BYU's crushing loss to Air Force in the WAC Championship Game. After leading 7-0 at halftime, the Cougars were outscored 20-6 in the second half, including giving up the two decisive touchdowns fairly late in the 4th quarter. How could this season have been different? A win against the Falcons would likely have led to a national ranking, and a season (if coupled with a bowl in) which would be well-remembered. But this loaded Cougar team was wildly inconsistent, and while the WAC-title loss was devastating, it was hardly surprising to those who followed the team.