There's no questioning the fact that BYU has been one of the country's most consistent programs for the better part of the last decade. During that time the Cougars have had multiple 10 win seasons and have been to nine straight bowl games, winning six of them (including four of the last five). As impressive as this may be, the Cougars have yet to get over the hump that makes a " very good" season become a "great" season. It has been frustrating to sit by and watch other programs (e.g. Boise State, Hawaii, TCU, Utah) experience those great seasons. Perhaps BYU's best chance to date of achieving one of those special seasons came in 2008, when TCU and Utah proved too much to handle for the Cougars on their "Quest for Perfection".
But lets take a close look at more recent history. Since 2010, BYU has played a total of 52 football games. Their record during those 52 games was 33-19. This is an overall winning percentage of 63.46%. This is an impressive number. Now lets break those 52 games down into two groups.
Power 5 Group:
Of those 52 games played, 21 of them were against Power 5 programs, including Notre Dame, TCU, and Utah. BYU's record during those 21 games is 7-14, or a winning percentage of 33.33%.
Other 5 Group:
This means that BYU played their other 31 games against teams from the "Other 5" conferences (as well as a couple of FCS programs). BYU's record against these teams during that time was 26-5, or a winning percentage of 83.87%.
These numbers show that during the last few seasons, BYU's results substantially vary depending upon whether they are playing a Power 5 program or an "other 5" program.
The numbers become even more interesting when you look at the Cougars winning percentage against "ranked" and "unranked" opponents since 2010. During this time, BYU is 1-11 against ranked opponents (winning percentage of 8.33%) and 32-8 against unranked opponents (winning percentage of 80%). Since 2012 they are 1-7 against ranked opponents (11.11%), and 15-3 against unranked opponents (83.33%).
There are multiple conclusions to be drawn from all of these numbers, but one is for certain: BYU appears to be in limbo. It is obvious that for the most part BYU consistently outperforms their competition when playing unranked or non-Power 5 teams. A 15-3 record against unranked opponents is hardly competitive. But then again, a 1-11 record against ranked opponents appears to be even less competitive. Based on these numbers, where on the college football spectrum of power rankings would you rank the Cougars?
So what does all of this mean for BYU's 2014 season? In a lot of ways, it means absolutely nothing, and that's why we love sports. Another article for another time could delve deeper into other contributing factors to these numbers (e.g. home games, road games, weather, injuries, bye weeks, etc). Every season is a fresh start. Old trends can be unexpectedly bucked at any time. Just because a team has performed a certain way over a period time doesn't necessarily mean that will continue moving forward. This is especially true in a sport like college football where rosters and schedules are constantly changing.
BYU will face just three Power 5 teams in 2014: Texas, Virginia, and Cal. This will be as good of a season as ever for BYU to boost their recent winning percentage against Power 5 programs, seeing as Virginia and Cal are the cellar dwellers of each of their respective conferences. Similarly to how BYU will be sure to not overlook Virginia while attempting to avenge last year's loss, the Longhorn's will be doing the same for the Cougars. A win on the road at Texas could potentially turn into the biggest win for the program since the 2009 Oklahoma season opener.
As their schedule stands today, BYU will face no ranked teams this season. There is a possibility that either Houston, UCF, Utah State, or Boise State could be ranked by the time they play the Cougars later this season. If this were to end up being the case, this season would be an ideal time to increase their humbling winning percentage of 8.33% against ranked opponents since 2010.
With the rest of the schedule (UConn, Nevada, Middle Tennessee, UNLV, and Savannah State), BYU should have no problem building on their winning percentage of 83.33% against teams of similar caliber over recent years.
With a stud quarterback, stellar running back, revamped receiving corps, deep secondary, and a traditional Bronco Mendenhall/ Nick Howell defense, could this be the year they join the ranks of Boise State, Hawaii, TCU, and Utah in gaining an invite to a prestigious bowl game as an "outsider"?
The stars are aligned.