More than halfway through the regular 2020 season, No. 11 BYU has managed to turn people from all parts of the country into Cougar fans.
But the dominating performances, led by junior quarterback Zach Wilson, could lead to more than just a growing fan base. It could find the Cougars inching toward a NY6 bowl berth.
It’s far-fetched, but BYU has already beaten many odds this year.
The Cougars were in the middle of spring football when the pandemic forced practices to be canceled and students to be sent home. Although BYU started voluntary workouts June 1 and fall camp Aug. 4, the schedule was ripped to shreds within a few weeks.
Athletic director Tom Holmoe helped mend the schedule. Although no longer filled with Power Five opponents, Holmoe was able to put together a commendable schedule considering the situation.
And the Cougars have taken advantage of it. For just the fifth time in program history, BYU has started the season 6-0. Four of those six wins have come with hardy, impressive performances attached to them, and a fifth — at Houston — was pulled off in come-from-behind fashion.
But is it enough to earn BYU a spot in an elusive NY6 bowl game?
Maybe. This year, that group of games includes the Cotton, Peach, Orange and Fiesta bowls. BYU is not eligible for the Group of Five teams' designated NY6 spot, but the Cougars can still get there on their own as an at-large selection if they keep winning.
That said, their biggest tests are still to come. BYU travels to Boise State Nov. 6 and hosts San Diego State Dec. 12. The Broncos and Aztecs are the two toughest foes on the Cougars' revamped schedule.
NO. 11 BYU VS. WESTERN KENTUCKY
At LaVell Edwards Stadium
When • Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
TV • ESPN
The Boise State game could also be the first game against a ranked opponent this year. After beating Utah State 42-13 in the first game of the season, the Broncos broke into the Associated Press Top 25 poll at No. 25.
Ask any player or coach about the possibility of making it to a NY6 bowl, or maybe even be the dark horse in the College Football Playoff, and they’ll shrug off the question.
“We’ve always had big dreams and big ideas about what we want to do as a team and where we want to be,” senior defensive lineman Bracken El-Bakri said. “I don’t think that’s any different from this season than it has been in other seasons. We want to succeed. We want to play well as a team. We want to go places together as a brotherhood. But the way to do that is to take it week by week.”
The Cougars will have another chance to pad their resume this week when they welcome Western Kentucky Saturday for a late-night Halloween game.
The Hilltoppers are currently 2-4 this season and are coming into LaVell Edwards Stadium off a tight 13-10 victory over Chattanooga. But the Cougars have outscored opponents 270-84 so far this season.
With the help of a stout offensive line, Wilson has been scorching opponents down the field.
The junior quarterback is completing 78.3% of his passes and has thrown for 1,928 yards and 16 touchdowns while only having been picked off once. The longest pass came on a 78-yard reception.
The Cougars remain the longest of shots for the Playoff, but they do have their advocates. ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit says don’t count the Cougars out.
Herbstreit says he has been impressed with the Cougars ever since he called the BYU-Navy game in Annapolis on Labor Day.
During ESPN’s College Football Top 25 program, Rece Davis asked Herbstreit what BYU’s chances of making the Playoff look like should there be an open spot.
“We keep talking about the outside teams, whose going to be fighting to get to that fourth spot if the front three [Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State do win out; I think they should have their hat in the ring and into the discussion,” Herbstreit said. “Of all the teams that I can not wait for four weeks from now, it’s BYU. Assuming they keep winning.”
The College Football Playoff will release its first Top 25 poll on Nov. 24. While still four weeks away, BYU has a 13.3% chance of making the Playoff, according to ESPN’s Playoff Predictor.
With more dominating performances, and if the Cougars can continue to be undefeated, BYU’s chances of making a NY6 bowl or even the CFP would increase.