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With a win over Utah State to start the 2021 season 5-0, has BYU started to make a case to the Playoff Committee?

Still perfect nearly midway into the season, the Cougars landed at No. 10 in the AP Poll on Sunday.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU celebrates the win as the Utah State Aggies host Brigham Young University Cougars at Maverik Stadium Oct. 1, 2021. The Cougars attempt a second straight win for the Wagon Wheel, the trophy of the in-state rivalry, while the Aggies will try to recapture the trophy.

After beating Utah State on Friday to start the season with an undefeated 5-0 record, has BYU made a case for itself to be considered for a New Year’s Six bowl? Maybe even get in the playoff conversation?

There’s obviously still a lot of games to be played, but the Cougars have certainly put themselves in the best position. The first indication came on Sunday, when BYU broke into the Top 10 in the AP Poll.

After starting the season unranked, the Cougars broke in at the No. 23 spot in Week 3 and have since moved up 13 spots.

One college football analyst, however, has BYU in the Top 5.

RJ Young places BYU at No. 5, behind Alabama, Georgia, Iowa and Penn State.

Part of what helped BYU break into the Top 10 was the fact that five programs that were ahead of the Cougars in the previous rankings lost on Saturday.

For the Cougars, Utah State was the fifth straight game in which a BYU multi-score lead was cut down to one score.

In every game except South Florida, BYU went on to add to its lead to seal the game. Against the Bulls, the Cougar defense was able to hold them off for the win.

“Fast starts help us, but I like ending the right way and we’ve been able to do that in our games,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “We just have to stay consistent in the way we play.”

After Utah State cut it down to a one-score game in the fourth quarter, the Cougars huddled up before starting their next drive.

Running back Tyler Allgeier said the message in the huddle was clear: “We need points.”

In the Cougars’ first offensive play to start their next drive, Allgeier broke out for a 67-yard rush that landed BYU on the half-yard line. Shortly after, the Cougars went on to score the game-sealing touchdown.

Allgeier ended up finishing the night with 218 yards, which lands at ninth-most in BYU single-game history. It was the most rushing yards a single game since Jackson McChesney rushed for 228 yards at UMass in 2019 as a true freshman.

“[I’m just] grateful,” Allgeier said. “But just making the O-line right. They worked their butts off; All of my credit goes to my O-line.”

BYU defense shut down Utah State’s run game

Prior to Friday, the Aggies were averaging 213.5 rushing yards a game. Utah State was also averaging 533.2 yards per game while ranking 13th in passing offense and 25th in rushing offense.

On Friday, the Aggies were prevented from having any sort of run game.

Utah State finished the night with a measly 22 rushing yards on 35 carries. For those not good at math, that equates to 0.6 of a yard per carry.

“What I was really proud of was winning the front and stopping the run game,” Sitake said. “That’s what we wanted to do, is control the run game with three guys rushing the ball. You play some really great defense if you can do that to a team.”

And the Cougar defense had their hands full.

At the end, BYU had a total of 66 plays in the game. Utah State had 83. However, while the Cougars averaged 7.1 yards per play, the Aggies averaged 4.0 yards per play.

“I’m proud of how the guys played,” linebacker Ben Bywater said. “We’ve worked hard all offseason, so for us to go in there and dominate the line of scrimmage like that, is just a testament of our hard work.”

BYU’s depth continues to be tested

As players made their way to the locker room at halftime, quarterback Baylor Romney didn’t join them. Instead he followed the athletic trainers to a different room.

Two plays before the half came to an end, Romney looked to have hit his head on a hard tackle. Sure enough, in the second half, third-string quarterback Jacob Conover went out to to take the snaps.

“They were coming after Baylor hard,” Conover said. “They had a good defensive scheme and he took some shots, so I was just ready. The players knew I was gonna go in after that, after the hit at halftime, but they just showed their trust in me. I had trust in them, and it was just like a big family, just rocking and rolling.”

Conover would end up finishing his season debut having completed 5 of 9 passes for 45 yards. Most importantly, he was able to feed the ball to Allgeier and protect the ball to be able to get the win over the Aggies.

“We heard when Baylor was out … but we believe in Jake,” Bywater said. “Jake came in and did a great job, didn’t turn the ball over and was able to march down the field and get us some scores. The whole team stepped up in general, but obviously we look to our captains to lead us through those [moments].”

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