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A Case for BYU Football vs. the AP Top 15

With the first CFP rankings coming out this evening, we take a look at how BYU's resumé stacks up against those ranked around them.
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Raise your hand if you thought during the preseason that BYU would be in the running for a New Years 6 bowl and a potential playoff berth. Tonight, we get our first look at BYU’s place in those races as the playoff committee releases their first ranking of the season tonight at 5 pm MST on ESPN. Here is how BYU’s playoff resumé stacks up against other programs ranked in the AP Top 15, and should provide a little insight on how the committee might view BYU this evening.

Alabama: There’s really not much for BYU to hang their hat on here. Bama is ranked #1 in every key poll and has 2 wins over teams currently ranked in the top 25, including a 28 point drubbing of 5th ranked Texas A&M. BYU is 1 point higher than Bama in terms of margin of victory, but considering they are beating SEC opponents by 30 points per game, there’s a reason they are #1.

Notre Dame: ND’s win over #4 Clemson will carry a lot of weight with CFP committee, as it should. Outside of that though, their schedule has been lack luster. 5 of Notre Dame’s 8 opponents have losing records, and while they’ve looked dominant, they survived near misses against 3-6 Louisville and Boston College. If it weren’t for the Clemson win, their resume would resemble BYU’s: Big wins over mostly bad teams. That top 5 win, however, puts them well over the top.

Clemson: Clemson’s ranking is probably more tied to their brand than their resume. The Tiger’s signature win is their 42-17 beat down over 10th ranked Miami, but were pushed well into the 4th quarter by Boston College and sub .500 Syracuse. Still, that Miami win is better than anything BYU has, and Clemson has more than earned the benefit of the doubt in CFP discussions.

Ohio State: It’s difficult to gauge where the Buckeyes are at after just 4 games, and their 7 point win over Indiana probably says more about the Hoosiers than it does about Ohio State. Still, it was a top 10 win, and they have otherwise been dominant. Where BYU has a punchers chance here, though, is Ohio States defense. The Buckeyes gave up nearly 500 yards passing against IU, and gave up 25 points to an awful Penn State team looking for their first win. BYU is not better than the Buckeyes, but their top 10 offense would be able to put up some points.

Texas A&M: Like most of the teams ranked above TAMU, their resume hangs on a top 10 win. The Aggies beat a 6th ranked Florida team who has otherwise looked unstoppable, but like many others, their resumé doesn’t have much else. They were boat raced by #1 Alabama, but endured a 5 point scare to winless Vanderbilt and a 14 point win over a 2-6 Miss State team. If BYU holds any advantage, it’s the eye test. BYU ranks 8th in total offense to TAMUs 35th, 6th in total defense to TAMU’s 26th, and 1st in margin of victory to TAMU’s 36th, albeit against a much weaker schedule. All of that being said, TAMU has a top 10 win, and BYU doesn’t, and that means everything to the CFP committee.

Florida: Florida looks awesome. Every win but one has come by more than 21 points and that one was a 16 point win over 13th ranked Georgia. Their lone loss was a 3 point decision to Texas A&M. For what it’s worth, ESPN’s Bill Conley has BYU ranked 10 spots higher in his opponent adjusted resumé rankings, but Florida’s signature win is much better than BYU’s and deserves the nod.

Cincinnati: BYU has been linked to Cincy in CFP discussions from the beginning, and for good reason, as they boast very similar resumés. Neither has a current Top 25 win, both have an average margin of victory of 24+ points, and both are undefeated. Statistically, BYU has a better offense and slightly better defense, but Cincy’s 3 best wins over SMU, Memphis, and UCF are likely better than BYU’s (Boise State, Houston, and Navy). The issue for both is strength of schedule, as neither rank in the top 90 according to the Sagarin ratings. This could all work itself out, though, as the two schools both have an opening on December 5th and are rumored to be in talks for scheduling.

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Oregon: Oregon is 3-0, but how impressive have they looked? Their 3 wins came over Stanford (62 SP+), WSU (48), and UCLA (44) had an average margin of 12 points per game. BYU has beaten opponents with similar SP+ rankings in Troy (64), Houston (52), and Boise State (35) by a margin of 31 points per game.

Miami: The Hurricanes cannot be knocked for their loss to Clemson, but outside of that game, their resume lacks substance. Their best win is likely a 3 point win over 6-3 NCST, and they needed to squeak out wins over Va Tech, UVA, and Louisville who all have losing records. BYU has one close win vs. an inferior opponent in UTSA, but has otherwise been dominant.

Northwestern: The Wildcats are likely BYUs biggest threat in the NY6 at large discussion. Northwestern is coming hot off the heels of a 10 point win over then 10th ranked Wisconsin which vaulted them 6 spots in the AP poll. The Wildcats were overwhelming in a week 1 win over Maryland, but followed that up with single digit wins over Iowa, Nebraska, and Purdue who are all hovering around .500. NW clearly has a better win than BYU, but BYU has been much more dominant in their 9 games. Statistically, they have equally stellar defenses, but the Wildcats rank 95th in total offense to BYUs 8th.

Indiana: The Hoosiers have been the best storyline of the college season. However, their loss to Ohio State might look better to the committee, than any of their wins. Their wins over Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, and Rutgers look great on paper, but when you see that those 4 teams have 4 wins combined, their resumé leaves a bit to be desired. If one can overlook the name value of Indiana’s wins, BYUs win over a top 35 Boise team should hold more weight.

Georgia: 6-2 Georgia has one ranked win over Auburn, but their resume isn’t all that impressive otherwise. Florida and Alabama both beat the Bulldogs by 16+, and their two most recent wins were nail biters against sub .500 Miss State and Kentucky. Their defense is strong, but inconsistent QB play has hurt them all season. JT Daniels looked great in his first start, but remaining games over South Carolina and Vanderbilt shouldn’t be enough to push Georgia over an undefeated BYU.

Oklahoma: OU’s 2 losses hurt, especially Kansas State. Kansas State checks at 74 in the SP+, slightly ahead of BYU opponent WKU (82) but behind BYU opponents Troy, Houston, and Boise State. The Sooners have looked excellent the last few weeks, especially in their win over Oklahoma State, but they haven’t demonstrated BYU’s consistency throughout the season.

Iowa State: The Cyclones have faced a pretty brutal schedule featuring 3 teams currently ranked. The Cyclones stumbled out of the gate with a 31-14 loss to No. 23 Louisiana, upset No. 14 Oklahoma in week 5, but fell again to No. 21 Oklahoma State two weeks later. Despite those two losses though, a win on Friday against No. 20 Texas will keep them in the driver’s seat for a Big XII title. They a better win than BYU, but also 2 more losses, and the Cyclones 48th ranked defense would favor the explosive Cougars in a hypothetical match up.