What’s next for BYU Football after a big win at Boise State?

No. 9 BYU broke the Smurf Turf curse on Nov. 6 with a 51-17 statement win over No. 21 Boise State.

The 8-0 Cougars solidified their place in the AP Top 10 with a No. 8 ranking following their first win in Boise, but fans and analysts now turn to the postseason possibilities and awards for this special BYU team with just two games remaining on the schedule.

College Football Playoff 

It is too early in the season for anyone to decide which four teams will book their places in the CFB Playoff, but BYU certainly can’t be counted out. ESPN’s College Gameday crew dedicated a large portion of its Saturday morning show on Nov. 7 to the Cougars’ path to the playoff.

“They’re winning games by an average of 45-13,” analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. “What else can you ask them to do? I don’t care what the schedule says. It’s about what you’re doing on the field, and they do everything.” 

COVID-19 has brought unique challenges to college football, including the way in which teams will be judged for playoff contention. The College Gameday crew discussed a number of different criteria for playoff teams, including strength of schedule, number of games played and overall record.

“Other than Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State, if BYU were to play anybody in the country, would you absolutely, 100% pick any other team in the country to beat BYU?” Chris “Bear” Fallica said on College Gameday. “Look, I give BYU a chance against anyone else in the country.”

The CFB Playoff Committee releases its first Top 25 rankings on Nov. 24, three days after BYU’s next game at LaVell Edwards Stadium against FCS team North Alabama.

New Year’s Six Bowl Game

The New Year’s Six (NY6) is an unofficial term used to describe the six most-coveted bowl games in college football: the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl, and Fiesta Bowl. If the Cougars do not make the CFB Playoff, they will more than likely book a ticket to one of college football’s hottest bowl games. ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura projects that Zach Wilson and the Cougars will play Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, 2021 in Phoenix.

BYU has certainly demonstrated that the team can compete with just about anybody in 2020. 

“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.”

BYU cannot be counted out of any postseason conversations at the moment. 

“(BYU is) a tough team all around,” Herbstreit said.“As teams keep losing, do not forget about BYU. They’re legit.”

Zach Wilson, right, and Tristen Hoge celebrate a play against Western Kentucky on Oct. 31. Wilson calls the Heisman Trophy a team award and deflects any attention and credit he receives to his teammates. (Addie Blacker)

Zach Wilson’s Heisman Candidacy

Wilson’s last appearance on the Smurf Turf prior to this season came when the young BYU prodigy threw a perfect 18-for-18 in the 2018 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. His teammate at the time, receiver Dylan Collie, had a bold prediction for Wilson following that performance that seems to ring true today.

“He set the bar for himself but I’ll set it even higher,” Collie said in 2018. “This kid will be one of the, if not the greatest, quarterback in BYU history.”

While some may disagree that Wilson will be the best quarterback in BYU history, the junior standout has unquestionably made a name for himself on the national stage. 

After winning at Boise State, Wilson is now the nation’s highest-graded quarterback with a 94.3 rating through eight games. The Heisman contender also leads the nation in rushing touchdowns among FBS quarterbacks this season with eight.

“It is a dream, but I always tell the guys on the team this when they bring it up: it is really a team award,” Wilson said on the Heisman attention. “No one is winning the Heisman if you are losing games.”

The Cougars’ perfect record certainly bodes well for Wilson’s Heisman candidacy, but the season isn’t over quite yet.

Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Alabama’s Mac Jones, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Florida’s Kyle Trask are all still in the running to book a room in the Heisman House, but Wilson is surely rising through the ranks to be one of the three or more finalists invited to New York in December.

BYU Athletics and other media outlets have begun a Heisman campaign for Wilson using the hashtag #W1lsonHe1sman. The team has created similar campaigns for players in the past such as Ty Detmer when the Cougars gave out “Heisman Ty” neckties to fans.

BYU Athletics and other media outlets are using the hashtag #W1lsonHe1sman in a campaign for Zach Wilson. Wilson is currently included in every major list of Heisman candidates.

BYU currently has two games remaining on its schedule: North Alabama on Nov. 21 and San Diego State on Dec. 12. While the Cougars have a bye week this week, BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe hinted that BYU may not be done scheduling games.

“Coug Nation, we’ve played seven games in a row,” Holmoe said. “With a game scheduled in two weeks, if we add a game this week that would make nine in a row. Kalani (Sitake) will use the bye this weekend wisely to strengthen the boys — in every way — for whatever lies ahead. Love your passion!” 

The team has open dates on Nov. 28 and Dec. 5 to potentially add an 11th or 12th game to a schedule that could use bolstering. Even if the opponents aren’t elite competition, more games will keep the Cougars in the national spotlight and on the minds of voters.

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