PROVO — Even with a closer-than-expected win Saturday afternoon, BYU football keeps climbing.
The Cougars moved up two spots in the USA Today Coaches Poll, checking in at No. 13 nationally by the organization following a 27-20 win over Texas-San Antonio, while inching up one spot to No. 14 in the Associated Press Top 25 released Sunday morning.
BYU’s move was aided in both polls by a weekend of upsets, including losses by Miami, Tennessee and Virginia Tech, among others. The initial AP poll was released with BYU at No. 15, but was updated by the Associated Press about an hour later to show the Cougars at No. 14 with 15 more votes in the weekly points.
BYU has its highest ranking — and longest stint in the AP Top 25, at five weeks — since 2009, when the Cougars soared as high as No. 7 by the AP and No. 9 by the coaches. And though the 7-point win over the Roadrunners likely didn’t impress many voters in either polls, the Cougars are still 4-0 for the first time since 2014 — and that undefeated start to the schedule was rewarded.
“I take the responsibility of voting in the AP college football poll seriously,” Oklahoman sportswriter Ryan Aber said on Twitter. “I messed up this week, leaving off BYU after having them No. 12 a week ago. I meant to have them in that range this time, accidentally marked that I had them accounted for and didn’t. I’ll do better.”
I take the responsibility of voting in the AP college football poll seriously. I messed up this week, leaving off BYU after having them No. 12 a week ago. I meant to have them in that range this time, accidentally marked that I had them accounted for and didn’t. I’ll do better.
— Ryan Aber (@ryaber) October 11, 2020
That was just enough to inch BYU ahead of Auburn, 708-702 after the Tigers rallied for a 30-28 over Arkansas that came as quarterback Bo Nix’s late-game spike was judged to be intentional grounding instead of a fumble.
Much like Auburn, the Cougars will celebrate the win — no matter the flaws it exposed six weeks into a wild 2020 season.
“You’ve got to give UTSA a lot of credit. They came ready to play,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake told BYUtv. “We can play a lot better than this. This is a good wake-up call for us.
“Whatever the focus was wasn’t good enough, and that’s my job as head coach. But also, we won the game and we have to celebrate the win. The guys are coming off feeling bad about their performance because they care about the way they play. Although we’re appreciative that we won the game, I think these guys know that we can play a lot better, and we can build off this.”
The Cougars are followed by Auburn, Wisconsin, Oregon, Tennessee and SMU in the Coaches Poll, with Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame and Ohio State lead the poll.
BYU’s neighbors in the AP poll include No. 13 Miami, No. 14 Auburn, No. 16 Wisconsin, No. 17 SMU and No. 18 Tennessee, which lost 44-21 to No. 3 Georgia in over the weekend.
USC became the second Pac-12 team to enter the AP Top 25, sneaking in at No. 25 close to a month before the conference kicks off for the first time. Utah received 29 votes, nine spots outside the Top 25.
Air Force is the lone Mountain West team mentioned in the AP poll, receiving 12 votes. That league begins play Oct. 24 with a full round of games that includes Utah State’s road trip to Boise State. The Broncos will play at Air Force a week later before hosting BYU on Nov. 7.
So a one-score win over UTSA didn’t drop BYU in the rankings. But the Cougars know there will be plenty of mistakes to clean up to keep pace with the top teams in the country. Paraphrasing their head coach, the “wake-up call” will push BYU back into the film room and to the practice field.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game. We’re dancing right now, we’re 4-0 right now,” said BYU running back Tyler Allgeier, who ran for 116 yards and a touchdown against the Roadrunners. “But there’s always a lot to learn from this film.”
But first, the Cougars travel to Houston for Friday night’s road game against the red Cougars. Houston, which opened the season after several delayed starts with a 49-31 win over Tulane last Thursday, is expected to be the Provo Cougars’ most challenging test of the season to date, with ESPN’s FPI giving BYU a 52.3% chance to win.
“I can’t explain all of it, but that’s my job is to figure it out,” Sitake said after Saturday’s win. “It’s the mistakes we made, penalties, ball security, some miscommunication on defense.
“We’ve got to be a lot cleaner as a team. I look forward to getting on the film, and getting ready to play next week against Houston.”
That ranks the lowest of the Cougars’ remaining opponents, with Boise State trailing just slightly at 56.1%. ESPN gives BYU over 90% chances against Texas State, Western Kentucky and FCS North Alabama, and an 86.1% chance to win in the currently scheduled home finale Dec. 12 against San Diego State.
Kickoff Friday in Houston is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MT on ESPN2.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story reported BYU was ranked No. 15 in the AP Top 25. It has been updated to reflect a change in the Associated Press’ weekly college football poll.