The Brigham Young Cougars just barely made it into the final USA Today Top 25 for 2011. They just barely missed the Associated Press (AP) Top 25.
BYU earned enough respect from the coaches (USA Today) to finish ranked number 25 with 79 points. The Cougars were comfortably ahead of Northern Illinois (36 points), but finished 65 points behind no. 24 Nebraska by 65 points (144).
The national media wasn’t so kind to BYU and its 10-3 record. BYU was the first team out of the top 25 with 51 points. No. 25 Cincinnati more than doubled that with 103 points.
Back in November, this site accurately predicted this outcome. BYU could have finished this year with a national ranking, but two things went wrong. First, the Cougars didn’t play well enough against Tulsa. BYU played well enough for the win, but not for a national ranking. Winning by three points with 11 seconds left is good entertainment value, but not good stock for the polls.
Second, not enough of the teams ahead of them lost. Cincinnati (10-3) held on to beat a then 6-6 Vanderbilt team 31-24 in the Liberty Bowl. BYU could have used an assist from Clemson as well. The Tigers played West Virginia, then ranked no. 23, in the Orange Bowl. In case you missed it, West Virginia made orange juice with Clemson, 70-33.
This is the first time that a 10-3 BYU team does not finish ranked in the final AP Top 25. With the no. 25 ranking in the USA Today, BYU continues to always be ranked by the coaches if it wins 10 games.
Five teams with an identical 10-3 record were ranked in the AP Top 25. No. 13 Baylor was ranked the highest. No. 19 Georgia (10-4), no. 22 Clemson (10-4), no. 23 Florida State (9-4), and no. 24 Nebraska (9-4) all finished ranked with a worse winning percentage than BYU.
I can’t say I was surprised. I was holding out hope that Nebraska would fall out and BYU would sneak in, but I have watched the top 25 long enough to know that was very, very unlikely. Now, my hope is that this serves as a wake up call to Bronco Mendenhall, his assistants, and his players. Even with 11 games on ESPN, even with a win in SEC country, and even with a bowl win they weren’t considered top 25 material by the people who follow the sport the closest. Bronco and company now have eight months to get ready to go prove these guys wrong.
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