Can BYU pull off a big upset in 2018?

BYU has recorded many big upsets in school history, like #1 Miami in 1990 (Source:

As the BYU Cougars football program rose to prominence, it developed a reputation of being giant slayers, for lack of a better term. BYU began beating nationally ranked powerhouses on a regular basis.
  • Texas A&M (1979 & 1996)
  • Pittsburgh (1984)
  • Miami (1990)
  • Penn State (1992)
  • Notre Dame (1994)
  • Oklahoma (2009)
Just to name a few. Therefore, when the Cougars have opponents who are expected to be highly ranked in the polls, it is natural to have thoughts of pulling off another big upset.

Although the Associated Press and USAToday pre-season Top 25 rankings have yet to be released, Washington and Wisconsin have appeared in or near the top 10 in many of the top 25 rankings that other publications have been put out. That includes Sporting News, Athlon, and the ESPN Football Power Index. Blue Cougar Football wanted to know if, even after the disappointing 4-9 season last year, Cougar fans think BYU will pull off the big upset against one of these, or another, school?

The official results to the poll question, "Will BYU pull off a big upset in 2018?" are below.
Official Result
39% No
26% Yes - Washington
23% Yes - Other (specify)
12% Yes - Wisconsin 
More than three fifths of respondents think BYU can pull off a "big upset" this season. Which school that will be is still up for debate. Despite the request, the 23 percent who voted for other did not specify. There was one reply specifying UMass, but that is assumed to be a tongue in cheek answer.

Utah and Boise State are probably the "other" schools voters have in mind. Maybe Arizona. Boise State is ranked number 19 in the Athlon Top 25. The Wildcats could be a surprise great team in college football this year, but it is unlikely they will be ranked for the season opener.

Not trying to discriminate, but at face value, it is hard to consider beating Utah and Boise State as a big upset. True, BYU hasn't beaten Utah since 2009, but most of the games have been very competitive. BYU has also had several one-point losses to Boise State along with a couple of wins. That series has been competitive. However, if either team is in the midst of a special season, so at the time of the game they are highly ranked, like Air Force in 1985, then a win can count as a big upset.

The best chances BYU has to upset Washington or Wisconsin is if either school goes into the game over confident and overlooking the Cougars. Wisconsin may be ripe for an upset under those conditions. BYU plays the Badgers in week three, and should be the toughest opponent up to that point. However, the Wisconsin players might not think that after the game in Provo last year. Wisconsin will open Big Ten play the next week at Iowa, so they may be looking ahead to that game a little.

Washington opens the season with a big game against Auburn, another consensus pre-season top 10 team. By game five when BYU travels to Seattle, Washington will already have two Pac-10 games under their belt. Maybe the Huskies will see this as a nice breather, at that point, and let their guard down, but with Chris Petersen as head coach that is highly unlikely. BYU's best chance in this game is if the Huskies are trying to recover from multiple key injuries.

Mixed in with the wins and one-point losses to Boise State have been some serious blowout losses (2003 and 2014). After three home games against Utah State, Hawai'i, and Northern Illinois, BYU could have found a groove. BYU never has seemed to be intimidated by the blue turf, so the chances for the (upset) win could be pretty good.

Utah at the end of the season is still BYU's best chance for a big upset, if it can be called that. Eventually, one of these games decided by one-play has to go BYU's way. Plus, it gives BYU all season to get used to the new offense Jeff Grimes is installing, and otherwise reach peak performance. Then again, until it actually happens maybe it isn't smart to say, in any form, the chances of beating Utah are good.

My vote will be yes, BYU will pull off a big upset.

I want to say the Cougs can do it at Wisconsin. I really think the memory of last year's game will have Wisconsin come out flat, and their quarterback isn't going to have as good of a game. It's statistically impossible, right? Has any college quarterback, ever, had two games in his career completing 95 percent of his passes with a pass efficiency rating over 275? Using the experience of last year, BYU should be better prepared to defend the run, too. The quarterback situation for BYU has to be better than last year. It is highly unlikely that whoever is the game one starter will be injured on the final play of the Cal game, and Kalani Sitake will have to resort to using a guy who has zero collegiate starts.

The game I am most confident BYU can win is a toss up between Boise State and Utah.

Thank you to everyone who voted. A breakdown of the votes from each polling source is below. Please vote in this week's poll: What "big news" do you most want to hear at BYU Football Media Day?

 Vote Breakdown 
26% (19)
12% (9)
 23% (17) 
39% (29)
 100% (74) 

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at


  1. Arizona and Cal are both likely to be favored, and USU and NIU might be as well (and both would be on a neutral field if the game was in week 1) so any of those could count as an upset.

    1. That may be true, but by big upset I'm thinking of a nationally ranked team, preferably top 15, not just being favored in Vegas.


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