BYU Football: Three crucial games coming for Kalani Sitake

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

BYU Football’s time under Kalani Sitake has been a rocky road, and his future with the Cougars could very well come down to the next three games.

Kalani Sitake’s future as the head coach of BYU Football could very well rest on the outcomes of these final three games of the regular season.

And there’s legitimate reason for that.

2017 was a bad season for the Cougars, there’s no way around that. The Cougars dropped seven straight games, most in pretty lopsided fashion. Then they lost a home game against UMass, one of the worst losses in the program’s modern history.

Fast forward a year.

The Cougars are travelling to take on that same UMass team, and they’re not much better this season. The Minutemen are 4-6, with their best win coming against Liberty.

It’s a game BYU should win.

Then comes Senior Night, when the Cougars will host New Mexico State. The Aggies are even worse than the Minutemen, sitting at 3-6. Their best win? Liberty.

Another game BYU should win.

Then comes the Holy War.

Utah should be favored in that game, and rightfully so. However, the BYU/Utah matchup almost always goes down to the wire, so there’s no telling what would happen.

So there you have it. Three more games, two that should be won. If Sitake and BYU can win two out of their last three games they’ll be bowl-eligible, and that would show enough improvement to put another year of faith in Kalani.

But if the Cougars can’t win two, especially when two of those games will be the easiest the Cougars have played all year, then it’s time to take a good hard look at the current coaching staff from top to bottom.

Winnable Games

One thing that BYU’s been good at doing historically (at least since the LaVell Edwards era began) is beating the teams that they should beat. The Cougars feasted on lower-quality opponents in the WAC from the 70’s to the 90’s, then continued that dominance over most of the MWC from 1996 to 2010.

Even in independence they’ve been able to beat the teams that they’re better than.

Until last year.

From the start of independence through 2016 the Cougars only lost four games against non-Power 5 teams (Boise State excluded), and three of them came in 2014 immediately after Taysom Hill’s injury.

From 2017 to now they’ve already lost six.

BYU was more talented than UMass last year. And East Carolina. And Utah State. Yet they lost all of those games.

This year the schedule has been tougher, and the only team they’ve played so far that they’ve been markedly more talented than is Northern Illinois.

And they lost.

When you start losing consistently to teams with less talent, that becomes a coaching problem.

Kalani and his staff have two more games left this season where they’ll be the much more talented team. A loss to one or both of them puts their ability to utilize that superior talent into question.

However, winning both of those games would go a long way in breaking that cycle of routinely losing games they shouldn’t.


If the Cougars lose at least two out of their last three, they’ll have finished the season with at least six losses in their last eight games.

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Teams traditionally should get better as the season progresses, barring serious injuries to key players. And while BYU has had their fair share of injuries, especially on defense, there haven’t been enough of them to excuse away a slide like that.

Early wins against Arizona and Wisconsin showcased BYU’s talent and came from a good gameplan. The Cougars haven’t been able to replicate that since, aside from Hawaii, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

Three-Game Trial

Cougar Nation has been behind Sitake, and no sane BYU fan wants to see a coaching change become necessary.

Yet Sitake was given a charge to show improvement this year. Six wins and a bowl game would show that improvement.

But anything less is questionable. Yes, one more win would technically be an improvement over last year, but the late-season slide would show a serious lack of in-season improvement at the same time.

Now’s the time for Sitake to show that he can handle being the head coach at BYU by beating the teams they should over the next two weeks.

If that happens, a Holy War win would be icing on the cake.