BYU Football: ESPN FPI has BYU favored against Utah, others

Dec 22, 2020; Boca Raton, Florida, USA; Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Neil Pau’u (2) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the UCF Knights during the first half at FAU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

BYU Football is currently favored to win five of the seven Power Five games in 2021.

It is crazy what happens when computers as opposed to humans rank teams like BYU Football. There is an almost unwritten rule for major sportswriters and analysts to not let G5 teams be favored to win games against P5 teams unless it is something like Cincinnati vs Kansas.

While there could be a lot of reasons for this including a lack research, protecting the brand, or just protecting themselves, BYU and other G5 teams around the country are told year after year that they can’t compete with the big boys and will likely lose most if not all of their games against P5 teams.

To give some credibility to this, I went back and looked at six different websites that feature game previews for BYU Football. Of those, against P5 teams BYU was favored to win the following:

  • Arizona – 5/6
  • Utah – 0/6
  • Arizona State 1/6
  • Baylor – 2/6
  • Washington State 3/6
  • Virginia – 2/6
  • USC – 0/6

In total, that is an average of a 2-4 record against P5 teams, something that BYU fans feel is a bit disrespectful coming off a season where the Cougars finished ranked 11th in the final AP poll.

But what happens when the human bias is taken out? What happens when computers that oddly enough are much more in depth and comprehensive than any human breakdown get involved?

The results are shocking.

Of BYU’s twelve games, the Cougars are favored to win ten of the games, including against wait for it, Utah.

While the computers can’t take in rivalry or emotional status of players entering a game (let’s be honest BYU has a huge monkey on their back to end the streak), it is interesting that when the computers break down the position groups and play style, the Cougars are actually favorites to win this game. I’ve searched long and hard for media outlets outside of Utah that are even giving BYU a slight bit of hope and there isn’t anything.

All in all, BYU is given a chance to win against (Bold are wins):

  • Arizona (84%)
  • Utah (53%)
  • Arizona State (55%)
  • USF (88%)
  • Utah State (88%)
  • Boise State (79%)
  • Baylor (42%)
  • Washington State (65%)
  • Virginia (63%)
  • Idaho State (99%)
  • Georgia Southern (68%)
  • USC (31%)

Takeaways

  1. Even though the Cougars are favored to win 10 of their games as of right now, we can’t get ahead of ourselves as fans. Just last year the Cougars were underdogs in the preseason to Boise State, Navy and Houston. They went on to beat those teams by a combined score of149-46. That alone says that not much stock can be put into the preseason FPI.
  2. It  should also be mentioned that five of the games are in the 50-70% win range. Barring some kind of miracle, BYU Football or any team for that matter in the same situation is not going to run the table. Essentially that would be like expecting a 60% free throw shooter to make five free throws in a row.
  3. If BYU were to follow this script, the Cougars would start off the season 6-0 and 10-1 before the USC game. Again this is a longshot, but if that were to happen, the BYU vs USC game would essentially be BYU’s Conference Championship game since the Cougars would almost certainly get in a NY6 with six P5 wins and an 11-1 overall record.
  4. Finally, it was very interesting that BYU is favored to beat Boise State (78%) more than Georgia Southern (68%). I’ve been saying it for months and I’ll say it again, the Georgia Southern game could be a really tough sneak game late in the season for BYU. With USC the week after and the Cougars having to travel to Georgia, I’m not shocked at all to see this game as a potential loss for BYU.