PROVO, Utah – Now the attention will shift to Houston. Or perhaps Boise State or TCU. Those are the schools from non-power conferences still clinging to hopes of playing for the national championship – or at least a BCS bowl game.
The BYU Cougars?
Forget about it.
Just two weeks removed from its upset of Oklahoma, No. 7 Brigham Young wilted from the glare of the national spotlight during Saturday's 54-28 loss to unranked Florida State at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Even if the Cougars win their remaining games and finish 11-1, their chances of earning a BCS bowl berth are all but shot.
"Everybody was talking about it," quarterback Max Hall said. "Everyone said, 'Hey, if they go undefeated, why not give them a chance [to play for the national title]? ' We knew we had a chance to do something special.
"But you lose football games sometimes. That's just how it goes."
Saturday's setback couldn't have been any uglier for Brigham Young, which committed five turnovers and surrendered 512 yards to the Seminoles. Florida State – which had to rally to beat Jacksonville State a week ago – converted 12 of 15 times on third down and didn't have to punt until late in the third quarter.
"I was expecting a much tougher game," Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder said.
So was everyone else.
Brigham Young, after all, had won a school-record, 18 straight at home thanks in large part to Hall, who was considered a longshot Heisman candidate before Saturday. But Hall threw three interceptions against the Seminoles, forcing the Cougars' defense back onto the field to endure more punishment against a stronger, faster Florida State squad.
"It's actually embarrassing," BYU defensive end Jan Jorgensen said. "We take pride in being a physical defense and hitting hard and getting turnovers. Tonight we couldn't even make a tackle."
Although he was quick to praise the Seminoles, Jorgensen said Florida State was "no better than Oklahoma." The Cougars defeated the Sooners 14-13 in the season opener, although it should be noted that Heisman-winning quarterback Sam Bradford didn't play in the second half of that game because of a shoulder injury.
Brigham Young coach Bronco Mendenhall said his team played with more passion against Oklahoma than it did in Saturday's loss.
"[Florida State] was very well-prepared – both technically and schematically, but also emotionally," he said. "They played with more hunger and more desire.
"I didn't think they'd be able to move us off the line of scrimmage. Not only did they do that, they did it consistently."
The Seminoles led 30-14 at halftime and went up 37-14 after defensive back Greg Reid picked off Hall's pass and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown on the opening possession of the third quarter. BYU was never in it after that.
Mendenhall did his best to stay positive after the game, noting that BYU has won two Mountain West Conference championships during his tenure after beginning seasons 1-2. The Cougars are now 2-1.
Proud that they'd be after another league championship, BYU's players couldn't help but be disappointed that their opportunity at a BCS bowl game had been lost.
"We knew the Florida State game was a big game," Hall said. "We battled. We never quit. But in the end, they were the better football team – tonight – than we were."
While BYU is out of the picture, non-BCS schools such as Boise State, Houston and TCU are still very much alive in the quest for a berth in a BCS bowl game.
Boise State may be in the best position. Chris Peterson's squad has already defeated the toughest two opponents (Oregon and Fresno State) on its schedule, although a Nov. 27 home showdown against Nevada could be tough.
TCU has what appears to be a more difficult slate with road games still remaining against Clemson and BYU.
Houston is the most intriguing of the bunch.
The high-scoring Cougars, who feature one of the nation's top quarterbacks in Case Keenum, have already defeated an Oklahoma State squad that was ranked fifth. Next week they have a home game against Texas Tech, which gave Texas all it could handle before losing by 10 points Saturday in Austin.
If Houston can defeat the Red Raiders, it will have as good of a non-league resume as any team in the country – especially if it can continue its winning ways at Mississippi State on Oct. 10. Even more encouraging is that the Cougars' Conference USA schedule doesn't look all that imposing. It wouldn't shock anyone if Kevin Sumlin's squad goes undefeated in league play.
All of those possibilities, though, will be lost if Houston doesn't win its next game.
Just ask BYU.
- Boise State
- Brigham Young
- the Cougars