BYU fortifying its College Football Playoff argument after September sweep of Pac-12

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When it comes to the topic of possible College Football Playoff crashers (i.e. a team from outside a Power 5 conference) all the discussion this year have centered on the University of Cincinnati. The Bearcats, after all, returned quarterback Desmond Ridder and the bulk of their starters from a 9-1 season.

UC has done its part so far, climbing to No. 8 in the AP poll and sitting at 3-0 heading into a critical trip to Notre Dame on Oct. 2.

Maybe it’s not the Bearcats who are the most likely interloper. Three weeks into the season and BYU, an independent, has three victories over Pac-12 opponents (Arizona, Utah and Arizona State). Jaren Hall has stepped in nicely for Zach Wilson at quarterback and the defense has been terrific.

Coach Kalani Sitake’s team is now ranked 15th by the AP, which carries no actual weight but does signify national respect. BYU was 23rd last week before its 27-17 victory over ASU on Saturday night.

Going unbeaten is extremely difficult, but BYU has shown to be the kind of team that can at least entertain it. The College Football Playoff committee may not want to include the Cougars in the four-team field, but a 12-0 team would have a very strong argument depending on how the top of the Power 5 leagues shake out.

It may still be September, but it’s worth wondering if BYU is a legit playoff contender. That’s one topic that was discussed on the "College Football Enquirer’s" Monday Overreaction podcast.

Buy or sell on BYU?

BYU coach Kalani Sitake gestures before the team's NCAA college football game against Arizona State on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
BYU coach Kalani Sitake is 3-0 after a September sweep of Pac-12 opponents. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

“We haven’t won by the biggest difference in score, but we grind it out from the beginning to the end,” Hall said. “Even when things feel down, I don’t think we ever lose our energy. This is a group of guys who love each other and love Coach Kalani and everything he teaches us. We’re bonded to this culture and it’s contagious. I think this is a different team than you’ve seen in the past at BYU.”

The Cougars were crowned national champions in 1984 but has just one top-10 AP poll finish since (1996). It went 11-1 last season, but much of that schedule was weak, a cobbled together slate due to COVID-19.

This is different. Three Pac-12 victories with the chance for more to come. BYU still has games against Power 5 teams Baylor, Washington State, Virginia and USC, not to mention rival Boise State.

That leaves the opportunity for seven Power 5 victories (and Boise). No, it’s not the meat grinder of the SEC West, but that’s a very favorable slate and far stronger than what most “mid-majors” bring to the table.

Of course, the Cougar's biggest victory this fall was securing membership in the Big 12 Conference starting next year, a nod to its sizable fan base and excellent potential as a program.

That’s the future though. The present is making a push for the playoffs. The committee may shut out the Cougars. But a 12-0 BYU team in December would be a very challenging discussion in that committee meeting, something that maybe no one outside of Provo thought possible this year.

Also discussed on this edition of the "College Football Enquirer:"

* Do close games featuring Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Clemson mean that the stranglehold on the playoff field might be loosening?

* A look at Alabama’s hard-fought victory over Florida.

* Penn State now owns victories over Wisconsin, Auburn and MAC favorite Ball State. Are the Nittany Lions the favorites in the Big Ten East? What about Michigan, a quick rising Michigan State program or even (gulp) Rutgers in that division?

* Cincinnati rallies to beat Indiana, keeps its title dreams in place.

* People’s Court: Should Notre Dame have let Purdue bring its giant drum into Notre Dame Stadium?

* BYU and the Playoff.

* The coveted Small Sample Heismans are handed out and we try to “Say Something Nice.”

Check it all out here.