Dick Harmon: How weighty is BYU's final 4-game finish?
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — Does this independent BYU November feel empty?
Is criticism of BYU's last four games, created hastily and under pressure, valid?
Well, I've taken my share of shots in the past week at BYU's last 10 games. But a closer examination shows this November mirrors every other November for the past 10 years for the Cougars.
But, in reality, nothing has changed that much — even in independence — sans the Utah rivalry game.
This year's final four games of the season (TCU, Idaho, New Mexico State and Hawaii) are actually better than a year ago when the Cougars went 3-1 against UNLV, Colorado State, New Mexico and Utah in the finale of the Mountain West era.
This year's final four games come against opponents with almost the exact win-loss record of each season for the previous 10 years.
In other words, this November is like any other in a decade. Is BYU's November 2011 horrible? Perhaps, but it is the norm for the past decade.
The final records of the last four teams played each season the past 10 years (2001 through 2010) is 241-242 or a win percentage record of .499.
In 2011, BYU's last four opponents are 19-21, or a win percentage record of .475. If you project out the last games for BYU's opponents, it is expected TCU, Idaho, New Mexico State and Hawaii will finish near .500.
If you look at the teams BYU has faced in the past 10 years that are below .500 as well as those above .500, it is interesting to note that the final records of those two groups are practically the same win-loss percentage as BYU's opponents in this year's final four games.
A year ago, BYU faced a 1-7 UNLV team that finished 2-11; a 3-7 CSU squad that finished 3-9; a 1-9 New Mexico disaster that finished 1-11 and a 9-2 Utah team that finished 10-3.
A year ago, the Cougars' last four opponents had the worst win-loss record (16-34, .320 win percentage) of any ending stretch of teams the Cougars played in the past decade.
Essentially, in BYU's last four games this year compared with 2010, they traded Utah for TCU but otherwise played a weaker final four games than this first year of independence.
What this clearly means is this final stretch of games is not as horrible as one might think. Last year beats it.
It means athletic director Tom Holmoe may have had a gun to his head to get a 2011 schedule in the 2010 summer of independence, but what he created — despite being torpedoed by the MWC — is a better November than a year ago.
That is something I didn't realize until the win-loss numbers were added up.
Holmoe's survival move wasn't all that bad. Not great, but better than the last year in a league.
Remember, that summer of independence, Holmoe was stymied in his Plan A, to create a schedule for 2011 by adding WAC teams. Remember, Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson, in a blitzkrieg move, took the WAC's Fresno State and Nevada within hours of BYU's announcement of independence. The MWC had already taken Boise State from the WAC for 2011.
This year, the Cougars faced a 6-2 TCU team that is now 8-2; Idaho was 2-7 before kickoff with BYU and is now 2-8; and New Mexico State, which is 4-6 going into Saturday's game. Hawaii stands 5-5 before playing Fresno State and Tulane, then faces the Cougars Dec. 3 in Aloha Stadium.
Right now, this year's final four opponents of 2011 were 17-20 (.460) at the time they faced the Cougars.
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