Though I hate not having a BYU football game this week, I am happy for the team to be able to “rest and heal,” as coach Bronco Mendenhall mentioned in his postgame press conference on KSL Radio.
For the die-hard Cougar fan — even without a game this weekend — there is plenty be thankful for. I am going to be watching BYU’s opponents of this season to gauge where the team stands.
The Virginia Cavaliers from the ACC are 2-6 with a recent loss to Georgia Tech. After beating BYU 19-16, they lost in a big way to University of Oregon. Virginia has lost five straight and still has big games coming up with Clemson (7-1), undefeated Miami, Fla., and Virginia Tech (6-2).
Texas, by many accounts, is not really Texas this year. Since BYU and Ole Miss clobbered them, the Longhorns have beaten Kansas State (3-4), Iowa State (1-6), Oklahoma (7-1) (didn’t see that one coming), and 3-5 Texas Christian University, which, I am sure, is still on an emotional high from leaving the Mountain West in its mediocre dust. With 18th-ranked Oklahoma State and fifth-ranked Baylor still on the Longhorns' horizon, it looks like a sad year for fans in burnt orange.
Not that I care. BYU still beat Texas. I have the shirt.
I don’t really remember anything that happened in the week after the Longhorns game. It’s all a blur. But that week's opponent is currently 4-4. Utah could still go to a bowl game if it wins two of the next four games, which is doable with predicted wins over Washington State (4-4) and Colorado (3-4) — which lucked out by having its game against 16th-ranked Fresno State (6-0, but have you looked at that schedule?) canceled due to weather. The Utes still have a game to play with the No. 2-ranked fluorescent-yellow Oregon Ducks on the road, and a home tilt against No. 25 Arizona State.
The Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State (4-4, third in their first year in the east division of Conference USA) were 3-1 before they played BYU and are 1-2 since. It looks as if Southern Miss will have the Blue Raiders for Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 23.
Georgia Tech (5-3) lost to Virginia Tech and Miami along with BYU. The Yellow Jackets killed Syracuse (3-4) at Bobby Dodd Stadium and play Georgia (4-3) for their last game of November. They recently beat Virginia 35-25, the only foe they had in common with the Cougars.
Utah State in Logan was a mighty fine win for the slightly darker-blue team. The Aggies have not had much luck this year with some close losses, as well as the unfortunate injury (truly) to Chuckie Keeton, the wonder QB.
Houston was undefeated before Bronco and Co. came to town and is currently 6-1. The other Cougars are poised for winning the American Athletic Conference title, with upcoming challenges from Louisville (7-1, 3-1 conference) and current conference leader Central Florida (6-1).
Boise State was missing its starting quarterback, though seeing the replacement against Nevada made BYU fans a bit nervous. Grant Hendrick brought his team from a 17-7 halftime score to win 34-17. Before BYU manhandled the Broncos, BSU had only lost games at Washington and at Fresno State (the Broncos being the Bulldogs' only real opponent this year).
The 5-3 boys from Idaho can end the year at 9-3 and go bowling with the best of them after games scheduled at Colorado State (4-4), San Diego State (3-4 ... oh, my, it lost to Fresno) with home games against Wyoming (4-4) and New Mexico (2-5).
Wisconsin, ranked 22nd, is coming up after the bye. At 5-2, the Badgers have lost to fourth-ranked Ohio State and Arizona State (5-2) — who plays Utah in November at Rice-Eccles. Other than their upcoming BYU game in Madison at Camp Randall Stadium, the only challenge the Badgers have going forward is an away contest against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-2).
What can you say about Idaho State but this: Mendenhall forgot to mention it Friday night after the Fight Hunger Bowl invited the Cougars to play for Christmas. I’m sure the coach meant no slight.
After all, BYU wonder kid Taysom Hill is from Pocatello. You can practically see ISU’s Minidome from Highland High School, where Hill led his team to a state championship in 2008.
Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish. Even in the worst of years, it is an honor and a privilege to play in South Bend, Ind., which the Cougars will do Nov. 23. Happy Thanksgiving. Then the Irish (6-2) get to fly to Stanford to play the Cardinals. Notre Dame losses have come at Michigan (6-1) — recently edged by the overachievers at Penn State — and at home against Oklahoma.
The Wolf Pack of Nevada (3-5) was slaughtered by UCLA in August and Florida State in September, for a combined score of 120-27. Nevada will have at least two wins under its belt when BYU comes a-visitin' in Reno for its last regular-season game. Bronco's boys will be the only bowl game the pack gets.
BYU’s football blessings on a bye week are too many to count. Even so, counting will keep fans busy until the next game.