Steve Griffin
FILE: The Cougar bench explodes with excitement after a game tying Wisconsin kick sailed wide during the Wisconsin versus BYU football game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.

Kalani Sitake’s BYU players have become shoulder chip jockeys.

The Cougars are fully engaged in playing that card, going at it carrying chips on their shoulders.

BYU is built with guys who simply play better when disrespected, proclaimed as underdogs and play games away from LaVell Edwards Stadium. When experts dismiss them, BYU seems to rise. Sitake certainly has this as the platform to preach the us-against-the-world sermon this week.

The Cougars are 17-point underdogs to Washington this Saturday in Seattle.

Washington is not taking BYU lightly like Arizona and Wisconsin may have done in their own man caves.

If Sitake is looking for any fodder for his sermons this week, he has to look no further than the computers. Things plugged into the wall are not kind to the Cougars. Silicon motherboards are spitting at them, proclaiming they’re average as can be.

Computer rankings say the Cougars are not even the best team in this state.

ESPN’s Power Index has the Cougars No. 61 behind No. 37 Utah and No. 45 Utah State. That is a huge cyber disparity.

Jeff Sagarin, whose work has been a mainstay at USA Today for decades, has Utah ranked 30th, Utah State 51st and the Cougars 52nd.

Attorney Robert Garrick of Clayton, Missouri, found a computer guy named Aaron Mangel at aaronmangels.com who has the Cougars ranked 21.

Out of this vortex of data come actual people with some perspective.

Some Pac-12 Associated Press voters, covering a league that has a vested interest in BYU being ranked as high as possible for playoff decisions down the line, are an interesting flesh and blood turn as to who is ranked.

Michael Lev (Arizona Daily Star) had the Cougars ranked 16th while Jon Wilner (San Jose Mercury News), Adam Jude (Seattle Times) and Gary Horowitz (Salem, Oregon) have BYU ranked 18th on their ballots filed Sunday after the win over McNeese State. Utah sportscaster Tony Park had the Cougars 20th.

Assistant coach Ed Lamb on Monday said if you keep using the chip on the shoulder mantra every week, it isn’t realistic or credible. He said there is nothing better than plain old fashion concentration and effort. “I wish at times we had a little more motivation and heart and emotion, but the concentration and effort were there (against McNeese State), and that led to a solid win at least,” Lamb said.

If there is one thing going for the Cougars heading into this week’s game with the Huskies, it is that they left the field Saturday knowing they have a lot to work on. It was a similar scene after the loss to now undefeated and ranked Cal.

This week it was a pair of fumbles and other miscues.

The offensive coordinator said the biggest improvement on his side of the ball can be made with the passing game.

BYU struggles with the mid-range and deep pass game. Jeff Grimes sees a time the pass will be in dire need by this team in order to win.

“And it’s not just one position, it’s a collective effort. We’re not protecting, cleaning enough. The quarterback, at times, needs to go through his progressions sooner and get the ball to the right read quicker. At times we’ve not run the route quite as sharp as we could have, and then not always catching it as we need to as well.”

On Monday, I’m certain coaches had plenty on film to talk about reality heading into Seattle.

Then there’s this home thing. BYU was 1-5 at home before beating McNeese last Saturday. Of course, Boise State, Utah and Wisconsin were a part of that. But it is officially a thing.

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For some reason, BYU’s football team needs adversity to play better. When it spends a week after a win getting slapped on the back, hearing how good they’ve played and enter the stadium with devoted fans fawning all over them, they struggle to start fast, gather the emotion and fire up the passion.

You saw that against Cal and McNeese State and just a tinge of that to open the game at Arizona in the opener.

As Lamb said, there are different motivations every week. It is tough to play the same note of disrespect leading up to games.

But it does help this particular team when it plays with a chip on the shoulder, a feeling that there’s something to prove. As an independent, it has to be the mantra this week, because it’s true.