by Daniel Olsen | I’m about to offend some BYU fans. I will try to be as positive as I can because BYU hasn’t won this many games in a long time. While I will give out some individual letter grades, I will start off right away by saying I think this season deserves an incomplete grade.
Right now most BYU fans are probably throwing their phones and screaming at me for my biased take. Hear me out though. If this was a pass/fail class like many college courses became in the aftermath of COVID, I would give the Cougars a passing grade.
I still think this resume is incomplete.
Why? We are left wondering what BYU would have done with their original schedule with six P5 teams on the slate. I think they still would have done well but we don’t know for sure. They went 7-6 in their previous two seasons. What changed? The schedule went from six P5 games to zero.
Is that BYU’s fault? Not entirely? They did everything they could to build a schedule from virtually nothing after most conferences opted to play a conference only schedule. Yes, Washington ran the smear campaign against them. BYU could have just said yes and let the game get cancelled like it ultimately would when they agreed to play Utah. The optics would have been better. Technically, BYU got an even better chance the following week when they scheduled a last minute game with Coastal Carolina.
While it is an incredibly biased committee, the truth is they, like me, also gave BYU an incomplete grade. Even had BYU gone undefeated, I’m not entirely convinced the Cougars would have gotten a New Year’s Six Bowl. If the Cougars had gone undefeated, I would be forced to give them an A with no questions asked. However, the Chanticleers put a blemish on their record that other teams just don’t have. Coastal Carolina, Cincinnati and even San Jose State are the undefeated G5 teams. BYU came one yard short of going undefeated.
Of all the words of tongue and pen, the saddest words are these: It might have been.
I will again compare this to a class following the pandemic. You are preparing to do well and then the pandemic hits. The teacher turns it into a pass/fail class as many do during this time. This allows you to finish the course without having hit hurt or help your GPA. You do poorly on a hard project that counts for a large portion of your grade. You planned it last minute and the chips fell where they did. You were so close to making it a good project but a couple typos and forgetting to cite sources at the end ruined it. While the teacher didn’t give you a letter grade, you still did enough to get a passing grade.
This is like the College Football Playoff Committee. They waited until BYU failed and still gave them a nice weather bowl game. It wasn’t an A level bowl game with a large payout though. The only person who really will earn a big payout from this bowl is Zach Wilson as we will see in his individual report card. As a team, if BYU goes 9-3 or better against the original schedule, it would be considered a much improved season. After watching this year, I just can’t give a letter grade for this report card because it’s unknown how BYU would have done. I will say Zach Wilson is a big reason for the significant improvement. How will the Cougars look without him once the courses go back to letter grades next year? We will find out.
Now that I have probably angered some BYU fans, allow me to bring some sunshine back into to your lives. The Cougars got their first win in the Sunshine State after going 0-8 there previously. I don’t want to be a “Daniel Downer” the day after the Cougars finished a great season. I only grade BYU as an incomplete (or pass) because it left a lot of unknowns for me. Again, I wish I knew where the committee would have put BYU with either their original schedule or had they gone undefeated against the schedule they put together.
Let’s give out some individual grades:
I have to give Zach Wilson an A+ as he made a vast improvement compared to the likes of Joe Burrow last year. He went from being a hobbled, better than average quarterback to a legitimate Heisman contender. While I think his finalist status will ultimately be thwarted by some P5 players due to his loss to Coastal Carolina, I do believe he will be one of the top quarterbacks selected in the 2021 NFL draft. The offense overall does not deserve an A but I’ll give them something close to it. Jeff Grimes called some amazing plays and the flea flicker touchdown was one of my favorite in the Boca Raton Bowl.
I can’t blame one player for the one loss but I do believe an A+ grade offense finds a way to beat Coastal Carolina. I think an A- is more than fair here. They scored 41.5 points per game which is good enough for 10th in the NCAA. It’s tough to say because they faced some pretty bad defenses (especially UCF) but I give BYU an A- here for lighting up the scoreboard virtually every night.
I know Tuiaki was getting a little more criticism than he deserved this year. His defense posed some question marks near the end of the year as they looked a bit shaken up for part of the San Diego State game and many Aztec fans gave the excuse that they would have ran all over BYU had the conditions not been as icy on the field. I don’t really buy that. BYU is a better team than the Aztecs and still put up more points than most in that game. I will give the defense a B because they looked a bit shaky following the loss to Coastal Carolina but they rebounded and the final project put them in a B+ status.
Maybe this is unfair because BYU allowed under 15 points per game on average which is a top five defense. However, I felt the defense faltered near the end when it counted most and gave up to much to a Coastal Carolina team that ran the clock too much. The defense should have gotten them off the field.
I have to give the Cougars an A+ this year. Somewhere Jonny Linehan is smiling. Kickers are people too and Jake Oldroyd was for sure one of the best kickers out there. Had he had the chance to kick more field goals, he would be the clear front runner for the most prestigious award for NCAA kickers: the Lou Groza Award. It’s a good problem to have though because BYU gets double the credit for a touchdown that they would for kicking the ball through the uprights. Oldroyd finished the year connecting on all 13 of his attempted field goals. That is just three shy of his mark the previous year with double the attempts. He connected on a variety of distances well. They ranged from 20 to over 50 yards. His only blemish was two missed PATs. I could be wrong but I believed at least one of those was blocked by no fault of his own. He is definitely called “The Make” for a reason so I’m giving Oldroyd an A grade with flying colors.
Overall, what grade am I giving BYU? I already told you. It’s still incomplete because there are too many unknowns. I will say I believe the Cougars had the potential to go 9-3 against the original schedule but that didn’t come to fruition. If BYU wants to be a G5 school then sure, give yourself an A grade for this crazy season. However, I think a passing grade is more than fair and it leaves the team hungry to build on this next year and prove the doubters wrong. The best way to quell G5 bias is to beat P5 teams. The Cougars didn’t have a chance to do that this year.
They will next year and we shall see what happens when the next QB takes his spot as the heir to Wilson’s throne.
Featured image courtesy Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports