BYU’s football team can use any help it can get this season as it eyes a potential berth in a New Year’s Six bowl game and perhaps consideration for the College Football Playoff.
The Cougars, who were 6-0 and ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press Top 25 heading into Saturday night’s late game with Western Kentucky, didn’t get a lot of help earlier Saturday as far as their strength of schedule is concerned.
Several of BYU’s past opponents lost over the weekend, while a future opponent — No. 25 Boise State — beat Air Force 49-30 with a backup quarterback.
Starting QB Hank Bachmeier didn’t make the trip to Colorado Springs, but USC transfer Jack Sears was sensational and showed there won’t be much drop-off if Bachmeier can’t play next Friday when the Broncos host to the Cougars on the blue turf of Albertsons Stadium.
Sears threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns with just three incompletions all game.
So that’s the good news: Boise State will be undefeated and nationally ranked when BYU makes the trip to the Gem State.
The Troy Trojans also won, blistering Arkansas State 38-10 in Jonesboro as Jacob Free threw for 419 yards and two touchdowns.
Louisiana Tech improved to 4-3 with a 37-34 win over Alabama-Birmingham in overtime, outscoring the Blazers 6-3 in the extra session.
The bad news when BYU’s schedule is scrutinized in a few weeks when the first CFP rankings come out is that a couple of the teams that BYU defeated handily lost Saturday, while the only team to push the Cougars into the fourth quarter was blown out.
Most notably, BYU’s best win to date, that 43-26 win over Houston on Oct. 16, was tarnished a bit when the red Cougars were walloped 44-21 at home by Central Florida (4-2) and fell to 2-2 overall, 2-1 in the American Athletic Conference.
Houston quarterback Clayton Tune, who played well against BYU, was just 21 of 41 for 263 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.
Navy, a 55-3 loser to BYU in the opener, fell to No. 22 SMU in Dallas 51-37 and Texas State, which the Cougars beat 52-14, lost to Louisiana 44-34.
The UTSA Roadrunners, who tested BYU in a 27-20 loss on October 10, tumbled to 4-4 as Florida Atlantic shut them out in the second half and took a 24-3 win in Conference USA.
Boise State will have played only two games when BYU visits, while the Cougars will have played seven. The toll of the season is catching up to the Cougars, as four defensive contributors were held out Saturday against the Hilltoppers: defensive end Tyler Batty, linebackers Keenan Pili and Kavika Fonua and cornerback Chris Wilcox.
Coach Kalani Sitake told the BYU Radio Network before the game that the four defenders could be available next week, so none of the injuries are serious.
Two offensive players did return to the lineup, as receiver Gunner Romney (collarbone/AC joint) and center James Empey (ankle) came back after missing last week’s 52-14 win over Texas State.
The Toppers played without a couple significant contributors this season, backup quarterback Kevaris Thomas and wide receiver Dayton Wade.