After a long offseason filled with conference expansion rumors, NIL talk, the transfer portal and TV deals, the college football season is finally here. Heading into the season opener against USF, BYU is ranked no. 25 in the AP preseason poll. The game at USF will present a challenge for BYU: USF returns a lot of production and added 15 transfers from FBS this offseason. National voters, however, expect BYU to win as USF is coming off a 2-10 2021 season. Therefore, BYU will need help moving up in the polls in the second week. Here are five games that will affect BYU’s ranking in the AP poll if the Cougars beat USF.
1. #23 Cincinnati @ #19 Arkansas
September 3 | ESPN | 13:30 MT
No. 19 Arkansas will host no. 23 from Cincinnati in one of the best matchups of the first weekend. FPI gives Arkansas a 60% chance of winning. The loser of this game will be vulnerable to falling below BYU in the polls.
Notably, the Razorbacks travel to Provo to face BYU in October.
2. West Virginia @ #17 Pitt
September 1 | ESPN | 5:00 p.m. (Pacific Time)
Pitt and West Virginia renew a long-standing rivalry called the Backyard Brawl. This will be the first backyard fight since 2011. BYU fans can not only cheer for a future Big 12 teammate at WVU, they can cheer for a boost in the AP poll. FPI gives Pitt a 78% chance of winning.
3. #13 North Carolina State @ East Carolina
September 3 | ESPN | 10:00 a.m.
A lot of movement happens in the AP poll between week one and week two. For example, NC State’s in-state rival North Carolina was ranked no. 10 in preseason polls last season. After suffering a loss at Virginia Tech in the season opener, the Tar Heels fell to no. 24 in the following AP poll. Therefore, any team ranked outside the top 10 is vulnerable to falling below BYU in the polls with a loss. Enter the state of North Carolina.
NC State travels to East Carolina for a battle in state to start the 2022 season. NC State is favored by two scores, but SP+ gives East Carolina a 22% chance of pulling off the upset. East Carolina improved a lot last season going 7-5 with narrow road losses to South Carolina (20-17), UCF (20-16) and Houston (31-24 overtime).
4. #24 Houston @ UTSA
September 3 | CBSSN | 13:30 MT
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Future Big 12 teammate Houston faces a tough challenge on the road to start the 2022 season. SP+ gives the Red Cougars a 55% chance of beating a UTSA program that has been on the rise for the last two seasons.
Outside of the aforementioned games, the teams ranked 12-22 won’t face much of a challenge in Week 1, at least on paper. No. 21 Ole Miss, for example, houses Troy. No. 14 USC hosts Rice, no. 20 Kentucky hosts Miami (Ohio), no. 18 Wisconsin hosts the state of Illinois and no. 16 Miami hosts Bethune-Cookman. Crazier things have happened, but SP+ puts the probability at 78% that the five qualified teams will win in the first week.
5. Pennsylvania State at Purdue
September 1 | FOX | 6:00 p.m. (Pacific Time)
After the first week of last season, four teams jumped into the top 25. Of those four teams, UCLA made the most significant jump going from unranked to no. 16 after a win over LSU.
Every year, teams that win big games in week one outperform teams in the top 25. Penn State is a candidate to overtake BYU in the polls after week one. Penn State received votes and narrowly missed out on the top 25, and the Nittany Lions have a chance to impress AP voters with a road game at Purdue on national television.
Brands like Penn State (and Texas and LSU for that matter) are given the benefit of the doubt by many voters early in the season. If Penn State looks good against Purdue, expect the Nittany Lions to jump into the top 25 and potentially overtake BYU.
BONUS: Florida State vs. LSU
September 4 | ABC | 5:30 p.m. (Pacific Time)
The same Penn State-Purdue logic applies to Florida State-LSU. Florida State takes on LSU in a made-for-television matchup on Sunday night. This game is going to get a lot of attention, and LSU was already getting a lot of votes in the AP poll. Like Penn State, expect LSU to jump into the top 25 with a win.
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