After a long offseason full of conference expansion rumors, NIL talks, transfer portals 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 FBS transfers this offseason. National voters, however, expect BYU to win as USF is coming off a 2-10 season in 2021. Therefore, BYU will need help climbing the polls in Week 2. 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 Cincinnati in one of the best games of the opening weekend. FPI gives Arkansas a 60% chance to win. The loser of this game will be vulnerable to slipping below BYU in the polls.
Of note, the Razorbacks travel to Provo to face BYU in October.
2. West Virginia @ #17 Pitt
September 1 | ESPN | 17:00 MT
Pitt and West Virginia renew a long-standing rivalry called the Backyard Brawl. This will be the first Backyard Brawl since 2011. Not only can BYU fans cheer for a future Big 12 peer in WVU, they can also cheer for a boost in the AP poll. FPI gives Pitt a 78% chance to win.
3. #13 NC State @ East Carolina
September 3 | ESPN | 10:00 MT
A lot of movement happens in the AP poll between week one and week two. For example, North Carolina’s in-state rival NC State was ranked no. 10 in the preseason poll last season. After suffering a loss at Virginia Tech in the season opener, the Tar Heels fell clear to the no. 24 in the following AP poll. Therefore, any team ranked outside the top 10 is vulnerable to slipping below BYU in the polls with one loss. Enter the state of NC.
NC State travels to East Carolina for an in-state battle to start the 2022 season. NC State is favored by two scores, but SP+ gives East Carolina a 22% chance to pull off the upset. East Carolina improved greatly last season going 7-5 with close road losses to South Carolina (20-17), UCF (20-16) and Houston (31-24 OT).
4. #24 Houston @ UTSA
September 3 | CBSSN | 13:30 MT
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Big 12 seed Houston faces a tough road challenge to start the 2022 season. SP+ gives the Red Cougars a 55% chance to beat a UTSA program that has been on the rise over the past two seasons.
Outside of those aforementioned matchups, teams ranked 12-22 won’t face much of a challenge in Week 1, at least on paper. 21 Ole Miss, for example, hosts Troy. No. 14 USC hosts Rice, no. 20 Kentucky hosts Miami (Ohio), no. 18 Wisconsin hosts Illinois State, and no. 16 Miami hosts Bethune-Cookman. Crazier things have happened, but SP+ puts the probability at 78% for all five ranked teams to win in Week 1.
5. Penn State @ Purdue
September 1 | FOX | 6:00 PM MT
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 uncontested to no. 16 after a win over LSU.
Every year, teams that win big games in Week 1 move into the top 25. Penn State is a candidate to overtake BYU in the polls after the first week. Penn State received votes and narrowly missed making 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 early season voters. If Penn State looks good against Purdue, expect the Nittany Lions to jump into the top 25 and potentially leapfrog BYU.
BONUS: Florida State vs. LSU
September 4 | ABC | 17:30 MT
The same Penn State-Purdue logic applies to Florida State-LSU. Florida State takes on LSU in a made-for-TV game Sunday night. This game will 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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