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June 25, 2021

The only 9-0 team in the country, BYU holding steady at No. 8 nationally

PROVO — As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, the only 9-0 team in college football is giving thanks for a special season and a top-10 ranking.

BYU held steady in a largely unchanged week in the latest edition of both the Associated Press Top 25 and the USA Today/Amway Coaches Poll after a 66-14 win over FCS North Alabama on Saturday afternoon, keeping their top 10 status after completing all but one game of their currently scheduled 2020 season — and with a three-week break before the regular-season finale Dec. 12 against San Diego State.

The rankings released Sunday represent the final pairings before the College Football Playoff committee meets Tuesday to release their inaugural top 25, a group that determines the four-team playoff for college football’s national championship, as well as the remaining participants in the big-money New Year’s Six bowl games.

The top four of Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Clemson remained unchanged, as did No. 7 Cincinnati and No. 8 BYU in a week largely devoid of top-25 upsets.

The AP and Coaches Poll remained largely unchanged, with no changes in the top nine, Georgia inching up one spot to No. 10 in the Coaches Poll, and just five total teams losing ground. Oregon and Miami entered the AP’s top 10.

No. 21/22 Liberty was the only team to lose to an unranked opponent, falling from the ranks of the undefeated 15-14 by North Carolina State’s last-second blocked field goal.

BYU wide receiver Dax Milne makes a reception for a first down in the second quarter against North Alabama during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Jeff Swinger, Pool)

BYU is currently on pace, according to most projections like ESPN, to receive an at-large selection to the New Year’s Six. But is the playoff out of the question?

Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State have consistently been considered the top-four teams in the country as the initial rankings release approaches. But the Tigers already have one loss, and a potential second loss to the Irish in the ACC championship could push them out of the discussion entirely and leave room for another team to slip in.

SEC teams Florida and Texas A&M lurk closely, but the Gators could still face the top-ranked Tide in the conference title game and the Aggies already have a 52-24 loss to Alabama on their schedule, as well.

That leaves No. 7 Cincinnati and No. 8 BYU lurking in the wings, with the Bearcats — with their No. 9 total defense and third-ranked scoring defense — likely owning the inside track to the playoff, should those schools above them slip up. Cincinnati (8-0) still have games remaining at Temple this week and a road trip to No. 25 Tulsa on Dec. 12.

Both BYU and the Bearcats have an opening Dec. 5, though the Cougars also have a postponed matchup with Army that has not been announced as being made up. They could presumably add the Black Knights either of the next two weeks.

But ESPN projects Cincinnati with a 35% chance to make the playoff on its current schedule — without the Cougars. BYU’s odds fell to 14%, just behind Oregon and USC, in the latest projection.

As for the rest of the top 25, few changes are likely due to a slate of wins (and plenty of blowouts) within the top 25.

Other defeats include No. 9 Indiana’s 42-35 loss to No. 3 Ohio State, No. 14 Oklahoma State’s 41-13 loss to No. 18 Oklahoma, and No. 10 Wisconsin’s 17-7 loss to No. 19 Northwestern. Six teams also had games postponed by the pandemic, including No. 4 Clemson (Florida State), No. 5 Texas A&M (Ole Miss), No. 12 Miami (Georgia Tech) and No. 15 Marshall (Charlotte).

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Sean Walker

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