Loyal Cougars

Pinning down BYU Football’s relevance: Top 25 finishes

Among many measurements, Geoff Johnston offers T25R as a measure of program relevancy.

There has been a lot of talk about BYU football’s “relevance” lately amid discussions of ACC and SEC scheduling rules. Relevance is one of those overused and under-defined terms that college football fans and pundits love to throw around — especially in BYU’s case since going independent. The problem with under-defined terms is people tend to talk past each other when using them. So I thought I’d propose an objective relevance measure. Here goes:

T25R (Top 25 relevancy score)

This measure is based on the assumption that in any given season, a truly relevant college football team is a team that finishes ranked in the top 25. With that assumption in place we can create a pretty simple formula to come up with a relevancy score over any period of time. One such formula would be to take the final season ranking of a team and give the team points based on the ranking. For instance a final #1 ranking any given year would be worth 25 points. A final #2 ranking would be worth 24 points and so on down to 1 point for a #25 ranking. Any final ranking out of the top 25 is worth zero relevancy points in any given year with this formula. (When there are two polls we’ll take the higher of the two ranking numbers.)

Like I said, we’re keeping it simple.

With those rules for the formula in place, see below for relevancy scores of several sample schools. I chose a few top programs, a few doormats or average teams in Power 5 conferences, and a few programs that have been closely associated with BYU over the years:

1974-2013 (Last 40 years)

School # of top 25 finishes Relevancy Score
Alabama 29 541
Florida State 31 532
USC 26 448
BYU 18 210
Boise State* 9 148
TCU 9 112
Washington State 7 92
Utah 6 80
Oregon State 5 36
Indiana 2 13
Iowa State 2 10
Wake Forest 2 9

( * Boise State joined D1-A/FBS in 1996)

With this relevancy score model, you can choose any time period you want. For instance, here is the 2000-2013 with the same selection of schools:

2000-2013 (Last 14 years)

School # of top 25 finishes Relevancy Score
USC 9 192
Alabama 8 174
Boise State 9 148
Florida State 11 130
TCU 9 112
Utah 5 62
BYU 6 45
Oregon State 5 36
Washington State 2 33
Wake Forest 1 11
Iowa State 1 3
Indiana 0 0


These two charts seem to indicate a few things:

  • Being a member of a “Power 5” conference does not make a school relevant
  • Not being in a “Power 5” conference doesn’t stop a school from being relevant
  • BYU has been quite relevant in college football over the last four decades. BYU isn’t at Alabama or USC levels of relevant, but still relevant.
  • While BYU is not currently at an all-time high in its relevancy, the Cougars have still finished in the top 25 in 6 of 14 seasons this century. That’s better than the majority of “Power 5” teams can boast over that period
  • While BYU has finished in the top 25 a lot, it hasn’t finished in the top 15 very often so that drags down BYU’s relevancy score some in this model.
  • BYU’s closest peers this century, Utah, TCU, and Boise State, have all been impressive since 2000

BYU’s relevancy vs. the current Big 12

Since there has been a lot of talk recently about BYU and an alliance with the Big 12, I thought it would be useful see the relevancy scores of the current Big 12 schools and BYU over the same two time frames as listed above.

1974-2013 (Last 40 years)

School # of top 25 finishes Relevancy Score
Oklahoma 29 546
Texas 26 393
BYU 18 210
Kansas State 12 180
West Virginia 15 168
Oklahoma State 11 132
TCU 9 112
Baylor 8 106
Texas Tech 8 68
Kansas 3 40
Iowa State 2 10


2000-2013 (Last 14 years)

School # of top 25 finishes Relevancy Score
Oklahoma 13 232
Texas 11 201
TCU 9 112
West Virginia 7 79
Kansas State 5 77
Oklahoma State 5 59
BYU 6 45
Texas Tech 5 39
Baylor 2 37
Kansas 1 21
Iowa State 1 3


A couple of observations about the BYU vs. Big 12 teams relevancy:

  • No surprise that powerhouses like UT and OU are the clear leaders, but BYU coming in at a comfortable #3 relevancy score over the last 40 years would probably surprise some.
  • BYU has a middle of the pack relevancy score since the year 2000. BYU has more top 25 finishes than six of the ten teams this century but the Cougars’ relevancy score is dinged by several finishes in the 20-25 range.


I’m not saying one should use this particular objective relevancy measure every time a relevancy argument comes up. Nor am I saying this is a perfect way to measure relevancy. But do believe that measuring national relevancy by top 25 finishes has merit. I also contend that some kind of objective measurement of relevancy is better than none at all.


  1. Geoff Johnston

    May 19, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Thinking out loud… I think in version 2.0 of this model I would give more points for just making the top 25 at all. Maybe I’d tack on an extra 10 points for every top 25 appearance or something. This current, super simple formula in this post gives a little too much weight to top 10 finished and too little weight to 16-25 finishes.

  2. Geoff Johnston

    May 19, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Ok I tweaked the formula as I mentioned. Turns out it didn’t change the rankings above in any significant way. BYU’s ranks all stayed the same for instance. It did smooth out the numbers a little though so I think it would be a minor improvement on the formula.

  3. fatherT39

    May 19, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Maybe you should compare them to the ACC and SEC, the conferences that apparently have a problem with playing them.

  4. RVA_Coug

    May 19, 2014 at 11:54 am

    I’m a huge BYU fan, but this seems like you’re dreaming a bit. “Keeping it simple” is obviously going to benefit a team whose strength of schedule lands in the sixties and seventies way more often than the thirties. See this link: http://www.teamrankings.com/college-football/ranking/strength-of-schedule-by-team?rating_date=2007-01-09.
    It’s like I tell my friends who are Boise State fans: the WAC makes housecats look like mountain lions, and ponies look like stallions.

  5. CraigP

    May 19, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    RVA_Coug has a very valid point. Sure, Top 25 rankings are one way to measure relevance, and I used to hate this argument against BYU up until we went independent, but does anyone believe we’d have the same # of top 25 finishes if we competed in the Pac/Big-8,10,12 over that same time period? No way. Look how much more Utah and TCU have struggled since joining the big boys. We would do the same. AZ and ASU did the same after dominating the WAC 5 decades ago then moving to the PAC. Are we better than some Power 5 conf teams? Yes. Should we be snubbed by the P-5 conferences? No. But just claiming Top 25 rankings isn’t going to get us there.

    • that guy

      May 19, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      I think it would be interesting to look at how many 3 or 4 loss teams from power conferences end up in the same spot in the rankings a 1 or 2 loss BYU/Utah/TCU would end up in the MWC era. While SOS is a valid point to bring up, it is something that is already factored in with the voters and BCS computers. That’s why a 10-3 Stanford team is only raked one place behind a 12-1 UCF. #15 Louisville, with only one loss is behind only 6 teams with 12 wins… only two of those teams actually had more wins than Louisville. Strength of Schedule is an integral part of the voter’s rankings.

  6. Geoff Johnston

    May 19, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    While this strength of schedule issue RVA_Coug and CraigP bring up is a valid point, I don’t think it is a very persuasive argument against using the Top 25 as a barometer of relevancy.

    One good thing about the Top 25 polls is that they already do, to a large degree, take strength of schedule into account. That’s why an 11-1 MAC team might barely be cracking the top 25 while a 10-2 SEC team might be vying for the #1 spot. It’s not like pollsters don’t think about strength of schedule when they cast their weekly votes.

  7. Tennison

    May 19, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    How many top LDS recruits has BYU missed out on because they were not in the so called “big 5”. How big of an upgrade will BYU get in non-LDS players if they are in “the big 5”?
    Not sure on the non-lds players maybe a little. Lds players, I believe BYU has lost a few because of non- big five status.
    My opinion BYU should have been following the BSU, Utah, TCU scheduling model over the last 15 years. Play one BSC school and then try and run the MWC/ WAC. To me, winning more games with a lack of strength is better than losing 2 or three because you scheduled up. Look at TCU, Utah and BSU and maybe even Hawaii I don’t think they cared about winning a NT just get into a BCS game. All of them did it and two of them are in. To may BYU fans complaining about scheduling just play a manageable schedule. The reality is not may big schools are going to come to Provo, why would they. Playing them on the road is fine but be realistic. BYU has plenty of meat on the schedule this year, win them all and let the chips fall were they may.

  8. Pingback: The sky is still not falling on BYU football - Loyal Cougars

  9. Eric Allred

    August 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Good thinking in this article/formula. Regardless of SOS, it is not easy to stay in Top 25 on a consistent basis, which your 40-year model shows. If it was easy, then teams like Utah, TCU and Boise St would have been even higher over that period (as well as others playing in Conference USA, WAC, MWC, MAC, Big East, etc.) As has been stated, SOS and history are already components in voter’s calculus of worthiness of a team each year. One-hit wonders from any non Power 5 conference are not rewarded as richly as programs that have built a history of consistency. It is also why many 2-or-3 loss SEC teams are in the mix for Natl Champs and bare minimum Top 5-10 finishes.