An LSU fan might look at BYU and see a lower-tiered football program, but that would be a mistake as BYU has had much success.
Coach LaVell Edwards is the coach largely responsible for the success. Before LaVell, BYU’s program had been a five-decade tire fire. Between 1922 and 1971 BYU had 173 wins, 225 losses, 15 ties, and only 1 conference title. During this slog, BYU never ended a season ranked.
In the 1960s, things began to look up with BYU achieving mediocrity. The program hovered around a 500 winning percentage for the decade under coach Tommy Hudspeth. After achieving this titanic feat, Hudspeth resigned in 1972 and one of his assistants, Edwards, replaced him.
Before arriving at BYU, Edwards had been a high school coach who ran the ultra-old-school single wing, literally one of the earliest offensive systems in football history.
Once he became the head coach at BYU in 1972, Edwards changed from atavistic offense to an Avant Guard offense. Simply put, Edwards’ BYU teams threw the ball, and threw it a lot.
Back then, very few teams threw much, and so BYU was an oddity.
But being odd can work, and it worked for BYU. Passing the ball helped result in a 257-101-3 record under Edwards (from 1972-2000). BYU was so prolific and skilled at throwing the ball that many young coaches studied the Cougars avidly, learning how to craft passing offenses.
For instance, Hal Mumme visited BYU several times while he was developing his Air Raid offense that has so greatly influenced modern college football.
In the context of BYU history, Edwards and BYU’s success was startling. Under Edwards, BYU won 19 conference and 1 national title, the last national title won by a non-Power Five team. Even more startling was that the program had only one losing season between 1972 and 2000.
This chart compares the Edwards’ Era with previous BYU history.
|Pre-Edwards (1922-1971)||Edwards (1972-2000)|
|Ranked at end of season||0||12|
While Edwards was at BYU, LSU had mixed results on the field.
In the 1970s and 1980s, LSU was solid to good, often winning 8, 9, and even 10 games. In the 1990s, though, LSU was the tire fire. LSU had a losing record in 7 of the 10 1990s seasons. Remember, between 1972 and 2000, BYU had 1 losing season.
The chart below compares LSU and BYU’s achievements between 1972 and 2000.
|LSU (1972-2000)||BYU & Edwards (1972-2000)|
|Ranked at end of season||10||11|
It’s important to note that LSU was competing in a much more difficult league (the SEC) against much more difficult opponents. But still, if LSU had played BYU during this stretch, it would have probably been a good game (unless it was during the 90s, then BYU probably would’ve won).
After Edwards, BYU did have some issues.
Initially, Gary Crowton continued the great tradition at BYU, going 12 and 2 and winning the conference in the first post-Edwards season.
But Crowton stumbled, had three straight losing seasons, was fired, and would eventually be LSU’s offensive coordinator for the 2007 national title team.
Bronco Mendenhall became the new coach in 2005 and did well instantly. Between 2005 and 2015 (when Mendenhall left), BYU was ranked at the end of the season 4 times, won their conference twice, had no losing seasons, and had double digit wins in 5 seasons.
LSU was of course having an even higher level of success during this period, winning conference and national championships.
Mendenhall left for Virginia, and now Kalani Sitake is BYU’s coach. They went 9 and 4 in his first season, continuing the programs history of solid play.
Regardless of how well or poorly the Cougars plays against the Tigers, it should be remembered that BYU is an extremely successful, consistent, and even revolutionary program.
LSU’s first meeting with the men from Provo should be an occasion for respect and enjoyment, but hopefully more enjoyment for LSU than BYU.
 BYU went independent in 2011, otherwise they may have won more conference titles.