Monday, August 04, 2008

Prelude to a Season... #18

#18.) BYU

What You Need to Know: Most teams who lose 9 starters from a conference leading defensive unit would shy away from guaranteeing anything, much less crashing the BCS dance. But BYU isn't most teams. Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall did just that, labeling 2008 a "Quest for Perfection". There is reason to believe, though. While the defense is greatly depleted, the offense returns a solid line and star power at the skill positions. The same offense that led the conference in scoring, passing, and total offense last season.

Mendenhall has never had a losing season since taking over in Provo in 2005. His first year was his worst year, going 6-6. What followed that was two 11-win seasons and two final Top 20 rankings. The Cougars have established themselves as head-and-shoulders above their Mountain West Conference brethren. The bad news for them is that the Mountain West does not receive an automatic berth to the Bowl Championship Series.

It makes for interesting dramatics in Utah, and makes their out of conference games that much more important. For a program that will have to rely on not only their on the field success but also the losses of teams in front of them, word of mouth, and media coverage for poll votes in the BCS equation, the Cougars must make the most of games people will see to have any shot of being this year's Boise State or Hawaii.

Who You Need to Know and Their 07 Stats:
QB Max Hall: 3848 yds, 26 TD
RB Harvey Unga: 1840 all purpose yds, 17 total TD
WR Austin Collie: 946 yds, 7 TD

Game To Watch: The schedule for the Cougars is challenging without being brutal. Looming large on the agenda is back-to-back Pac10 foes Washington (9/6) on the road and UCLA (9/13) at home. Winning both those games could mean serious possibilities of the Cougars attracting even more national attention as a potential BCS crasher than they currently are receiving. October 16th is a road game against TCU, but the Cougs season may very will rest on the season finale against and at conference rival Utah on November 22.

They'll Do Well If...: Offensively, BYU is dominant. They return their leading passer, rusher, receiver, and 4 offensive line starters. The question is whether this is a rebuilding year or a reloading year on a defense which returns only 3 starters from a conference best defense in 2007. They have only one "warm-up" game (vs. Northern Iowa) before the aforementioned games against Washington and UCLA, so the learning curve will be steep. If the defense steps up early against UW and UCLA, it takes pressure off the offense to have to just outscore everyone, a daunting task week in and week out.

Season Outlook: Folks in Provo expect a Mountain West title, but most expect much more than that. Coming off the heels of Hawaii and Boise State contributing fireworks as a BCS outsider, many expect BYU in a BCS bowl game and potentially competing for a national championship. A national championship will be challenging, simply because of the number of good teams in front of them that will have to stumble at least once, but the Cougars are in a much better position at the start of the season than Boise State or Hawaii were to move up the rankings. Not having a marquee game against a Top 10 opponent hurts their chances for the big hardware, so expect a 10-2 record and an outside shot at a BCS bowl.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

This is probably the most honest and upbeat piece I've read on BYU this year outside of Utah. I enjoy your blog, keep it up.