Show Notes

Throughout August, we will be counting down the top 25 teams (as listed here) going into the 2009 season.  Today, we delve into BYU, our second Utah team in as many days.  It’s apparently Utah Week here at the Solid Verbal.  Apologies to Discovery Channel for upstaging Shark Week.

First Impressions

It is apparent after looking at BYU‘s 2009 schedule that the Cougars athletic department picked this season as the year it could potentially make a BCS splash.  Despite a shaky Mountain West schedule, which, as usual, features only Utah and TCU, the Cougs scheduled a neutral site game with Oklahoma to open its season and then a home game against Florida State two weeks later.  As our friend Phil Steele says in his publication, a 12-0 season for BYU could put them in the hunt for a BCS Championship.  Probable?  No.  But possible?  Boom goes the dynamite.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall might have the best name in college football (not counting Shavodrick Beaver, of course) and absolutely has the right attitude to raise BYU’s profile in the college football world.  This man wants to win a BCS championship, and though talk is cheap, he’s saying all the right things.

Last Year

BYU started 2008 with a 6-0 record, and hopes were high among Cougar fans that a Mountain West title and possible BCS bowl were in the cards.  However, after only beating hapless Washington by a 28-27 score in week two, the writing was on the wall for a deflating loss, which eventually came against No. 24 TCU.  All told, the Cougs finished 10-2, but you could argue that the record was more an aberration thanks to a weak conference — BYU’s two losses came against the only two ranked teams it played all year (the aforementioned TCU and, later, Utah).  To close out the year, BYU lost to Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl.  Though a 10-3 record is hardly embarrassing, the 2008 season was a failure due to sky-high expectations by BYU fans.

(Personal note: If you write anything remotely true but unflattering about BYU football, you will be inundated by e-mails.  I didn’t think it would happen, but it did.  BYU has a surprisingly loyal and outspoken fan base.)

People

Three words: Max Effin Hall.  Last year as a junior, Hall threw for over 3,900 yards and 35 touchdowns, adding to the reputation of BYU’s wide-open style of offense.  He’ll be throwing to several receivers who may or may not be returning from missions, as well as tight end Dennis Pitta, who logged a healthy 83 receptions and 1,083 yards in 2008.  He’ll be handing the ball off to Harvey Unga, an experienced back.  In short, his team will score points.  That’s not even a question.  On the defensive side of the ball, keep your ears open for DE Jan Jorgensen, the MWC’s all-time sacks leader and potential NFL draft pick.

This Year

Plain and simple, BYU will be tested early.  You have to give credit to the Cougs for scheduling tough non-conference opponents, and for taking a shot at jumping into the BCS discussion.  Max Hall seems poised for another monster year, and BYU‘s coach certainly has enough vim and vigor to convince this team that it can pull off a major upset.  Oklahoma is sure to be a tough opponent, but if this game should end up being a shootout, wouldn’t that play right into BYU‘s wheelhouse?  Just sayin’.

The more realistic expectation, of course, is for a Mountain West championship.  In order to do that, BYU needs to pound the creampuffs on its schedule and take down both TCU and Utah (like two of the last three years, as noted by a commenter).  This feels doable, but only if the Cougs can rebuild their offensive line and stop the pass… two essential elements in a pass-happy conference.

Conclusions

It’s tough to convince yourself that BYU is a legitimate contender that is capable of beating Oklahoma, Florida State and Utah in the same season.  Would love to see it, but recent history (read: last year) would indicate that it’s just not gonna happen against ranked opponents.  That said, Mendenhall has done a nice job recruiting fresh talent to Provo, and a Mountain West title would be a nice pick-me-up for a program with a dynamic coach at the helm.

Prediction

10-3

Highlights Set To Unfortunate Music

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDXFaWmVChg

–Ty