The following are my bold predictions for BYU's 2014 football season.
1. Anything less than 10 wins will be a massive disappointment.
Independence has been a serious struggle for BYU from a scheduling standpoint. Their opponents have gotten much worse since they decided to leave the MWC. The average quality of opponents seems much worse even than a soft MWC schedule. Schools like Savannah State, Cal and UNLV will do BYU no favors with the selection committee. Even the teams from the major conferences that BYU was able to schedule haven't been that impressive, Texas and Cal are both way down, and UCF is one of the players in a lackluster AAC, they really are the premier team on the schedule this year. It's O.K. for the Cougars to lose one or two, but the schedule really doesn't excuse losing more than two games, including the bowl. BYU should easily go 10-2, and 11-1 would seem more likely.
2. Bronco's clock management will cost the Cougars at least one game.
It's no secret that Bronco's clock management toward the end of the game needs work. Especially in big games where they may need to make up a deficit of two or more touchdowns. Rather than conserve the timeouts until a time when they'll really matter, he chooses to waste them on third and longs in his own territory, particularly when the team shows a rather dismal conversion rate on third and long in close games. Conserving those time outs would help the team move the ball using the entire field rather than just throwing the ball toward the sidelines and giving the corners help that way. His adherence to the old adage that a timeout lost is better than a five yard penalty will come back to bite the Cougars some time this season.
3. Jamaal Williams and Taysom Hill will combine for over 2,000 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns.
Williams and Hill combined for over 2,500 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. With a more experienced offensive line, it seems a fair estimate that they will exceed the touchdown total from the previous year. While a hopefully improved passing game may mean less overall rushing yards, it could also lead to more red zone opportunities, and therefore more rushing touchdowns.
4. BYU's defense will score at least two touchdowns.
BYU has always had opportunistic defenses under Mendenhall, and this should be no exception. Bills is a ball hawk as well as a big hitter, and the corner duo are physical and have a nose for the football. With a more athletic secondary than they've had in recent years, it stands to reason that the Cougars will win at least one game because of the defense's ability to score.
5. BYU will finish ranked in the final AP poll.
If all of the above happens, the Cougars should post a respectable 12-1 or 11-2 record with a bowl victory, and end up ranked in the AP, setting up a great position for the next season, and a great position for when the scheduling improves. If the Cougars can maintain the ten win level when their schedule includes opponents such as Michigan and Washington, teams returning to their previous prominence, BYU will be in a great position to make the playoffs, especially when they inevitably expand.