My Bold Prediction for the BYU Cougars:
#1: BYU GOES BOWLING IN MIAMI.
How is that for bold? All they have to do is win six games and they go. Wyoming could do that against BYU's schedule this year. Colorado State could. In fact half the teams in the Mountain West could. The folks up the road who wear red and black may not be going to a bowl game but they could if they had BYU's schedule. I mention this because the boys in red are now considered a Power 5 team when most of the time for the last 30 years the boys in blue ran the red boys ragged. Nonetheless, BYU will be bowling and they won't, for whatever that will be worth.
#2: BYU WINS ITS BOWL GAME!
That's right you heard it here first. BYU will win its bowl game. It will be playing a middle of the pack AAC team. Perhaps a 7-5 SMU. BYU will be playing three AAC teams this year. So I predict since it will be playing a number three - five finisher, it will win its bowl game. I have to wonder if this will really help recruiting in Florida, or anywhere else. BYU could be facing a 6-6 team from a non-Power 5 conference. Even winning won't help it be considered a Power 5 team. But you heard it here first, BYU will win its bowl game.
#3: BYU WILL BE 12-0 UNDEFEATED!
Did I really say that? Yes, but only to get your attention. Can BYU go 12-0? Yes. Will they? No. I didn't mean to set you up that way (yes I did) but hey, let's be real. BYU has played some of the worst schedules in the last four years and come away beaten and bruised. Against Power 5 teams they are horrible. Against ranked Power 5 teams they don't even show up. Luckily BYU will be facing only three Power 5 teams this year and none of them will be ranked. If their average against Power 5 teams holds, they will win one out of three. Now which one of the three can BYU beat? That means BYU is already down 2.
The Power 5 teams will be interesting. The California game I give to BYU. That is because BYU will be facing cream puff competition the last half of the season and Cal will be facing Stanford, USC, an open date, Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA in the previous six weeks. That will not be fun. Injuries and fatigue will have hammered them. I give the Cal game to BYU.
Virginia. There is an interesting game. Virginia I give to BYU. BYU should have beaten Virginia last year but they were tentative, didn't know the offense, didn't know the routes, no tight end was involved and the big men up front for Virginia out muscled BYU in the rain and mud. This year is different. No rain storm, no lightning, no delay. BYU is more mature, a little bigger and a little stronger. Taysom is better prepared and BYU reportedly has a better offensive line. The O-Line is critical. If they can give Taysom one more second to throw the ball, BYU wins. Virginia is also pathetic west of the Mississippi. Wyoming beat Virginia 23-3 at home in 2007. Including 2007, Virginia has traveled west of the Mississippi three times and lost all three games. The only teams they have beaten in that period west of the Mississippi was Idaho, in Virginia, 21-20 in a squeaker, and BYU last year in a rainstorm.
Texas. I give this to Texas because I just can't buck the statistics and say BYU will beat three Power 5 teams in the same year. Not going to happen. But it could. Let me say, it could. Texas has been beaten up by its own coach. He has run them hard and put them away wet and when they couldn't do that he kicked them off the team. Those that have survived are leaner, harder, meaner, mad (mostly at the coach) and hot under the collar (it's been one of the hottest summers in Austin in years). But, the question is, has he run them too hard? The game in Austin is going to be hot. It could be in the upper 90s and anyone not in shape will be done by the third quarter. Pickle juice won't be helping anyone this game. You better be in shape and BYU better be wearing all white to beat the heat.
Last year wasn't an anomaly. BYU actually won that game. They took it to the Longhorns. The score was 40-21 and easily could have been 47, or 50-21. But for the syndrome known at BYU as "WDRUTS" (pronounced - wudruts), or in common parlor as, "we don't run up the score," BYU could have looked even better.
BYU has the chance to do it again. If Texas has been ridden too hard they won't be ready for an improved BYU. The difference will be David Ash, QB for Texas. Last year he got hurt. This is his senior year and has an opportunity to paste one on BYU and get a shot at the NFL draft. Fortunately the BYU defense has other plans and may be deeper this year than last. Texas won't be running over BYU like BYU did over Texas. That's not the problem. The problem will be Ash and throwing the ball.
This projection however is Texas wins, and Ash gets mentioned in the sports columns unless the D-Line of BYU shows up and shows up big. Here is the next big prediction.
#4 KAUFUSI GETS TWO SACKS AND THREE HURRIES AGAINST TEXAS
You heard it right. Kaufusi is going to have a breakout game against Texas. He will face offensive tackles that are actually bigger and heavier. But Kaufusi is going to run past them. He will be faster with faster feet and the spin move Van Noy taught him. He has been watching film. If prediction number four is right, BYU beats Texas.
I DIDN'T SAY THAT DID I? Yes. BYU can beat Texas. But alas. The heat will be the difference in the game and the score will favor Texas when the clock reads 00:00. Bummer. But it will be a good game and competitive to the end. Our hopes will be dashed around the 5:36 mark in the fourth quarter. Look for an interception.
#5 BYU WINS FOUR CUPCAKE GAMES
UNLV, Savannah State, Middle Tennessee State, and Nevada.
Those four wins plus Cal and Virginia make BYU bowl eligible. They are the cream puffs on the schedule that keeps BYU from being considered a Power 5 school. Take a look at the combined wins of those four teams not only for last year but the last 10 years and you have to wonder why BYU is playing them.
Middle Tennessee State six years ago was being threatened by the NCAA to be dropped to FCS status. To avoid that they had to have at least one game in the season with 10,000 in attendance. To do it they gave away free tickets and T-shirts. They got their 10,000 and stayed in the FBS. Seven years later are they any better? BYU should have scheduled Texas State and UT-San Antonio the day they both announced they were moving to FBS from FCS. Both schools are better than Middlin' Tennessee.
Savannah State is a complete embarrassment. What was Tom Holmoe thinking? Does Savannah State coming to BYU give BYU the type of exposure that they can recruit in Georgia, Florida or South Carolina? No. Will it also give BYU the attendance needed to show other teams the benefits of playing at BYU? I've checked. I can't find anyone in the sports casting industry hyping BYU-Savannah State. Most aren't even aware Savannah is coming to BYU.
BYU needs a better opponent policy: NO FCS team ever under any circumstances. NEVER! You can be Alabama or Michigan and play an FCS team that is OK. But BYU isn't Alabama and the reason it isn't a Power 5 team is because of its strength of schedule and wins against that schedule. A 96-0 win against Savannah State will get BYU nothing in terms of respect regarding being a Power 5 and anything less will look like BYU wasn't very good. It's a no-win win and a loss (don't worry, it won't happen, even with rain and lightning) would set BYU back to pre-LaVell Edwards days.
#6 BYU BEATS VISITORS WITHOUT MERCY
Utah State and Houston. Chuckie Keeton is good. Very good. Very, very good. The rest of the team is respectable and I think if they were playing a traditional rival adjacent to a salty lake they would win. If they were playing BYU at home I'd would probably have to put this game in the toss up column. At home BYU better be on their best game and come to rub it in or they are going to get caught. USU has an open date the week before BYU so they will be watching film and preparing for two weeks. They will have time to heal up after Tennessee beats them up. After Tennessee their next three games will be walkovers, and the "Chuckie Gone Wild" show. It will feature Idaho State, Wake Forest and Arkansas State. They all will be nothing more than tune ups to BYU. Go Aggies! Just don't let it go to your head on October 3rd. And wear a decent uniform will you? That grey is horrible for TV.
Houston. They were dangerous last year and BYU was in the heat and humidity. "But for" heroics BYU woulda shoulda lost that game. But that is just as much a part of the game as any completed pass, missed tackle or run back. I am giving this game to BYU because of altitude. Teams that come from the sticky wet climates come up to high dry and it throws off their timing, the arc of the ball, the strength needed to throw it down the field and most of all, oxygen to the lungs. Texas tried to prepare for that and found out it is real, very real. Houston will find out BYU's 12th man came from the first creation period of earth's history.
#7 UCF SPANKS BYU
UCF wants into the ACC but with 14 teams there is no chance. Same with the SEC. They would take the Big 12 if they could get an invite. So would BYU. This game could go a long way to proving either school's claim to fame. UCF will try to prove they can play with the big boys by taking aim at BYU. UCF is facing Penn State and Missouri in an effort to beef up their resume for admission. They have an open date between Penn State and Missouri. Very good scheduling. Then they have Bethune-Cookman as their cupcake game, an open date, Houston and then BYU. They will not be suffering at all by time they get BYU. Of note, UCF will be playing Penn State in Dublin, Ireland, which was a location suggested by this author the day BYU declared independence. A suggestion Holmoe has yet to read or act on. But then, UCF wants the type of exposure that makes their case. They want into a Power 5 conference and will do whatever it takes to get there. Unfortunately BYU is on the menu to make their case.
#8 THE WILD CARD: BOISE STATE
Here is the wild card. BYU doesn't do well against Boise State in Boise. They are 0-2. Ouch! Bad calls, blue field and blue uniforms, bad weather, bad throws, bad luck. Boise State has too many Mormons up there rooting for the wrong team. You name it. If you live in Idaho the saying is, "Do you know why BYU plays Idaho State? Because they can't beat Boise State." BYU and Boise compete for the same players and same teams to play. Boise under coach Chris Peterson was an awesome BCS buster. New coach Bryan Harsin, formerly of Arkansas State University, brings a new system. That may be good. Probably not. It is hard to repeat what Chris Peterson has done at Boise State. Harsin started his career at Eastern Oregon as the running backs coach. Look for a running game. Then to Boise State as a graduate assistant. Look for the same game plan Chris Peterson had. Then to Texas for two years. Look for the Texas running option. Can all that be put together in time for BYU? At Boise? Ahhhh... I doubt it. At Arkansas State he was 7-5 and 5-2 in the Sun Belt Conference. They did go to the Go-Daddy Bowl and beat Ball State 23-20.
Arkansas State's 2013 statistics showed the coach did't have the WDRUTS mentality. They opened beating UA-Pine Bluff 62-11, and it wasn't that close either. They scored 35 or more in six games. Look for them to pass the ball. Uh-oh. Boise State has done that to BYU before. So the question is: Can BYU defend the passing game plan of Boise State and the running game of Texas with the talent of Boise State? This one is tough. All the game film available, the experience, big time ball, success of Boise State, BYU's trouble up there on the blue turf.
Before we throw the towel onto the blue turf, BYU has it's own wild card. Taysom Hill, a receiving corps, a tight end, and a defense with Alani Fua, Bronson Faufusi and company. The team playing as a team. That will be BYU's wild card. And if they do that, BYU wins. Oh, if it's close, don't run for the two, pass option.
#9 THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST AND THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST
Connecticut. I want to say BYU beats Connecticut. I want to, I want to ... but. Last year they started the year by losing to Towson 33-18, and went down hill from there for the next eight games ending 3-9. They lost to UCF 62-17 and it wasn't that close. UCF is another team that doesn't have the WDRUTS virus. The worry about Connecticut is they got their act together in the last three games beating Temple, barely 28-21; Rutgers, barely 28-17; and Memphis in style, 45-10. However, Temple, Rutgers and Memphis doesn't have BYU's defense. Maybe combined, but not alone by any stretch of the imagination.
Given BYU's statistical propensity to start slow, and BYU is consistently not prepared for game one of the season... Wait for it... I only said that to get your attention. Nerves, travel, going a day early, phooey. The first game of the year BYU has been prepared. They have lost only one game since 2007 and only three from 2001-2013 including wins over Notre Dame and Oklahoma who was ranked.
Connecticut isn't Notre Dame or Oklahoma. It might be a Virginia, but BYU isn't the same team it was last year either. So can BYU beat Connecticut? Yes. I give this one to BYU. BYU beats Connecticut. Let's tally it up.
Wins: Connecticut, Houston, Virginia, Utah State, Nevada, Boise State, Middle Tennessee, UNLV, Savannah State and California.
Loses: Texas and UCF.
So there are my bold predictions: BYU 2014 10-2 regular season and with a bowl win they end the season 11-2.
And because of the strength of schedule no one will notice. They won't even be in the top 10. On the outside they will be in the top 15 if they can stick it to some of these teams and run up the score, and have a top 5 defense.
Go Cougars. Prove me wrong and win them all!