2007 RECORD: 11-2; Mountain West: 8-0
Won Las Vegas Bowl vs. UCLA 17-16
LOCATION: Provo, Utah
STADIUM: Lavell Edwards Stadium (64,045)
HEAD COACH: Bronco Mendenhall
OVERALL: 28-10 (3 seasons)
AT BYU: 28-10 (3 seasons)
In 2006, Utah crashed the BCS party. The Broncos of Boise St. broke through two years ago. Last year it was Hawaii that went big time bowling—could BYU be that team this year? The buzz around Provo and the rest of the nation is yes, they can! The Cougars went 11-2 for a second straight season, ending with a bowl win over a Pac-10 school each time (Oregon in 2006), but they are hoping for bigger and better things in 2008.
WHEN THE COUGS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Robert Anae (3rd Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 9
KEY LOSSES: Sete Aulai
The offense is stacked. QB Max Hall threw for 26 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards while leading the 14th ranked passing offense in the nation. His top targets are juniors WR Austin Collie and TE Dennis Pitta. Pitta is the prototypical BYU pass-catching tight end and Collie is one of those players with a knack for making the right play at the right time. Sophomore RB Harvey Unga was a revelation last season rushing for 1,227 yards and 13 scores, while adding another 655 yards and four TDs as a receiver (44 receptions). The skill players will be able to do what they do because of a stellar offensive line that returns four starters—they are experienced and tip the scales at over 1,600 pounds in total.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) OT Dallas Reynolds (SR), 2) OG Travis Bright (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jamie Hill (1st Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 3
KEY LOSSES: Bryan Kehl, Kelly Poppinga, Corby Hodgkiss, Ben Criddle, Markell Staffieri, Quinn Gooch, Kayle Buchanan
If you’re wondering why the Cougars aren’t ranked higher (No. 17 in the Coaches Poll), you need look no further than a defense that has to replace eight starters including their entire secondary and six of their top eight tacklers—all of which had at least 50 stops. The defensive line should be fine with junior ends Jan Jorgenson (14 sacks, 20 tackles for a loss) and Ian Dulan returning, however, the defensive back eight (they run a 3-4 defense) is loaded with question marks. Coach Mendenhall has faith they will be fine, just like their offense was last season when they replaced most of the unit—we’re talking a wait and see approach.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) DE Jan Jorgenson (JR), 2) LB David Nixon (SR)
To prove they are BCS-worthy they simply must play better against BCS opponents. Last season they dropped a week two contest at UCLA and two years ago, their two losses came at Arizona and at Boston College. This season, they play at Washington in week two then return home the following week to host UCLA. It won’t get easier for them in conference as they must make trips to Air Force, TCU and Utah in Mountain West play—all three were bowl teams in 2007.
The defensive back eight: BYU will score, so how they fare in stopping their opponents will dictate how far they will go. They must break in four new starters in the secondary, but linebackers Bryan Kehl (4th round pick of the NY Giants) and Kelly Poppinga will be the toughest to replace—the duo combined for more than 200 tackles last season. If they can adequately replace them, BYU may very well meet the lofty expectations many have; otherwise they may be a year away from that special season.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
With Hall, a sturdy offensive line and playmakers galore, the Cougars will have a chance every time they step on the field. However, their 10-game winning streak will be challenged early on—they are only 7-6 in September under Mendenhall. Ultimately, a tough road schedule will keep them from running the table and crashing that BCS party at the end of the season. They should make a fourth consecutive bowl game, but if they make a fourth straight trip to Sin City, the Mormon school will feel that lady luck is not on their side.
Friday, August 8, 2008
2007 RECORD: 11-2; Mountain West: 8-0