BYU Football: Realistic Expectations Going Forward
One of the consequences of playing four Power Five teams to start off the season is injuries and players getting banged up.
Ty'Son Williams and Zayne Anderson are out for the season. Chaz Ah You, Austin Lee and others are banged up and can miss playing time going forward. The team is tired, worn out and beat up. That is what happens when a team opens up the season against three ranked teams and an SEC school.
While some may argue for or against this kind of scheduling, it is the reality that BYU Football is in currently. Some look at the schedule and think that if BYU can take down Tennessee and USC they should be able to take care of every team remaining on their schedule without any problems.
Unfortunately, that isn't the case.
While Boise State may be the only team remaining that has a real case to be considered as good as BYU's first four opponents, BYU Football is in no way likely or favored to go on and finish out the season 7-1. Can it happen? Absolutely. Will it likely happen? Probably not.
BYU is one or two more players away from being a really vulnerable team on both sides of the ball. The running game can not afford another injury because Emmanuel Esukpa and Lopini Katoa are not good enough to make BYU a running threat by themselves. The defense is already looking depleted and another loss would just make the secondary that much weaker.
This is football though, and in likelihood there will be another player, if not two or three that get injured and miss the rest of the season. Suddenly explosive offenses like Toledo, Boise State, Utah State and even Liberty can be a tough task to handle.
On offense, while the receivers have been better than expected, they are not good enough against any team that drops seven to eight defenders. With no running game, teams like South Florida or San Diego State may be able to keep the game low scoring enough to put the Cougars on upset alert.
BYU has to do everything that they possibly can to keep the players healthy even if that means changing up gameplans to give key players more rest time.
How good is BYU?
I hate to have to say it, but do we even know how good this team is? On one hand you've got a team that beat a ranked USC team that just took down Utah, but on the other hand you've got a team that got blown out (yes blown out) by Utah and Washington and barely made it past a really REALLY bad Tennessee team.
For someone to believe that the Cougars are actually a really good or really bad team would be premature, even at this point in the season. Only time will tell, and hopefully it is for the better.
The Hawaii Bowl
This isn't the first time I've written about this and it probably won't be the last. Barring a complete meltdown of the team, BYU is going to finish with at least six wins. That means that they will be playing in the Hawaii Bowl. While the destination is great, the time, date and opponent are awful. The Cougars are projected to play a 6-6/7-5 MWC or AAC on Christmas Eve while most people will be having Christmas dinner.
Already knowing the destination can make things really complicated for BYU against some teams. Assuming BYU knows already that they should be able to take care of Idaho State, UMass and Liberty, that leaves only one more win to guarantee a spot in the bowl game. Is it possible that BYU lets their guard down a week or two as they know that their postseason is already locked up? Maybe not, but it is something to watch out for.
Since Kalani Sitake has taken over, the Cougars are 1-9 in rivalry games against Utah, Utah State and Boise State. While every season is different with different players, that is not a good statistic to have and it suggests that the odds of BYU going 2-0 against the two remaining rivals this season is not very high.
Personally, I do believe that BYU is in a position to go 2-0 in these games, but looking back at recent history is not something that be ignored.
I do believe that three of BYU's four toughest games are behind them and Boise State is the only team left that would be considered in the "really tough" games group. The Cougars will bounce back this weekend against Toledo but will struggle against South Florida. That game will be a one possession game that will come down to whoever makes less mistakes. Against Boise State and Utah State the Cougars will go 1-1 before finishing out the season 3-0 against the Liberty, UMass and Idaho State. The final game of the season will be a low scoring toss up game against San Diego State.
Overall, I've got BYU finishing 6-2 at best but more than likely 5-3 to finish out with an overall 7-5 year, or about where most experts had them finishing in the preseason.