Ronald Reagan once said: "It is morning in America."
I say: "It is midnight in Provo." (At least for BYU football.)
While not officially over, the Bronco Mendenhall era of unprecedented consistency and success is most assuredly coming to an end.
The old adage of how the straw broke the camel's back is apt for BYU's upcoming season.
That straw is that Harvey Unga, the best running back in the history of BYU football (perhaps all of football), will not be returning for his senior season at BYU.
Unga was instrumental in all 11 of BYU's victories last season. Without him they wouldn't have had a chance to beat a team like Oklahoma.*
In fact, Mendenhall is a paltry 17-7 (71 percent) without Unga as his starting running back. With Unga he is 32-7 (86 percent).
But that doesn't come close to telling the whole story.
Mendenhall will have to break in a new starting QB. We all know how that turned out the last time: Max Hall became a pariah, never posting a record better than 11-2.
Most importantly may be the fact that BYU returns only four starters on defense. If no one steps up, BYU might have to play four men against 11 when they are on defense.
Mendenhall is a good coach, don't get me wrong, but he has never had much unexpected success at regrouping or reloading after a particularly successful season.**
Another reason not even to bother with BYU this year is that they might have the toughest schedule in the history of college football.
They open with a "home" game against Washington—a team that returns 20 starters and QB Jake Locker, who is projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the next NFL draft.
A win, even at home, would shock the world. BYU will be 0-1 for the first time in a long time, which will inevitably have a snowball effect.
Then BYU travels to Air Force the next week to face a team that returns six starters on an excellent defense, and nearly every single key skill position and rushing yard from their vaunted option rushing attack. Little doubt here: BYU will lose, and lose big.
Now they will be 0-2. Even if they were to face a team they should beat, they'd play not to lose, and probably lose.
Instead, BYU shouldn't even bother to make the trip down to Tallahassee to face Florida State. In Provo, BYU lost 54-28. Enough said.
So BYU will (inevitably) be 0-3 after their first three games. And that's before their unavoidable losses at Utah, at TCU, and most likely at home to a gritty underrated Nevada team; 6-6 might be the best even the most optimistic BYU fan could hope for.
Jim McMahon once said: "Happiness is seeing Provo in the rear-view mirror."
Jake Heaps will likely read McMahon's book and transfer to Washington; Mendenhall will look to cash in by moving to the NFL. BYU might decide to just scrap the school's football program all together.
BYU doesn't even have a chance in the 2010 season. They might be better off taking the year off completely and preparing exclusively for the 2011 season.
After realizing how hopeless BYU's situation really is, Bronco said the team "might" decide to field a football team this year.***
Some may be critical of such a statement, but I say that saying you "might" play when you have the cards stacked against you the way BYU does is one of the most courageous things I've ever heard a football coach say.
BYU's absolute best-case scenario would be to maybe go 7-5 and finish fourth in the conference behind Air Force, TCU, and Utah (and that's a stretch).
It will be much better for the mental health of BYU football fans if they just accept, right now, that going 10-2 or even being third in the conference just isn't going to happen this year. It will certainly be a down year.
*BYU beat Oklahoma 14-13 with Harvey Unga not playing a single down.
**Bronco has been 10-2 each of the past four seasons.
***This article is a satire. Enough said.