BYU football and its "Quest for Perfection"

RBCCorrespondent IAugust 2, 2008
Recently, I was made aware of shirts being worn by BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall and his players that say “Quest for Perfection.”First of all, this surprised me. Having talked to Coach Mendenhall on many occasions, I know how much he hates looking ahead. Everything has to be a game at a time for him. So it seems a bit odd that he’s supporting such a message on his team’s shirts. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.Anyway, as I sat and thought abut the message, I started asking myself, “Is it possible? Could BYU actually have a perfect season?” It’s been established the last couple years that simply finishing 10-2 isn’t good enough for anything more than the Las Vegas Bowl for BYU. If BYU wants to be in a BCS game, they need to go undefeated. There’s simply no other way.But undefeated? That’s pretty hard for any team, no matter who they play.While it’s true that BYU does have a pretty soft schedule, they do still have some games that I believe will be very difficult to win. Here are they’re games, in order of difficulty:
12. Northern Iowa - This isn’t even a Division I-A team. Over the last couple years, Northern Iowa has established itself as having a semi-decent basketball program. But there’s no way it’s football program should in any way come close to defeating a Division I-A team. Expect BYU to win this game by at least 30.
11. @ Utah State - Utah State is indeed a Division I-A team, but they really shouldn’t be. The Aggies are 16-53 over the last six seasons. This should be another 30+ point victory.
10. UNLV - With a record of 8-38 in the last four seasons, the Runnin’ Rebels just aren’t very good. What’s worse is that in that four-year span, they’ve won just four games against Mountain West Conference opponents. The only reason this game is going to be easier than Utah State is because it’s at home.
9. Wyoming - This team went just 2-6 against MWC teams last season. If you want something else to consider, try this. The last time Wyoming came to Provo was in 2006. Wyoming entered the game with a record of 5-5 and boasted the fourth-best defense in all of Division I-A. BYU won 55-7. Something tells me, I just shouldn’t be too concerned about this one.
8. San Diego State - After defeating Utah in a thriller last season, BYU had one final game of the year. At San Diego State. Were the Aztecs any good? No. But some were afraid the Cougars may suffer a letdown. They didn’t. BYU won 48-27. The last time the Aztecs came to Provo, they lost 47-17. That was two years ago. If the BYU offense put up 48 on the Aztecs last year with a sophomore quarterback, a freshman running back and a freshman tight end AND on the road, just imagine what they’ll do to them this year. I say at least 60.
7. @ Colorado State - I have a tough time trying to rank Colorado State in relation to San Diego State, Wyoming and UNLV. Because honestly, all will be fairly easy. Colorado State went just 3-9 last year. But it is a road game, so what the heck. Maybe it will be a couple points closer than the last three.
6. New Mexico - I actually think New Mexico is a fairly decent team. Last year they went 9-4 including a win at Arizona and a win in its bowl game against Nevada. Still though, it’s all relative. They beat New Mexico State at home by just 10, Air Force and Colorado State at home by just three and San Diego State on the road by just three as well. They got shutout at TCU 37-0, got smacked at Utah 28-10 and even lost at UTEP, scoring just six points. BYU should win pretty easily. But maybe it will take them until the second quarter to pull away this time.
5. UCLA - After playing them twice last year, BYU is probably getting pretty sick of playing the Bruins. But the schedule is what it is. Both times these two teams met last year, BYU’s defense was pretty impressive. In the first meeting, which UCLA won 27-17 at the Rose Bowl, BYU allowed just 236 total yards. Ben Olson finished 13 of 28 for 126 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. In the second meeting, the Cougars allowed 316 total yards. Not as good, but still fairly impressive. After coming within 10 points of beating them in Pasadena, and then beating them on a neutral field in Las Vegas, I have little doubt the Cougars can handle the Bruins at home in ’08. I don’t anticipate a blowout, but I just don’t think UCLA has it in them.
4. @ Air Force - BYU has won four straight against Air Force, including two straight on their field. Air Force used to scare me when they ran that triple-option under Fisher DeBerry. But with their new coach, and their new offensive schemes, I look at this as being similar to the BYU @ New Mexico game last season. BYU should win, but it won’t be the easiest of games.
3. @ TCU - TCU led a pretty good offensive attack against the Cougars last year in Provo despite running a freshman quarterback onto the field to start. With this game being on the road, I don’t anticipate things getting any easier for the Cougars. If the Cougars want to win this game, they’ll have to play pretty solid defense.
2. @ Washington - For teams like USC and Oklahoma, this is one of the easier games on their schedule. For the Cougars, it’s one of the toughest. I think that speaks a lot about how difficult BYU’s schedule is going to be. BYU hasn’t defeated a Pac 10 team on the road since 2001 when it defeated a one-win California team. And with Jake Locker, who is said by many to be one of the best, if not the best, quarterback in the entire Pac 10, the Cougar defense is going to have a tough time. Especially considering the BYU defense is bringing back virtually no starters on defense, and I think it’s fair to assume the Huskies are going to score…. a lot. But Washington’s defense is horrible. They allowed more points-per-game last year than any of the two previous years under Tyrone Willingham. They have a new defensive coordinator, but is it enough? I just have to wonder. If Arizona and Washington State can roll into Husky Stadium and put up a combined 90 points, like they did last year, how many will Max Hall, Harvey Unga, Austin Collie and Dennis Pitta put up?
1. @ Utah - Hands down, the toughest game of the season. Not only is Utah going to be good this year, they’re going to be playing BYU at home. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is STILL probably having nightmares of 49-yard pass plays on 4th and 18. This is the final game of the season for both teams. If BYU comes into this game undefeated, and has a chance to make the BCS by beating Utah, well … you can just imagine how much both teams will want to win.
As I said above, this is a pretty soft schedule. There’s maybe three games on here I can see the Cougars losing. With most of their offensive starters returning from last year, this team is going to score a lot of points. The defense might be a bit shaky at the start of the season as they continue learning the schemes, but I expect it to get better as the season goes along. That may not bode well against Washington since the Huskies come early in the season, but if they can get through that game, they should just steadily improve the rest of the way.
Here’s the question I know is going to be asked though. If BYU goes undefeated, do they deserve a BCS game? Is this schedule hard enough to merit a BCS game? I would say it depends on how they win. If they win games like Boise State did in 2006, then yes. If they win games like Hawaii did last year, definitely no. The last thing I want to see is a vastly inferior BYU team go to the Orange Bowl and get decimated by LSU like Hawaii got embarrassed by Georgia last year. But if this team goes on the road and beats Utah, Washington, TCU and Air Force, as well as UCLA at home, I really don’t care how much they win by.
I guess what I don't like, more than anything else, are people acting the way I used to. I don't know how good BYU was in 2001. I thought they sucked, and I still think they sucked, but I couldn't for the life of me tell you why. I had to watch the Huskies go to Southern California, Nebraska, and tough places like that. It just seemed like BYU got off easy. I guess just looking at how they lost their last two games proved to me how overrated they were. But I think a lot of it was based on personal bias. I allowed the media to tell me what was correct instead of doing my own research and formulating my own opinions.
I know a lot of people who think that just because BYU is in a mid-major conference, they aren't that good. Newsflash. It's the team you have and how you play that makes you good or bad. Not the conference they're in. But just one final note. I was at the BYU/UCLA game last year in Pasadena. I was sitting in the upper bowl with diehard Bruins fans who were getting ready to piss their pants when the Cougars erased their 20-0 lead in just one quarter. I was there when BYU was trailing just 20-17 and Max Hall was driving the Cougars down deep in UCLA territory getting ready to put BYU ahead and believe me ... the people around me had NOTHING bad and everything good to say about BYU. I was in the UCLA locker room afterwards talking to Ben Olson who was counting his lucky stars that they won even though he played so horribly.So do I expect BYU to go perfect this season? I don't know. But I wouldn't be surprised. And if they do, nobody else should be either.