BYU Football 2011: 10 Bold Predictions for the Cougars' 2011 Season

Alex StrelnikovCorrespondent IISeptember 8, 2011

BYU Football 2011: 10 Bold Predictions for the Cougars' 2011 Season

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    BYU got by Ole Miss 17-13.

    Didn’t they?

    No they didn’t; they pulled a BYU and held back, winning 14-13, choosing to run out the clock as best they could instead of scoring and forcing the Rebels to run the length of the field to win. 

    Despite BYU playing like the old BYU of Mountain West days, we have to give them a break. They aren’t used to being independent and realizing points and style matter. If you play with the big boys, you have to at least score like the big boys do, and that means when you have the opportunity to kick a field goal, you do it.

    Then rely on your defense. No one knows that better this week than Utah State, which gave up two touchdowns in less than two minutes to Auburn. Ole Miss had the same potential. 

    In any case, the first game is out of the way, so let's look ahead.

    We can see that BYU has a defense, and a quarterback who gets hopped up and throws hot. They also have a fair running game, but hope they don’t rely too heavily on it to win games or pull them out of a tight spot. It is good enough, though, to give that young Elite 11 quarterback a chance to play some honest run/pass and pass-option football.

    That said, who will they be able to beat in the next 11 games?

Texas Longhorns in Austin

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    This could go either way. But BYU will be pumped.

    After Ole Miss, they will be full of themselves and on a roll. Texas will do everything it can to take the starch out of these upstart Cougars.

    Texas beat Rice 34-9, but did it ugly.

    BYU is no Rice.

    If BYU can get the tight ends involved in the game, and run for 125 yards, the formula will be there to win.

    Watch the fourth quarter: the defense that stymied Ole Miss will finally get to the Texas quarterback. No hysterics needed to win, just hold on in another close one.

    BYU 24-21.

    UPDATE: Well, sorry I missed this one. But I was close on the spread. I think Utah will be quagmire now, but, USC barely beat Minnesota, and hey, New Mexico State beat Minnesota, and USC barely beat Utah. So, there is hope to go with our change this year.

Utah Utes

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    Utah Utes—win No. 3.

    BYU nearly beat Utah last year with a freshman quarterback who didn't have a whole season under his belt, and the defense completely changed. But for just two plays, BYU would have beaten them.

    Nine of 11 offensive players return, and they are better, especially on the offensive line.

    The defense, as it showed against Ole Miss, can handle large linemen and a running game.

    Though close, BYU 35-24.

University of Central Florida Knights

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    A big unknown.

    How well will BYU do against the Knights? Here is a game you wish you didn’t have on your schedule this year.

    In 2010 the Knights beat some good teams, including Georgia in the Liberty Bowl. Got to love the Knights for beating a vaunted first-tier SEC team. Beating them makes the Knights look good. Maybe better than they are this year.

    Just how good are the Knights of UCF? To BYU, a giant unknown.

    But you can bet they will be taken as seriously as TCU, Texas and Ole Miss, as well as Utah and Utah State.

    The defense will be head hunting and the offense jittery. Look for two interceptions for Jake Heaps. A bad game, but coach Bronco Mendenhall will stick with him and win, maybe in overtime.

    This could be a break out game for Heaps; if so, add two more TDs for the young man.

    And no, they are not looking ahead for revenge against Utah State.

    BYU squeaks by: 24-20

Utah State Aggies

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    This is the revenge game.

    How embarrassing for BYU to lose last year. It caused the firing of no less than three coaches, including the head coach removing himself as head coach and taking over the defense. Now that is humility. Though he is still the head coach, it speaks of the man that can take responsibility and fix the problem. The buck stops with him. Kudos, coach.

    This week's game is full of responsibility, and he won’t mess up on this opportunity.

    The defense will "rise and shout." BYU should have won this game last year and will this year. Older and wiser, bigger and badder.

    Prediction? BYU's defense will prove they are better than Auburn's.

    BYU 42-21. 

San Jose State Spartans from the WAC in Provo

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    Finally, some relief. Win No. 5.

    The Spartans will be beaten up pretty well by time they get to this game. They could be 0 for 5. If they are lucky at New Mexico State, they could be 1-4. But don’t look for them to be better than that after UCLA, Stanford, Nevada and Colorado State get done with them.

    It won't be the altitude, or mountains, or wear and tear on them, but it will help as BYU will treat them no better.

    This could be BYU’s first shutout if Mendenhall will let them.

    If not, BYU 52-7

Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis

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    There is a real possibility the Beavers will be home, winless and nursing their wounds. A mad beaver is a dangerous animal, especially when you venture into his pond.

    This could be the upset week BYU is worried about most. They should be.

    No Pac-12 team is a pushover, and a winless Pac-12 team means some coach is about to be fired. Especially after seven losses last year, and losing to BYU 44-20 in a bowl game in 2009. That game wasn’t as close as the score shows.

    This game will be closer than the score will show. But with luck and an early October chill, BYU will pull this one out.

    With the last score of the game with 5:25 to go, BYU 30-27.

Idaho State Bengals Show Up in Provo for the Money

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    Win number 8. Thier defensive line is under sized, the offensive line is small, compared to Texas and Ol' Miss. BYU will enjoy this game. Look for over 250 yards on the ground.

    The first quarter will be fun and see BYU score 3 touchdowns, maybe all in the air, then the troops will head to the bench to be saved for TCU and the back ups will get a chance to mature. The quarterback depth chart will get experience and the tight ends will finally get their due in this game as they cross over the middle and take advantage of short line backers.

    Mendenhall will pull a BYU in this game, which is, run three times up the middle and punt on each possession until the game clock runs out. Prediction: BYU 45-10. Why not 60-0?

TCU Horned Frogs

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    Laugh it up, guys. Dalton is gone!

    After what will seem like a week off, BYU will come into Cowboy Stadium ready to play rock ’em sock ’em Texas-style football. Their second trip to the Lone Star State won’t be as rocky as the trip to Austin.

    Cowboy Stadium has been kind to the Cougars they beat No. 3 Oklahoma there in the 2009 season opener, the first game played in that stadium. It won’t be their last. TCU for its part has had its way with BYU, even embarrassingly.

    But, after getting its nose bloodied by Baylor, TCU will have taken out their frustrations on Air Force, ULM, and lowly Portland State; battled SMU and San Diego State; had a week of rest; and then faced the New Mexico Lobos for a scrimmage that will still count. That score could end up being 65-10.

    However, BYU by this point will not be the BYU that TCU has beat up on in previous years, and TCU seems to have lost their defense along with Andy Dalton.

    But look out, this will be a game won in the trenches, and a close one.  And Mendenhall will pull another BYU and try to run out the clock. An interception should seal the deal in the last 20 yards and two minutes for BYU. Hopefully.

    BYU 32-28.

Idaho Vandals

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    Though no cupcake, there will be plenty of icing in this game.

    If BYU loses to TCU, look out, Vandals—you will be vandalized by a raging monster of angry Cougars who just lost the opportunity for a BCS bowl game.

    You will be their No. 9 win in a total route. Or BYU win No. 10. And it won’t be pretty or close.

    BYU 55-17.

New Mexico State Aggies

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    BYU is now playing either for redemption or for a BCS bowl.

    If BYU get past Texas and TCU and the upset-minded Beavers, New Mexico will see more balls fly through the air than F-117 bombers fly out of Holloman AIr Force Base.

    BYU in a stunner. The defense scores twice, and back-up quarterback James Lark plays the entire fourth quarter, scoring twice, unintentionally.

    BYU 52-14

Hawaii Warriors

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    The Aloha State says hello to BYU, which bivouacs at BYU-Hawaii not far away. Taking in the Polynesian cultural center and a little private beach time, BYU now is either 11-0, and the cries for a BCS game are loud and clear throughout all the land—or they have been roughed up along the way.

    In either case, the Cougars will have fire in their eyes. Now the question is: can they can be rude enough to the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors?

    The Warriors, for their part? Well, they pretty well skated through Colorado, tangled with Washington, and beat up UNLV, UC Davis, Louisiana Tech, San Jose, New Mexico State, and Idaho.

    Now, depending on which Utah State shows up, they either had a walk over or met the team that nearly beat Auburn and got beat by BYU. Nevada may have had its way with Hawaii, so the BCS is now out for them. So at this point, they would love to spoil the Cougars' chance to capture their prize.

    BYU has too much on the line at this point, no matter what their record is. This game is either their launch to national prominence and a BCS bowl for the first time, or it is redemption for those that got away.

    In either case, it is against Hawaii, and the fight will be fierce as BYU goes for broke and airs it out.

    BYU 45-42. 

The Tally for the Year?

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    So there you have it.

    It could be good, it won't be bad, and there is only one ugly win. 

    Worst-case scenario: BYU goes 8-4 and has a maturing year so that everyone says, "Look out for next year." 

    Middle case: BYU goes 9-3 or 10-2 and gets an invite to a decent bowl, and everyone laments the "couple that got away."

    Best case: Pretty or ugly, in the end, BYU will claim that it’s not the scores, folks, it's the Ws. And they will have 12 wins under their belt in the first year of independence and will look for a BCS invite. Will they get it with quality wins over Ole Miss, Texas, Utah and Hawaii? 

    As for the bowl they will go to and how they will do there?

    Hey, take it one game at a time: let’s beat Texas first.