Whether you blame it on injuries, the weather, the coaching or the refs, there’s no way escaping that the Cougars had an embarrassing 4-9 season last year that they are unaccustomed to experiencing in Provo. The loyal and true in the royal blue will need to have faith and support their team this year even when the going gets tough if they are going to get their program off and running. It’s time to break things down with the game by game predictions for each of their scheduled 12 games.
Game 1 at Arizona Wildcats in Tucson Arizona:
Of all the power 5 opponents, this might be the power 5 opponent the Cougars have the best chance against. The Cougars beat the Wildcats two years ago in the NFL stadium of the Arizona Cardinals. Jake Oldroyd 33 yard field goal sealed the victory.
This year Kevin Sumlin is bringing his talents from the football haven of the SEC to the Wild West desert of Tucson. Expect to see him grind it out on defense and push the pace on offense just like he did with “Johnny Football” at Texas A&M. It will be close and the Cougars starting QB and new look coaching personnel make them a dark horse for this game but expect the Wildcats to go for revenge on their home turf.
Wildcats 18 BYU 16 (2016 score in reverse)
Game 2 Home opener vs Cal Golden Bears:
If the Cougars weren’t starting with such a daunting schedule against consecutive Power 5 teams I would predict they would finish favorably. If Tanner can start to resemble his freshman season they have a chance but so far he has only beaten one Power 5 team on a 2015 Hail Mary vs Nebraska to start the season and be thrust into the national spotlight.
Cal is hosting North Carolina in week 1 before traveling to Provo for Week 2 so expect a loud crowd of the faithful and fair weather fans in early September but in the end the Bears win by double digits and Sitake goes back on the hot seat. If Taysom had another year I’d take the Cougars but with him gone and nobody as a proven replacement I think the days of Cougars beating Power 5 teams on a regular basis are mostly over in the near future. Stay tuned for some sleeper picks later on in the season though…
Bears 31 BYU 17
Game 3: BYU tries to “Jump Around” at Wisconsin to turn their season around:
It’s no use. Wisconsin will blow them out at home like they did last year in Provo.
Badgers 49 Cougars 0
Game 4 How about beating them Division 2 McNeese State Cowboys at LES?
Hey, the Cougars will take any W they can get at this point just like they took the surprisingly close game against the small Portland State team to start the season last year. Expect a big win in this game to give them some confidence.
BYU 31 McNeese State 3
Game 5 BYU at Washington Huskies
Washington is a favorite to win the North Division and the PAC-12 title so they will use their confidence and beat he Cougars in their purple palace with Heisman hopeful quarterback Jake Browning under center.
Huskies 31 BYU 14
Game 6 Old Wagon Wheel Battle hosting the Utah State Aggies: Expect at least BYU’s starting quarterback to be injured at this point and another quarterback to get injured in this game as has been customary for the last 7 years in this rivalry. My hot take: USU wins if Critchlow plays and BYU wins if Zach Wilson plays more than half of the game, preferably the second half. I think at this point of the season Tanner will be banged up with minor injuries and rest to keep his perfect 2-0 career record vs the Aggies entact. It will be close in Provo but I think the Aggies finally win a close rivalry game to hype themselves up for some close Mountain West Ganes.
BYU 21 USU 22 Jordan gets some extra “Love” on a two point conversion attempt to win the game the same way Taysom almost did against the Utes.
Game 7 Cougars say Aloha to the Rainbow Warriors: Hawaii hasn’t been good since Colt Brennan was a Heisman finalist in 2007. The Cougars are at home. Expect the Polynesian Cougar fans to cheer for both teams but eventually BYU will say Aloha (meaning Bye Felicia!) to the Rainbow Warriors with a ground and pound style that was rarely seen last year. At this point the Cougars will be 2-5 and there will be little room for error if they want to go bowling.
BYU 31 Hawaii 13
Game 8: BYU vs the Huskies (of Northern Illinois this time)
Northern Illinois has had its shining moments with Heisman candidate quarterback Jordan Lynch in 2013 but they haven’t been super relevant in the national landscape since the Utah State Aggies beat them in the Poinsettia Bowl. Expect a similar result by another Beehive State team as the Cougars feel the need to belong in a bowl just like Honey Nut Cheerios!
Game 9 BYU at Boise State on the Smurf Turf:
Boise is always the favorite to come out of the Mountain Division in the Mountain West Conference and such will be the case again this year. BYU has had a rough time beating Boise since Tanner’s deja vu Hail Mary against them the week after his Nebraska miracle win in 2015. Boise narrowly edged BYU in Boise in 2016 and beat them soundly in Provo last year.
BYU will work hard in this game knowing that they will probably have to beat their rival at the end of the season to go bowling. This will be to no avail though. It will be a single digit game but Boise will score a classless touchdown late instead of running out the clock to win by double digits.
Boise State 31 BYU 17
Game #10 Cougars praying for bowl eligibility by the minute vs the Minutemen:
The revenge tour starts at Gillette Stadium, home of one of the greatest quarterback/coach duos ever in Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. The UMass Minutemen are not a good team and have not been for quite some time. If BYU wants to go bowling they have to be a good team which requires winning this game on the road. The Cougars will win just barely by double digits to keep their postseason hopes alive.
BYU 31 UMass 21
Game #11 No problem with “Those other Aggies” BYU 38 NMSU 21:
While the rivalry with the Aggies of Logan, Utah has been bitter the last 4 years with both teams taking 2 games a piece, there is no reason why the Cougars shouldn’t easily handle their newest foe in the “Unconference” of Independence. BYU gets another double digit win of 38-21 improve to 5-6 with a chance for bowling Thanksgiving weekend against their rival Utes in…..
Game #12 BYU’s values are Faith, Family and “Flip the Utes” in The Holy War:
Finish your leftover Thanksgiving Turkey and pumpkin pie, get your Black Friday shopping done for your annoying relatives at Bath and Body Works, and buckle up for The Holy War across I-15 in Salt Lake City. The Royal Blue heads 45 minutes north to face the Running Ute red. By this point the Utes’ fate in the PAC-12 South standings will be set and they will only be playing for pride and to keep their winning streak alive vs BYU. The last few games have been close and this year should be no exception. Look for a heated defensive contest as Tanner Mangum plays his final game as a Cougar in hopes that he can be the first quarterback in almost a decade to beat the Utes.
Let’s make the story better: By this point the Utes’ only loss is to Washington. If they win they have the chance to play for the College Football Playoff. If they lose they will still have the chance to make it to the Rose Bowl as a two loss PAC-12 champ.
Look for the game to come down to one last drive for BYU to go bowling. In past years BYU would choke under pressure but the personnel is different and assistant coach Aaron Roderick and head coach Sitake are familiar with the Utes after previously working on their staff.
Tanner’s career at BYU started with a Hail Mary game winner and it will end with a Hail Mary game winner that will be almost as epic as Beck to Harline. Nothing can replace Beck to Harline in the Cougar lore of the Holy War but a win here will erase the drought for the Cougars and sting for the Utes just as it did last year when the Cougars ended their basketball drought against the Utes as well.
Final Score: Cougars 24 Utes 23
It’s too early to predict bowl matchup results but mark it in your calendars. The Cougars will be going bowling this year on Christmas vacation! 6-6 should get it done with this schedule regardless of how many other bowl eligible teams there are. They have more bowls than your mother-in-law has in her kitchen cupboard these days!