If I could paraphrase Destiny’s Child circa 2001, “all the programs who INDEPENDENT, throw your hands up at me. All the A.D.s making money throw your hands up at me.” Or perhaps you recall Bill Pullman’s very rousing “Today, is our independence day!” speech from the 1996 blockbuster film.
That’s the spirit in Provo, Utah right now. They got a sweetheart TV deal from ESPN, and centralized their broadcasting rights back to the LDS Church. And that’s exactly why they could leave the MWC to go independent in the first place- their worldwide Mormon audience is a built-in fan base. (Mendenhall has said so himself) Exactly like Notre Dame and the Catholics.
Their independent schedule is pretty tough in the early going, whoops I almost said “non-conference” there. But they finished strong last year and have lots to build on.
2010 was: a slow start, but ended nicely. As soon as Coach Bronco Mendenhall fired his defensive coordinator, and took over calling signals himself, things improved drastically. And once the offense settled on Jake Heaps at QB, they woke up, scored a lot of points and won 6/8 that he started. However, the Cougars were very a unBYUlike 76th in passing last season. Remember this is the school that produced phenomenal passers like Steve Young, John Walsh, Robbie Bosco, Ty Detmer, Max Hall and their current offensive coordinator Brandon Doman.
BMOCs: Heaps, WR Cody Hoffman, RBs JJ Di Luigi and Joshua Quezada. NT Romney Fuga. I’m pretty sure if you’re named Romney and are part of a Mormon institution, you have a lot of clout.
2011 will be fruitful if: they figure out the 3/4 vacated spots in the secondary. The defense was pretty solid last year, but has some question marks this year. Plenty of talent, just not a lot of experience.
2011 will be awful if: They lose to Texas (clear eyes! full hearts!) and then bitter rival Utah beats them bad in the Holy War, which is not in late November for the first time in awhile. I don’t see Ole Miss as a threat at all in the opener, but week 2 and 3 could set a bad tone for the season if BYU struggles and drops both games. If Heaps is to become the legitimate NFL prospect so many think he will, then he has to keep that positive momentum from the end of 2010 going forward.
Bottom Line: The schedule is tougher for the program than usual. Which is great in the long run. Enough to get to 8-4? Only if Heaps captains a well-balanced ship on offense. And the passing game must improve. They play in Lavell Edwards Stadium! Cougar teams have to throw the ball early and often.
BYU Rankings: #34 Athlon, #40 Lindy’s, #27 Phil Steele
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
He does regular weekly radio spots in Chicago and Cleveland and has appeared on live shows all across the world from Houston to New Zealand. You can follow him on Twitter
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