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2012 College Football Win Totals: BYU Cougars

2012 College Football Win Totals: BYU Cougars

BYU won 9 regular season games last year, and capped off their season with a 24-21 win over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl. 5Dimes has set BYU’s 2012 college football win totals at over 8.5 (-105) and under 8.5 (-135). 

Helping us preview the Cougars and project their 2012 college football win totals is Scott from the BYU football website Blue Cougar Football.

BYU’s main strengths this season? LB/Run D, WR, P & Leadership

2012 college football win totals - BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy

BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy

The strongest position group on defense for BYU is the linebackers. The four projected starters combined for 246 tackles last year. The two seniors, Brandon Ogletree and Uona Kaveinga are considered by many as being among the top 20 middle linebackers in the country. Junior Kyle Van Noy has incredible athleticism and, literally, did everything last year. There wasn’t a single statistical category that he missed, including touchdowns scored. There is a reason why these three are on the watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Butkus, and Lombardi Awards.

The Cougar D has been good at stopping the run under Mendenhall. Since 2005, BYU has averaged 5.4 games per year holding opponents to less than 100 yards rushing. This year’s team should be no different, especially if the new starters in the secondary are as good as expected.

On offense, wide receiver is the strength. Junior Cody Hoffman (61 receptions, 943 yards, 10 touchdowns) solidified himself as the number one threat in 2011. He made several clutch grabs last year. If he was in the vicinity of a ball, he would get it. Improvement is expected from sophomore Ross Apo who had 34 receptions for 453 yards and 9 touchdowns a year ago. The third option is slot receiver JD Falslev. Besides running superb routes, he has great hands. He was best on the team last year with only one drop.

Punting has been a forte for the Cougars, and head coach Bronco Mendenhall has used it to manipulate field position. Winning the field position battle directly helped BYU win at least two games last year.

Outside specific positions, leadership should be considered a strength. Senior quarterback Riley Nelson may have his weaknesses, but he is an exceptional leader that the team has gravitated to. He brings a confidence and a swagger to the team that enables the Cougars to get the job done, even when it doesn’t seem possible.

Is the BYU offense a weakness this year?

The offensive line has built a reputation of being underachievers. On paper, the O-line has all the tools to be great, but they have not been the dominating force that has been expected. Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman criticized them for being overweight this off season. Overall, the unit seems to lack tenacity. There needs to be more fire in their bellies to go out and hit somebody.

Running back is another area BYU is weak. The Cougars do not have a bona fide rushing threat. Junior Michael Alisa was a surprise off the bench a year ago, but questions still remain whether he can be the feature back that has been missing the last two years. Behind Alisa is virtually zero college football experience. Junior Joshua Quezada made a surprising decision to transfer just two weeks ago. Quarterback Riley Nelson’s mobility should help the run game, but BYU absolutely needs Alisa or one of two freshmen (Adam Hine, Jamaal Williams) to be legit.

2012 college football win totals - BYU QB Riley Nelson

BYU QB Riley Nelson

Quarterback Riley Nelson needs to answer questions about his ability to effectively throw the ball against better defenses, especially against defenses that are able to take away his ability to make plays with his legs. Tulsa did this pretty well in the Armed Forced Bowl last year, and Nelson finished the day just 17-40 for 250 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

Turnovers have been a big weakness for BYU since 2008. Anytime BYU has had a “big” game the last four seasons, BYU has wilted under pressure and turned the ball over several times.

Schedule Analysis

Many see the 2012 BYU schedule as a four game schedule: at Utah (Sept. 15), at Boise State (Sept. 20), at Notre Dame (Oct. 20), and at Georgia Tech (Oct. 27). These are the four toughest opponents, and they are all on the road. None of these games is a guaranteed loss, but the Cougars will most likely be underdogs in each.

Utah and Boise State are not long road trips, but only five day’s in between is brutal. The only time BYU has played on the blue turf (2004), they lost a heartbreaker 28-27 on a missed field goal with less than a minute to play.

Notre Dame and Georgia Tech are two longer road games back-to-back. BYU has had two other series with Notre Dame, but the Cougars have never won the first game of the series. A win in 1994 is the only time BYU has won in South Bend.

Over the years, BYU has prided itself in shutting down the option when they played Air Force. However, the Falcons never had the type of players that Georgia Tech has.

BYU will be favored to win the rest of their games, but four could be closer than expected: Washington State, Hawaii, Utah State, and Oregon State.

BYU’s 2012 College Football Win Totals: 8 or 9 ?

There are a few other interesting tidbits that could influence the outcome of BYU games this season. Take them for what they are worth.

BYU is planning to move to a more up tempo offense and met with coaches from Oregon this off season.

BYU is loaded with seniors (29 to be exact).

BYU’s defensive strategy is often to take away one phase of the game (passing or running) and force a team to beat them using the other.

BYU may be underdogs in four very difficult road games this season, but with a talented and experienced roster, I believe the Cougars will “upset” at least one of these four teams. The remainder of the schedule is manageable, but as Scott pointed out, there are still some tough games where the Cougars could stumble. I don’t see BYU winning less than 8 games this season. But that 9th win could be tough. Let me know what you think of BYU’s chances of going over or under 8.5 wins this year. 

– Pez.


14 Responses to “2012 College Football Win Totals: BYU Cougars”

  1. GoSooners GoSooners says:

    I think BYU wins at least 8 games this year. Keep in mind that in the 7 years that Bronco Menehall has been there, in 5 of those seasons they had 10 wins. So they have a more than capable head coach of getting them there. And their QB Nelson really impresses me. He is a very unpredictable QB when he gets back in the pocket. Remember his fake spike and TD throw against Tulsa in the bowl last year? The kid has game. He reminds me a little of Tebow in that he can take off and hurt you with the run, but with better mechanics for passing the ball.

    BYU may not be hurting at RB as much as people think. Both of their RB’s are good slashing type runners. And very quick. In fact he has the fastest pair of RB’s in school history. The BYU defense also came of age in the last half of last season. And I think they will be very tough to move the ball against this year.

    The only thing that I’ve seen the Cougs have problem with is when they get up against teams with a lot of team speed. TCU exposed them a bit last year, even though BYU did give them a tough game. But outside of Oregon, and maybe Notre Dame, I believe all of the rest of their games are winnable. Will they win them all? No, but one upset here or there and the Cougs could be looking as high as a 9 win season. I don’t see them throwing in anymore stinker performances like they did against Utah last year. So I don’t really see any unexpected upsets from the games they are supposed to win. But I believe BYU will be a live dog in some of their games, and will end up once again being a good cover team this year.

  2. Pezgordo Pezgordo says:

    GS, we are in agreement on BYU winning at least 8 games, but I am not a big Riley Nelson fan. I saw him play 3 times last year (SJSU, TCU and Tulsa) and the guy is (was) a terrible passer. He’s a tough kid and a good leader and can definitely make things happen with his feet, but passing is not his strong suite.

    Another thing that would make me hesitant to think BYU can win more than 8 games is the fact they won 4 games last year where they were outplayed (Ole Miss, UCF, Utah State & Tulsa). As we have discussed with K-State, it is tough to carry over that type of “luck” from one season to another.

  3. GoSooners GoSooners says:

    Still Pez, Nelson doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. I admit he could get his completetion percentage up, but his TD/INT ratio was good considering he wasn’t put into the lineup until midseason. With the exception of their bowl game with Tulsa, all of those games you mentioned where they got outplayed were when Jake Heaps was still QB. BYU did get outplayed by Tulsa, but they did what they had to do to win the game. The Nelson/Hoffman combination was pretty deadly and really hurt Tulsa in the second half of that game. If those two pitch/catch this season like they did in that bowl game, they could go a long ways and surprise some people.

    The thing I like the most about BYU is they have most of their major components back from a top 15 defense. So by all rights they should be even better on that side of the ball this season. My main concern with the team isn’t the RB situation, but the offensive line. It is still very much a work in progress. And if they don’t have their lineup solidified by the fall, they won’t have a chance to beat Utah or Boise early in the season.

  4. Pezgordo Pezgordo says:

    GS, I thought he started the SJSU game after throwing the winning TD in the Utah State game. He for sure started TCU and the bowl game.

    I also think Tulsa lost that game more than BYU won it. The Tulsa HC made several bad calls to lose that game. Especially allowing his PR to field the ball inside his own 10 yard line at the end of the first half (less than 20 seconds to go in the half I believe, up 14-3).

    But as far as the BYU D goes, I absolutely agree, they should be salty.

    Still tough to see this team winning more than one of those 4 away games against Bose and the 3 BCS opponents. In fact I would say Boise is probably their best shot of the three.

    I do agree that they may waste WSU and Leach in the opener. Oregon State will also be a tough game, but they at least get them in Provo. And I know everyone is overlooking their game at SJSU, but the Spartans played them pretty tough in Provo last year.

  5. GoSooners GoSooners says:

    Pez, Nelson came off the bench in the Utah State game and won it for them. It was almost like a complete transistion for the offense when Heaps went out of the game. Nelson came in and showed real leadership, and the offense showed much more energy. So it’s not all about just his ability to pass the ball. I think if BYU has problems this season, it’s not going to be because of Nelson.

    There are two things they have to overcome this year. They have to get better on the OL and running game. They need to bring their average yards per game up from 155 to around 175 or more to be effective. Especially when they go on the road where time of possession becomes important.

    Their defense was very good LY. Anytime a team allows under 200 yards per game against both the run and pass in today’s game, that’s pretty good. But the other thing they’ll have to overcome this year is their schedule. They’ll be playing 6 BCS teams instead of just 4 like they did last season.

    What I’m thinking will probably happen is BYU will start the season out well in their first two games. Then they go to Utah, which will be a revenge spot for BYU after what was a comedy of errors for the Cougs in last year’s game. If they can’t beat Boise or Utah in either game, then BYU could be in a bit of trouble because it means their OL probably hasn’t come together.

    Then they have a very difficult gauntlet of games against ND, Oregon St. and GT. But they end the season with an easy trio of games against non-bcs teams. Here’s the deal with BYU. I’m hearing that despite some of the headlines we’ve been reading about the school, they are still very much interested in joining a BCS conference. And one reason is because they are having a hell of a time scheduling good BCS games being an independent.

    Despite their differences in negotiations the first time around, I’ve heard that BYU is playing a wait and see with the Big 12 to see how successful they’ll be as a 10 team conference in the next year or two. But with BYU having their own channel like the Horns and OU is fixing to have, I think this is eventually going to be their destination.

    But I think these games against these BCS teams are going to be very important to the school to prove their worth and show that they can compete with the big boys. It will be a selling point when or if they do plead their case to join a BCS conference. They need to beat at least 2 out of 6 of these BCS opponents. I’m counting Boise as a BCS opponent since they play on a high level and will be joining a BCS conference next year (maybe). At any rate, beating them would be a feather in their cap.

    We’ll see how it goes. But this is a better BYU team than last year. They SHOULD be able to compete well and cover some spreads. What I can see happening is they cover their first game against WSU, but then possibly gets overpriced a little against Utah and maybe Boise, then they get a couple of coverable games at home against non-bcs opponents, then play their gauntlet of Oct. games against good BCS teams. They really need to get an upset during this stretch. I say their best chances are against Boise and Oregon St. But Utah also better be on their toes since that one is a state rivalry. Reguarly I would say GT is very winnable. But it’s not easy preparing for that team in the middle of the season without a bye week.

    I think in all liklihood it will be an 8 win season for BYU. But they’ve got to keep Nelson healthy, so it means the OL needs to improve. Nelson isn’t a big guy by any means. And he briefly got hurt for a game late last season. So they’ll need to have him or it could turn into a disaster in a hurry since Jake Heaps got fed up and transferred out after last season. So there’s basically nobody behind him.

    • Pezgordo Pezgordo says:

      One thing we definitely agree on is Nelson’s value to this team. He is a leader and a gamer. My main point is if they have to rely on his arm against a good defense, they are in trouble.

  6. Boscatar says:

    11-2 (including a Poinsettia Bowl win over San Diego State).

    BYU’s defense is legit. The secondary is the most athletic in years and has good experience. The linebacker unit, inside and outside, is stacked. Great experience and leadership and fantastic depth. The d-line will be solid. Although not a tremendous pass rush threat, it will be strong against the run and will enable the linebackers and safeties to blitz on the edges, and up the middle.

    BYU’s running attack will be a pleasant surprise. Alisa can be the every day back, albeit not at the level of Harvey Unga or Curtis Brown. Alisa’s game will be complimented by tough running by Foote and Pritchard, with Hine and Williams making occasional contributions. The RB corps can also catch the ball in the flat and will contribute in the passing game.

    BYU is loaded at receivers. A fine group of tall targets, led by Hoffman, and a supplement of speedy, possession types with Falslev, Collie, and Raymond contributing. Tight end will be the biggest question mark. Marcus Matthews has put on 25 pounds of lean muscle mass and will be the number one TE target. But Holt and Friel also show potential. If one or two of these tight ends have a break out season, the days of 300+ passing yards per game are back!

    As for the four tough road games, each is very winnable. BYU players will have the Utah game circled on the schedule. Utah has experienced QB, receivers, and secondary, but they haven’t exactly been world beaters. There is no way that BYU has 7 turnovers again, half of which were in or near Utah’s endzone. Also, John White II will not rush for 150 yards and 2 TD’s in three plays like in the second half of last year’s game – the wheels had already come off at that point.

    Boise State is replacing the winningest QB, an NFL running back, and its top receivers. Boise will be good and Chris Peterson and company can scheme with the best of them. But BYU catches Boise State in a down year.

    Notre Dame is still looking for its QB and must replace its top receiver (by a mile). The Irish running game is great, but so is BYU’s run defense. This is a very winnable game.

    Georgia Tech will test BYU’s linebackers. As stated, the LB’s are BYU’s strongest and deepest unit. BYU’s offense can handle Tech’s average defense. But, this is BYU’s longest road trip, following the week after the Cougars’ trip to South Bend.

    BYU splits the four tough road games 2-2, but all will be close games. BYU will hold off WSU (which will actually compete this year in PAC 12 play) and will be able to handle Hawaii, Utah State, and Oregon State at home. Don’t expect blowouts here, but 10-14 victories sound about right.

    • Pezgordo Pezgordo says:

      Boscater, thanks for the great info. I agree they could, COULD go 2-2 against Utah, Boise, ND & GT, where they will be an underdog in each. But I also think they’ll probably lose a game in which they are favored.

  7. scott715 says:

    Riley Nelson spent the summer working with the team and is getting full starter reps in camp for the first time. His passing will be improved. As a senior we are expecting good things from him.

    Go Cougars.

    • Pezgordo Pezgordo says:

      scott715, thank you for the insight. If Nelson can in fact improve his passing than I believe the Cougars are capable of beating anyone on their schedule. I still think 2-2 in those 4 tough away games is a best-case scenario (and a success). But as GoSooners said, BYU could be a really good ATS team in the right situation(s).

  8. Chase Troutner says:

    I think Riley Nelson’s relatively poor performance in the AF Bowl last year can be at least partially explained by the fact that he played the whole game with broken ribs. Kid is as tough as nails. And as others have pointed out, a full camp as the undisputed starter, and the second year in a new offense should greatly benefit him this season. He’s been incredibly accurate in camp, even against our 1st team defense. And to top it all off, look at BYU history. Good things happen when we have a senior starting QB.

  9. Gorum the Old says:

    This season has a ton of question marks. BYU will be good, but I would’t be terribly surprised to see the Cougars win total anywhere between 6 and 12. Games in question:

    1) Washington St. BYU is the better team, but Leach’s “air raid” can put up a lot of points in a hurry. If the Cougar O starts slow and WSU gets a couple of breaks, the Pac 12 Cougars could come away with the win.

    2) Oregon St, in my opinion is an underrated team. They aren’t going to be winning thier division, but I think they are a lock for going bowling and could play the spoiler to several teams

    3) @ Utah. This is a huge rivalry game between two teams who are very close to eachother in ability. I think the Cougar run D could make the difference.

    4) @BSU. I suspect the Bronco’s will be slightly favored, but with so many new starts at key positions, who knows. Either way it is probably going to be close.

    5) @GT. BYU’s stingy run D and years of defending AF triple option should make things interesting. GTs athletes are a lot better and their option attack is different, but this is another game that could easily go either way.

    5) @ND. I think this will be the toughest matchup for BYU. The Fighting Irish has the size and ability to shut down the Cougar run game. Of course BYU’s defense will likely cause ND problems as well. This game (and most of the others listed here) depend greatly on Riley Nelson.

    His Leadership, toughness, and scrambling abilities are a given. He also has a nice touch on his deep balls. His biggest knockis his accuracy and power of his mid range game.

    If his short throws are a little off or a little slow, the only affect is that the reciever doesn’t get as far up the field. When his throws accross the field or over the middle on anything over 10 yards are off or slow, you run the risk of the ball getting knocked away or picked off.

    If you go back, almost every time Nelson was picked it was on a pass attempt like this.

    If he can/has improved his accuracy on those throws, he will be a very good college QB live up to his Davey Obrien and Maxwell award watch list status. If he does I expeect BYU to win at least 10 games.

    If he doesn’t/hasn’t improved his accuracy in that area, he will remain as a tough, scrappy dual threat QB who though inspirational is only at best a somewhat above average QB. If that is the case, 8 or 9 wins may be a more accurate total.

    • Pezgordo Pezgordo says:

      Gorum the Old, thanks for the great comment and info on BYU.

      Unless something completely unforeseen happens in terms of injuries, suspensions, etc, I think this BYU team has too much experience and talent to win only 6 games and 7 would also be a disappointment.

      WSU has some seriously good skill players, but BYU should handle them in the trenches and the WSU defense will be a major weakness again this season.

      I completely agree with you about Oregon State. They are one of the team totals I wagered this season already (over 4.5 wins).

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