2015 Record: 9-4
2016 Las Vegas Season Win Total: 8.0
2016 Season Win Total Prediction: 'Under'
The Cougars bid adieu to Bronco Mendenhall this offseason, as their long-time coach surprisingly took a job at Virginia. Rookie head coach Kalani Sitake will be charged with guiding a very talented BYU team through the gauntlet of another tough independent schedule. Sitake, a former Cougars player, has a wealth of experience as a defensive coordinator, primarily at Utah, and has injected new life into a program that could be headed back into a conference as soon as next season.
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The Cougars are hoping that they can avoid the rash of injuries that stunted their 2015 season. It starts with quarterback Taysom Hill, who has been the starter for parts of three separate seasons in Provo. He has suffered several concussions and will have to hold off last year's star fill-in, sophomore Tanner Mangum.
BYU is also looking forward to the return of running back Jamaal Williams. Without Williams the Cougars slunk to No. 111 in the country in rushing offense. They have a large, experienced offensive line, and Sitake will put a focus back on the running game to help out a defense that lacks depth.
Whoever put together this schedule is a glutton for punishment. BYU opens with six of its first seven games against teams from major conferences. That stretch precedes back-to-back road games at Boise State and at Cincinnati. The Cougars/ only "soft" game prior to mid-November comes Sept. 30 against Toledo.
BYU was very good against big schools last year, beating Nebraska, Boise State, Connecticut and Cincinnati while losing by just a combined 12 points against UCLA, Missouri and Utah. Most of the key pieces are back, and with Williams healthy the running game should improve dramatically.
But I have to play this one 'under'. Mendenhall was underrated and Sitake is an unknown. And with a brutal opening month this team won't really have time to find its footing. I still expect a bowl game from this group - and a couple upsets along the way - but I don't see them topping seven wins. Play 'under'.
2016 BYU Cougars Schedule
DATE OPPONENT TIME (ET) Location
Sat, Sep 3rd, 2016 at Arizona 10:30 PM University of Phoenix Stadium
Sat, Sep 10th, 2016 at Utah 07:30 PM Rice-Eccles Stadium
Sat, Sep 17th, 2016 Ucla 10:15 PM LaVell Edwards Stadium
Fri, Sep 30th, 2016 Toledo 10:15 PM LaVell Edwards Stadium
Sat, Oct 8th, 2016 at Michigan St.12:00 PM Spartan Stadium
Fri, Oct 14th, 2016 Miss_State 10:15 PM LaVell Edwards Stadium
Thu, Oct 20th, 2016 at Boise_State 10:15 PM Albertsons Stadium
Sat, Nov 5th, 2016 at Cincinnati 12:00 PM Nippert Stadium
Sat, Nov 12th, 2016 Southern_Utah03:00 PM LaVell Edwards Stadium
Sat, Nov 19th, 2016 Massachusetts 02:00 PM LaVell Edwards Stadium
Sat, Nov 26th, 2016 Utah_State 02:00 PM LaVell Edwards Stadium
All Times EST
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