2013 looks to be the toughest schedule BYU will have ever played and many prognosticators have BYU in the 7-8 win range. Will an 8-4 or 7-5 season played out on ESPN every week be acceptable to you? What is your prediction for wins?
Brett: I think BYU shocks a lot of teams. I think Wisconsin and Utah State take a step back because of the coaching changes so I think they win those. I also think they beat Texas. Realistically I can see them go 10-2 but I think 8-5 is more realistic.
Carl: Early this year I thought 8 would be a good season. I put on one side of my blue goggles and bumped that to 9. I’ve got losses to Texas, Wisconsin and Notre Dame. I’m still edgy about conference affiliation, but for now, what non-local BYU fan would not want to watch every single on the ESPN family of networks or BYUTV? It’s the best T.V. deal ever.
Matt: I’m with Carl in that I think BYU can and should win all games but the big three this season. I also think they can win any of those games if they can get it together and finally win a big game, but I think anyway you slice it, I’ll be watching BYU on the short end of the score on September 7. But by the end of the season, I think BYU can at least split Wisconsin and Notre Dame. The trick will be not slipping up before the trip to Madison. BYU should be happy with 8-5 and be thrilled with anything better than that. I think 7-6 this season is just a disappointment.
With the recent news of injuries to the Cougars, especially on the defensive side of the ball, are you concerned? Can the Cougars get along without Jordan Johnson this season?
Brett: Yes. Bronco is the master of disguising his weakness. If Kyle Van Noy, Spencer Hadley, and Bronson Kaufusi can provide a great pass rush, that will force the defense to not use as many receiving weapons. Those three are key to keeping the opposing offense honest and forcing them from putting it in the air. I don’t care how great of a QB you think you are in Division 1, if three guys are drawing attention because of the pass rush you will force balls and your timing will be off.
Carl: The exposure to the secondary will solely be determined by the defensive front 4. Surely nobody thinks our secondary is great. Good perhaps, but the rest of the defense will be in need to help out.
Matt: Concerned may be a good word here. But it’s only slightly so. The secondary has always been the weak link in Provo as emphasis has been heavy on the heavies. If BYU can replicate 2012’s production along the front 7, the solid safety corp. should be more than enough to help out the inexperienced corners until they are comfortable. This linebacker group should be so good that offenses will be forced into a lot of 3rd and long situations that make it easier for these corners.
Speaking of potentially indispensable players, who is the most indispensable on the offensive side of the ball?
Brett: I don’t think we have that answer yet. Alisa can come in and back up Williams at any moment. Reports show that Ammon Olsen is as good a quarterback as Taysom Hill. Behind Hoffman, we have Apo and Mitch Matthews who are great players. Honestly, I think it is an offensive lineman. I think if one steps up early in the season and the entire offensive line will be anchored around him.
Carl: Cody Hoffman. He’s the best wide receiver I’ve seen at BYU. He commands so much attention defensively that, without him, the offense would struggle heavily without him.
Matt: Who do I take here? That’s tough to know. I think Williams is that player. Sure, there are some talented backs behind him, but its been a long time since we have seen such talent in the backfield that I would feel the biggest shock if @JSwagDaddy were to get hurt.
Who will be the unknown hero for the team?
Brett: Dallin Leavitt. The kid is a football player. He has the look and can come in and play defensive back for BYU. By the end of the year, I will be shocked if he isn’t starting.
Carl: This is always the toughest question and most of the time we’re not even close. I’m going with Alani Fua. Anyone playing around Kyle Van Noy is sure to reap the benefits of a lopsided offensive protection package. Fua should reap the benefits from KVN’s coattails.
Matt: This is a bit cheap, but I’m going with Spencer Hadley. He’s moving back inside and the biggest “unknown hero” in 2012 was Brandon Ogletree cleaning up all of KVN’s havoc on the weakside. Hadley is a mustached maniac and talented disrupter and he’s sure to reap all sorts of benefits from playing next to Van Noy.
Is Taysom Hill a legit quarterback? Can he possibly live up to the hype and expectation placed on him by BYU Nation?
Brett: Yes and no. Taysom Hill is a legit quarterback, but the hype on this kid is that he is the next Steve Young. BYU Nation needs to calm down and grade the kid after he plays.
Carl: Easy answer is no. But he’s super-legit when compared to Riley Nelson. He’s also legit in Anae’s offensive system. Don’t expect any national recognition even if BYU upsets some big names. Taysom can still get there, but as of now, he’s just another running back who knows how to throw a pigskin.
Matt: There are so many reasons to get hyped on Hill. I don’t think he’s the next anything. I’m hoping he’s the next great BYU quarterback, but he needs to make it through a season for us to know. Last season I ardently defended Riley Nelson’s honor that he wasn’t an injury-prone player but rather just unlucky and I was so wrong. So Hill needs to play the whole season. He was a former Jim Harbaugh recruit at Stanford so that tells you the pedigree is nice, but the last “nice” pedigree we saw in Provo was anything but on the field.
Will Ross Apo finally live up to his hype and potential and provide the second weapon from the receiver position or will it be someone else?
Brett: All depends on the quarterback. I think that Apo is that type of player that could be an amazing weapon if the quarterback is a great player. These past few years it has been Riley Nelson and he wasn’t the strongest armed quarterback. I think he does step up and become great though. Hopefully he rises above the criticism.
Carl: You could tell from last season that Taysom didn’t have any favorites. Yes, Hoffman got his production, but you could tell Taysom didn’t ‘banish’ players from receiving a toss. If Apo has any desire to play at the next level, he’ll show up this season. We’ve all said it for years; Apo has the skills. Will he show up this year and make the receiving core the most dominate group offensively?
Matt: Heaps made him his favorite target and it showed in his demeanor. I think the receiver needs to start the season with some of my favorite plays on that inside slant right off the line that got him some good looks. It will create an instant chemistry between the two and open up the field for Apo. But he has to become more trustworthy before he can become elite.
What is BYU’s biggest weakness going into the season?
Brett: The defensive backs and if they can provide a pass rush.
Carl: Secondary and offensive line are obvious problems. But I always come back to mental. Can the team stay in a game mentally; I’m referring to Utah. Forget about us the fans, the media, and your personal expectations. Forget about Bronco’s ‘5’ and play within yourselves, within the flow of the game, within the flow of the team, and you’ll be more likely to win 10 or 11 games. Quit beating yourself Cougars.
Matt: It has to be the defensive backs.
We’ve heard Utah fans say they’d prefer to play top-notch BCS schools instead of BYU every year. How do BYU fans feel? Is Independence working out from a fan’s perspective?
Brett: I think they are just trying to get under the skin of BYU and annoy their rivals. I think nothing of it. Independence allows us to jump to where we feel like we are needed instead of taking the first offer.
Carl: Currently, BYU shouldn’t be able to say Independence is not working. It’s actually working far better than skeptics thought when BYU announced secession. Our schedules for the foreseeable future carry BCS, if not National Championship, weight. Long-term independence is still a concern for me primarily because we don’t control our SOS for future schedules. Teams like Texas, Notre Dame and Wisconsin that we face this season don’t need BYU on their schedules for NC status. They’re built in as a foundation. We must have those games. And I wonder about the future of BYU’s strength of schedule when conference alignments continue and out of conference options are reduced for teams in BCS conferences.
Matt: It doesn’t get me going either way with regards to the perception that Ute fans want bigger schools than BYU. To each their own. As far as independence is concerned, I couldn’t be happier with it. As a season ticket holder, I’m LOVING this home schedule this year. I’d love to ultimately end up in a big time conference but as long as the PAC 12 continues to shun BYU but individually set up games with us in November and we can pick up some of the ACC holes, I think independence continues for the long term and I’m just fine with it.