Rant Sports College Football Top 100 countdown makes a stop in Provo, Utah, to preview the 2013 BYU Cougars. The Cougars went 8-5 last season, in what many consider a disappointing turnout for a team with much greater expectations.
BYU had one of the top ranked defenses in college football, but they struggled to find consistent offensive results. Bronco Mendenhall will look toward improving the offense during his ninth season as head coach.
BYU struggled to keep their quarterbacks healthy in 2012. Riley Nelson entered the season as the starter, however, he struggled through injuries. Taysom Hill gave the Cougars the most productive results under center before suffering a knee injury that would abruptly end his season.
Despite seeing limited action, Hill led all BYU quarterbacks in scoring averages per starts. BYU averaged 36.8 points per game in Hill’s two starts, greater than the 26.7 average during Nelson’s nine starts and 23.2 during James Lark‘s two appearances.
Hill enters the 2013 campaign as the starter for a team searching for its offensive identity. He possesses mobility, which will benefit him greatly in the Cougars’ run-oriented offense.
Hill will benefit from another productive season from slot receiver Cody Hoffman. Hoffman led the Cougars with 1,248 yards, 11 touchdowns and 100 receptions.
Jamaal Williams returns after an impressive freshman season. Williams led BYU with 775 yards and 12 touchdowns while receiving the majority of touches from the running back position.
BYU had one of the nation’s top defenses last season, ranking No. 3 overall in yards allowed. However, the Cougars will need to replace the production of Ezekiel Ansah, Romney Fuga and Brandon Oggletree.
The Cougars did return senior linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who looks to duplicate a stellar 2012 season. Playing behind one of the top 3-4 defensive lines in the country, Van Noy led BYU with 13 sacks and 22 tackles for loss.
Van Noy has huge expectations entering the 2013 season, but he could see a decline in his numbers without Ansah and Fuga to open up the trenches. However, the Cougars should see another dominant season from Van Noy, who is still surrounded by a talented defense.
BYU faces a tough 2013 schedule during their third season as an Independent program. The Cougars open up the season on the road against Virginia (4-8, 2-6) before hosting Texas (9-4, 5-4) in their home opener.
Following their bye week, BYU will host state-rival Utah (5-7, 3-8) on Sept. 21 and MTSU (8-4, 6-2) on Sept. 28. The Cougars will then travel to Utah St. (11-2, 6-0) before returning home to host Georgia Tech (7-7, 5-3).
BYU will travel to Houston (5-7, 4-4) on Oct. 19, host Boise St. (11-2, 7-1) on Oct. 25 and face a tough road matchup against Wisconsin (8-6, 4-4). The Cougars will round out the season with a home finale against Idaho St. (1-10, 0-8) before two road games against Notre Dame (12-1) and Nevada (7-6, 4-4).
Despite a tough schedule, the Cougars will likely be bowl eligible once again next season. If they can duplicate their defensive success and improve offensively, BYU could definitely pull off some upsets this season.