2008 Mountain West Coference Football Preview: #1 BYU Cougars

#9 San Diego State

#8 UNLV

#7 Air Force

#6 Wyoming

#5 Colorado State

#4 New Mexico

#3 TCU

#2 Utah

No complaints putting BYU here, the Cougars have gone undefeated in the past two years in conference play to go along with back to back 11-2 records.  For BYU to make the next step they must win non conference road games, in order to stay high in the rankings.

Offense: The offense is loaded from quarterback Max Hall, running back Harvey Unga, wide reciever Austin Collie, tight end Daniel Pitta and most of the line.  Last year the offense averaged 31 points per game with a freshman running back and Max Hall who had not played competitive football in over five years.  This offense is loaded, but the only down size is that BYU does not have a consistent deep threat. 

Depth is also a serious issue especially at the quarterback position, because last week BYU has been tinkering with having speedy wide out Austin Collie playing quarterback.  There have been conflicting issues if Collie is training to be a legit back up or is he going to be a change of pace to run the option.  This shows the lack of confidence coach Bronco Mendenhall has in current number two Brendon Gaskins. 

BYU’s season goes the way of Max Hall, because if he is out for any time BYU will have a very tough time winning games.  Last year Hall took plenty of hard hits, but kept jumping back up and still performed, but the Collie expirement could rest Hall for a few plays a game. 

Defense: Again the topic of the defense is the lack of play makers in the secondary.  Last year BYU was able to get pressure up front which allowed the weaker secondary to be able to play well enough.   

The rush defense should be good again this year, after last year the team was the only school not to give up a 100 yard rusher.  They may not be able to repeat that feat, but the rush defense will be very good again.

The defense will be weaker then last year, but the team has depth at the defensive line will help keep the dominance the Cougars had last year in that area.  BYU just needs to be able to have the secondary able to cover the deep pass.

 

 

8/30 Northern Iowa

9/06 @ Washington

9/13UCLA

 

 9/20Wyoming

 

 10/03@ Utah State

 

 10/11New Mexico

 

 10/16@ TCU

 

 10/25UNLV

 

 11/01@ Colorado State

 

 11/08San Diego State

 

 11/15@ Air Force

 

 11/22@ Utah

 

 

Lock it up: Northern Iowa, Wyoming, @Utah State, UNLV, @Colorado State, San Diego State

50/50: @Washington, UCLA, New Mexico, @TCU, @Air Force, @Utah

Not a Chance: NONE

Projected Record: 11-1

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2008 Mountain West Coference Football Preview: #2 Utah Utes

#9 San Diego State

#8 UNLV

#7 Air Force

#6 Wyoming

#5 Colorado State

#4 New Mexico

#3 TCU

Is this the year that Utah wins a conference title? This team has the most returning talent since the 2004 team that went 12-0 and won the Fiesta Bowl. For Utah to reach its expectations they need to not have mental lapses and lose to teams they should not, anyone remember the 27-0 drubbing they suffered to UNLV. The Utes finished strong once they had Brian Johnson healthy and were a 4th and 19 play against BYU to win the Holy War. Staying healthy is the key for Utah who lost their top three offensive players for significant time last year.

Offense: It all starts with Brian Johnson at the quarterback position. This is his last year to prove that 2005 was not a fluke and a chance to show college football that he can stay injury free. Johnson has the speed and throwing ability to run the spread option effectively, and as we have seen in years past when Johnson is out the play book shrinks dramatically. The concerns with Johnson at quarterback, beside health, has been at times his decision making and that when he runs the option he does not attack the defensive line consistently.

Running back was hit hard last year with star transfer Matt Asiata who broke his leg on his fourth carry and was out for the year, Asiata was granted a medical redshirt. Then came in Darrell Mack who was suppose to redshirt but ended gaining over 1,200 yards to save the Utes season. Mack become the first back since Quinton Ganther in 2005 to gain 1,000 yards. With Asiata fully healthy and Mack back for me the Utah running game will have a very good one-two punch in the backfield, and look for both to be on the field at the same time to be involved in the passing game as well.

The third major injury was to Brent Casteel who plays wide receiver, is involved in the running game, and moonlights in the return game. Casteel is the teams play maker as he can line up in the backfield, handled end arounds and has perfected the inside slant to make big plays after the catch. With Casteel back he will be a change of pace in the running game and should be the teams play maker. Another receiver to watch out for his Brandon Godfrey who is the teams most sure handed receiver and possession guy. He did have 54 catches to lead the team and should do the same this next year.

Defense: The main concern for the defense is the front seven with the Utes losing all conference players on a line that gave up 3.9 per carry, it does not look good.  The same thing was said last year with the young secondary, but that turned out quite well especially with defensive play maker Robert Johnson in the secondary.   With Gary Anderson the deffensive coordinator and head coach Kyle Whittingham who held the position prior will make the defense work.

Line backers is another concern with two starters who graduated leaves only Junior Stevenson Sylvester as the lone starter.  Nai Fotu will be one of the replacements to start, during last year Fotu had a lot of playing time while getting 11 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble as a freshman.  The other spot will be former walk on Mike White who earned a scholarship in January and saw action in 12 games last year.

The only concern is the defensive line and somewhat at linebackers, but if you look the past of Utah defenses then there should be minimal worries for Ute fans.

8/30 @ Michigan    
9/06 UNLV    
9/13 @ Utah State    
9/20 @ Air Force    
9/27 Weber State    
10/02 Oregon State    
10/11 @ Wyoming    
10/18 Colorado State    
11/01 @ New Mexico    
11/06 TCU    
11/15 @ San Diego State    
11/22 No. 16 Brigham Young    

Lock it up… @Utah State, Weber State, Colorado State

50/50… @Michigan, UNLV, @Air Force, Oregon State, @Wyoming, @New Mexico, TCU, @ San Diego State, BYU

No chance… NONE

Projected Record: 10-2