2019 NCAA Division I College Football Team Previews: BYU Cougars

BYU Cougars
Location: Provo, UT
Coach: Kalani Sitake (20-19 @ BYU & overall) 4th season at BYU
Stadium: LaVell Edwards Stadium (Capacity: 63,470)

CSJ Projections:
3rd: FBS Independents
2nd: Utah
63rd: FBS
12th: Group of Five
65th: Division I

2018 In a Sentence: BYU relied on a stingy defense and much-improved offense to win seven games last season, including a win over Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to finish 7-6 overall.

Biggest Shoes to Fill: LB Sione Takitaki was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft. He was all over the field and was BYU’s top tackler in 2018, ranking 31st in the nation with 118 tackles while leading the Cougar defense to be ranked 18th in total team defense that allowed 324 yards per game.

Key Player: QB Zach Wilson took over for struggling and now graduated Tanner Mangum midway through last season, leading the Cougars to a 4-3 record in his seven starts. In his true freshman season, he completed 65% of his passes for 1,578 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also was responsible for 221 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He did have off-season surgery on his shoulder and missed spring practices but should be healthy to go. He will have his top three receivers from last year, led by TE Matt Bushman (511 yards, two touchdowns) and WR Aleva Hifo (358 yards, two touchdowns) and WR Talon Shumway (337 yards, three touchdowns) back as targets this year.

Fearless Prediction: All indications point to a strong Cougar team this year with a total of 17 starters back from both sides of the ball. The key, however, will be how well BYU does against its strong schedule especially early in the year–home games against rival Utah, USC, and Washington and a road contest at Tennessee. If the Cougars can weather these contests, along with later games at Utah State and a home game against Boise State, this could be a special season. But with those games, this seems a little daunting. BYU will be better than its seven win season from last year but only by a win or two more.