In a year where BYU entered the season paying tribute to the late LaVell Edwards, the Cougars have looked nothing like the great teams Edwards fielded in his 29 years as the head coach.
In fact, the Cougars at the midway point of this 2017 season are in the midst of a six-game losing streak, the first time that has happened in Provo since 1968. That was four years before Edwards became BYU’s head coach.
Also, when you think of BYU football, the first thought that usually comes to mind is offense. You won’t have many highlights from the first seven games of this season. The BYU offense is 128th in the nation in total offense and is only mustering up 11 points per game and that’s under the watch of former Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer as the offensive coordinator.
There’s not a celebratory mood in Provo these days but awards still need to be handed out as we reach the midway point on BYU’s historic season for all the wrong reasons.
Offensive MVP: C Tejan Koroma
Yes, a center is the MVP for BYU’s offense at the midway point. Koroma has been a four-year starter for the Cougars along the offensive front and he’s a captain this year. But still, to have a captain as the most worthy candidate for MVP on offense speaks to how bad things have been on that side of ball for the Cougars this season.
Defensive MVP: LB Fred Warner
The Cougars’ senior linebacker has balled out this season. The three-year starter has racked up 56 tackles and four tackles for a loss. Expect Warner to be playing on Sunday’s next year at this time.
Best Moment of First Half: Beau Hoge leading the offense vs. Utah State
In a year where the only win came against a winless FCS team, there aren’t many great moments. But for a short period of time in Logan against rival Utah State, backup quarterback Beau Hoge ignited life into a BYU team that was looking for any sort of spark to get things rolling. Hoge had the Cougar offense moving against Utah State and led the Cougars to a lead before ultimately suffering a concussion that led to him leaving the game early. Hoge hasn’t played in a game since.
Best Newcomer: NT Khyiris Tonga
Once a University of Utah signee, the true freshman nose tackle has been a star for the Cougars. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake and defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki recruited Tonga when they were at Utah, and he decided to sign with the Cougars after serving an LDS mission. Tonga (6-4, 340) has had many around the program buzzing that he could go down as the best defensive tackle to ever come through Provo. He’s that good.
Three Things to Watch in the Second Half
1. Will BYU find an identity on offense?
The schedule eases up significantly moving forward. Will that spell success for BYU? Time will tell. The Cougars struggled to muster up any offense against an FCS opponent in Portland State to open the season, so a lot of questions remain.
Kalani Sitake has been very hard on the offense and how it’s been the reason for the struggles of this team. If the offense doesn’t produce against seemingly easier competition, it could spell changes this offseason to the coaching staff.
2. Can BYU extend its bowl game streak to a 13th consecutive season?
BYU has been one of the most consistent programs in the country over the past 12 years. The Cougars are 7-5 in their bowl appearances since 2005. The expectation for BYU football is to always make a bowl game. It would be a major disappointment in Sitake’s second year as the head coach to not get his team to a postseason game.
3. Does Beau Hoge return and create a QB competition?
Hoge had BYU’s offense moving downfield and picking up chunk yardage in his second start of his career against Utah State in relief of an injured Tanner Mangum at the time. Hoge is currently out with a concussion, if he returns before the end of the season does he create a quarterback controversy? Mangum’s play in the next few games will determine if the QB job is up for grabs when Hoge returns.
Ranking the Toughest Remaining Games on the Schedule
1. Nov. 4 at Fresno State
Jeff Tedford’s Bulldogs are looking good at 4-2 and the Valley always loves the opportunity to host old WAC rival BYU. This will be the first time the Cougars travel to Fresno since 1998. This is by far BYU’s toughest remaining game.
2. Nov. 10 at UNLV
The Rebels lost to FCS opponent Howard in that embarrassing season opener but they have an offense that can put up points. That could spell trouble especially if BYU drops any other games prior to a trip to Sin City. What will the Cougars be playing for at that point?
3. Nov. 25 at Hawaii
Hawaii and BYU renew an old rivalry on the islands to cap off the regular season. The positive here for BYU is that if the Cougars don’t go to a bowl game, Honolulu is a nice way to cap off the year.
4. Oct. 21 at East Carolina
It’s the nation’s worst offense in BYU vs. the nation’s worst defense in East Carolina. What gives? Cougars’ offensive identity will need to start taking shape against the Pirates’ porous defense or it will be a long second half of the season.
5. Nov. 18 UMass
The Minutemen gave Tennessee all it could handle on Rocky Top, could the Cougars experience the same?
6. Oct. 28 San Jose State
The Spartans (1-7) are not good. This is as close to a scheduled win as you can find for a team that’s currently 1-6 right now.
— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is BYU Insider for ESPN 960 Sports and Publisher of Cougar Nation, part of the Rivals network. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.