Quarterback Zach Wilson infused some much-needed life into BYU's previously anemic offense late last season. The Cougars won three of their final four games — including a 49-18 triumph over Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl where Wilson completed all 18 passes he attempted for 317 yards and four touchdowns.
What can BYU do with the sophomore running the offense for a full season? Hope springs eternal in Provo. This fall, however, Cougar fans are extra optimistic about seeing the football program break through and make a splash beyond September.
Wilson will have an experienced offensive line and some skilled receivers — led by tight end Matt Bushman — to make his job easier. The Cougars also remain stout on defense after ranking in the top 20 nationally in total defense a year ago. BYU has improved depth and plenty of experience across the board on defense, with fearsome run-stopper Khyiris Tonga leading the way.
Still, BYU will endure a meat grinder of a schedule early before things finally soften up in November.
The Cougars face Utah, Tennessee, USC, and Washington in the first four weeks and also have tricky road games at Toledo, South Florida, and Utah State as the season progresses. Toss in games against Boise State and San Diego State and you have a schedule where things could go south in a hurry if BYU struggles with injuries again like in recent seasons.
Athlon asked a few editors and one of its college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for BYU in 2019.
BYU Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2019
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
After a 4-9 record in coach Kalani Sitake’s second year (2017), the Cougars rebounded with a 7-6 mark last fall. BYU seems to have found stability once again entering 2019. Quarterback Zach Wilson is a breakout candidate, and he’s supported by an underrated target at tight end in Matt Bushman and a solid offensive line that should rank among the top 20-30 in the nation. BYU’s defense has to restock a bit up front, but Sitake and coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki should keep this unit performing at a high level. Improving on last year’s seven wins won’t be easy with a schedule that features four Power 5 opponents to begin the year, along with tough matchups against Toledo, USF, Boise State and Utah State. However, I’ll bank on Wilson’s development getting BYU to a 7-5 mark — with a chance to win No. 8 in the bowl.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
BYU once again must deal with a front-loaded schedule that includes dates with four Power 5 teams in the first four weeks of the season. The one positive, however, is that three of these four games are at home. The opener against Utah will set the tone; the Utes are a preseason top-15 team and the pick by most to win the Pac-12. A BYU upset would be an ideal way to start the fourth year of the Kalani Sitake era. At this point, my guess is that BYU could be an underdog in at least seven games -- so the Cougars would need at least one upset to reach bowl eligibility. The best bet? I'll go with USC in Week 3. If that doesn't happen, BYU could find itself in an 0-4 hole as it heads to Toledo on Sept. 25.
John Coon (@johncoonsports)
BYU showed signs of life last season after hitting rock bottom a year earlier. The Cougars were arguably only a few plays away from a 10 win campaign. There's potential to get to that level in 2019, but a tough early schedule will make it a difficult goal to accomplish. BYU opens with four straight P5 opponents to start the season. It does help that Utah, USC, and Washington all come to Provo, but the Cougars will still be underdogs in all those contests. I do think BYU will pull an early upset or two and take a few more steps forward this year. Zach Wilson has potential to emerge as a game-changer much like former quarterback Taysom Hill did when he was healthy. If Wilson can build on the momentum he created toward the end of his freshman season, the Cougars have a good enough defense to win 8 or 9 games and qualify for the Hawaii Bowl in December.