Kalani Sitake's Cougars have to navigate a tough schedule as they look to bounce back from last season's 4-9 showing
From 2011-16 (first six years of independence), BYU was one of the most consistent programs in college football. The Cougars never dipped below eight wins and sprinkled in a pair of nine-win seasons and a 10-win campaign in between.
Last year however, BYU’s brand took a massive hit. The Cougars ended 2017 with a 4-9 record and were one of the worst offenses in the FBS.
Now with the consistency label out the window, BYU looks to the 2018 season to restore order and get back to its winning ways. But how realistic is the winning when the Cougars have five Power 5 opponents and some of the best Group of 5 teams on the schedule? Athlon asked a few editors and college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for BYU in 2018.
BYU Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Last year’s 4-9 finish marked BYU’s first losing record since 2004. Considering the track record for this program, it’s hard to imagine the Cougars struggling to that level again in 2018. However, marked improvement will be tough to come by, especially since BYU plays five Power 5 opponents and has a road trip to Boise State. Assuming the Cougars lose those six contests, there’s not much in the way of margin for error to reach a bowl game. Coach Kalani Sitake’s team should be solid on defense but reaching six wins will hinge on improvement from an offense that averaged only 17.1 points a game last fall. New play-caller Jeff Grimes is a first-time coordinator but has a wealth of experience from previous stops. If the offense improves under Grimes, how BYU performs against Northern Illinois and Utah State will likely decide whether this team finishes 5-7 or 6-6.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
BYU's schedule is once again far more difficult in the first half thanks to its status as an independent, and it's tough to envision the Cougars beating any of the Power 5 teams on the slate in the first month of the season. Things lighten up starting with the Oct. 5 visit from Utah State, but BYU will still have a tough time getting to six wins unless the offense shows significant improvement.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
Nowhere to go but up for the Cougars and, even if the record isn't a big jump from last season's 4-9 disaster, this should be a much improved team in 2018. I'm still a believer in Tanner Mangum at QB and think he'll surprise some folks, but I'm not quite sold on the defense coming up with enough plays against some of the better opponents on the slate (which is brutal). A bowl game would be a big step forward for Kalani Sitake.
Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper)
BYU is going to be better this year. The experience BYU has on the offensive staff alone will be good enough to get the Cougars back to a bowl game. The quarterback position is still up in the air, but there was significant strides made from everyone in the QB room during spring. Look for either Tanner Mangum (above, right) or true freshman Zach Wilson to win the job.
The key for BYU will be to defend home field. Games against Cal, Utah State and Northern Illinois are toss-ups right now, but all winnable. Win those six at home and the Cougars are going to a bowl game.
The road schedule is brutal. UMass will be the only game that BYU is likely a favorite in, but the Cougars lost to the Minutemen a season ago in Provo. So nothing is a surefire bet when the Cougars leave Provo this fall.
But look for BYU to get back to a bowl game and be more competitive than it was a season ago.