With a manageable schedule filled with opportunities to move up in the rankings--until Texas comes calling, that is--BYU may have its best opportunity in years to make national noise.
Getting votes is a big deal in the preseason, because it enables a program to have momentum from voters going into the season. BYU is poised to have a big year--possibly one that could see the Cougars go undefeated.
That's provided BYU doesn't watch quarterback Taysom Hill walk off the field with an injury. Hill is BYU's only serviceable QB. If he goes down, so do the Cougars chances, buried somewhere between a giant white, painted Y and the 40-yard-lines, along the pristine turf of LaVell Edwards Stadium.
It's not to say BYU couldn't still win big without Hill. After all, look at what Utah State did without Chuckie Keeton last year. It's just that the task before BYU, without a versatile QB like Hill (1,344 yards rushing, 2,938 yards passing, 29 total TD) would be next to impossible.
Before anyone says BYU can't have a great season regardless, let's look at the schedule looming for the Cougars. BYU kicks off a home-and-home series at UConn before traveling to a new, improved Texas team that stands at No. 24 in the same poll in which BYU got votes from 18 coaches.
Lest you've forgotten, Texas is also the team that BYU throttled last year in Provo. So to say that BYU will glide past Texas, in Austin, is nieve. BYU will be lucky to be 1-1 at this juncture.
After two games on the road, BYU comes home for three straight, starting with high-scoring Houston, continuing with so-so Virginia and ending with rival Utah State.
A game at Central Florida--a program which made the Fiesta Bowl and still only got 102 votes from coaches, narrowly missing being ranked in the poll--follows to wrap up the first six games on BYU's schedule.
The back half is less daunting for BYU. Not having Utah on the schedule this year is actually a good thing for the Cougars, who have a second half of the schedule most Division I FBS teams would envy.
Nevada visits Provo, then BYU travels to Boise State for the rubber match against the Broncos. Considering BYU upset Boise State last year in Provo, this game is pivotal.
If BYU somehow gets past the Broncos on the blue turf in Boise, the rest of the schedule (at Middle Tennessee, vs UNLV, vs Savannah State and at Cal) lines out perfectly for BYU to win 10 games. Should the Cougars defeat either Texas or Boise State, however, they could be looking at a major bowl invitation with 11 or more wins. Otherwise, it's the brand new Miami Beach Bowl for BYU.