COMMENTARY — I have the privilege each year of writing the Blue Blood BYU football column for St George News and am ready to get back to it again this season.
I do see things through a completely different set of lenses vs. most BYU fans that’s for sure. I am unbiased about my opinions and that will truly come out more this year than ever. Some of my articles over the past years may have seemed a little reserved, but that’s about to change. I am now following the Donald Trump model of “not being so politically correct all the time” in the media. With all of my years of in-depth knowledge of BYU football, I am going to call it like I see it. Through the big wins and bad losses, I still have to write this article so my opinions will surely shine this season.
This offseason has been extremely long, and the wait for college football is long overdue for BYU fans and players. Maybe that’s because the Cougars ended on such a terrible note with the end of bowl game brawl. Or it could be attributed to the long wait in getting Taysom Hill back on the field.
Opening weekend for many programs can be boring as fans watch a big Division I university beat up on a team no one’s ever heard of. This year is different for the in-state programs, which all have tough openers. There are showdowns which include: Utah at home vs. Michigan (Thursday night), Utah State at home against Southern Utah, Weber State on the road at Oregon State and BYU playing at Nebraska. If those games don’t get you excited, I’m sorry but you are just not a fan of college football in the state of Utah.
I do Bleed Blue, but as a fan of all of football throughout the state of Utah, I am like a child on Christmas Eve and hope that the colleges from Utah upset their opponents.
Obviously, teams across the country are starting out with a clean slate and what’s in store for BYU football in 2015 is completely unknown. We can only assume or look at what we do know at this point. There are only a few things certain right now and that is this: Jamaal Williams will not be suited up and that hurts either way you look at it. There have also been major injuries to some key players and unknown suspensions are looming over BYU’s season opener. We also know that in order for the Cougars to be successful this year, their offensive line must finally gel, get tougher and keep Taysom Hill healthy for the long haul.
Coach Robert Anae’s offensive play-calling needs to limit Hill’s running, no matter how Taysom feels about it personally. Everyone in the nation knows he is a freight train and can run or even jump over defenders. The great unknown woith Hill is this: Can he get through another season uninjured. Taysom staying healthy will directly determine whether BYU has a winning season or not.
The Miami Beach Bowl’s end of the game brawl left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth about BYU football on some level. It’s been a long wait for the program and its fan base to get back to winning and move on past BYU’s last on-field performance.
This Saturday (Sept. 5th, 1:30 MST on ABC), the Cougars face off in Lincoln, Neb., against the newly-remodeled Cornhuskers. There are a lot of new faces at Nebraska, including new head coach Mike Riley (former Oregon State coach), who leans heavily toward a Pro Style offense.
With new defensive coordinator Mark Baker, both the defense and offense have implemented a new system this year. With several injuries and suspensions on both sides, this match-up should teach us a lot about these teams and what’s in store for both fan bases. BYU is a 6-point underdog and the game is projected to be high-scoring on both sides.
Season-openers are usually full of penalties and sloppy play, but it also gives an opportunity to showcase two storied programs against each other.
For the Cougars, this trip into Big Ten country could represent a big step toward legitimacy. In the world of independents, the only way to garner any respect is to go out and beat the few Power 5 programs that actually have the guts to put you on the schedule.
In other words, it’s a critical game for Bronco Mendenhall and BYU to prove that the program is ready to take that step up to the next level this season. An independent has to win these games, especially one that would like to join one of those Power 5 conferences in the future.
Let’s face it, this is the year in which BYU needs to put up or shut up! A season of shortfalls, injuries, excuses or underachievement will not place them into any talks or discussion of their worthiness.
With the Cougars schedule looking to be tougher than in any recent years, BYU must finally jump the hurdle of having an average winning season. BYU must now prove it can consistently compete and beat tough opponents, week-in and week-out.
The Cougars only have a couple of games on the 2015 schedule that are warm-up or cupcake programs. Win those and grab some wins against the tough teams and perhaps BYU will back in the national conversation.
Obviously, injuries are a huge factor (especially to a certain quarterback). But every team has to deal with that factor. It happens. There really are no excuses this year.
It’s time BYU got back to its roots of winning more than eight games in a season.
Blue Blood is a sports column written by Scott Young. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.
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