A closer look at this year’s Cougars — and some bold predictions
How will No. 25-ranked BYU fare in 2022 after 10-3 season? Here’s how those who cover the team closely see the season playing out.
Predictions. Love ’em.
Breaking down BYU’s 2022 season, what are their chances, the overall win-loss record, where the losses will come, and just what kind of a football team does Kalani Sitake have?
Well, it will be an interesting season.
The Cougars will play four teams ranked in the top 15, including preseason No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 10 Baylor. Oregon is No. 11 and Arkansas is 19th. That means this is a season of opportunity. Or, it could be too big of a challenge and there is heartbreak on the horizon.
BYU will have as much experience on the field as it has had in decades. The Cougars rank No. 1 in returning starters and among the top three in returning productivity from a 10-win squad. This is a team that has COVID-19 seniors like linebacker Payton Wilgar, receiver Gunner Romney and running back Lopini Katoa.
On offense, BYU should be more than capable of competing with a huge, deep, experienced offensive line protecting QB Jaren Hall and myriad targets and weapons like Puka Nacua and tight ends Isaac Rex and Dallin Holker.
Defensively, this will be the fastest team the Cougars have fielded in some time — especially at corner. It will surprise critics with its utility and capability — as witnessed in two weeks of practice against veterans. True, it is going up against an offense and personnel that is familiar and holding out some star players every practice, but this defense will make plays and will pick and choose between 18 defensive linemen to keep fresh. The linebacking crew is solid.
So, what will happen?
Well, this is a better team than a year ago, one that I did not foresee going 5-0 against the Pac-12. It is bigger, stronger and has more speed on both sides of the line.
When you look at this schedule, you have four games against ranked teams that we can call a 40%-60% win-loss.
Then you have seven games that could be labeled 60%-40% wins in South Florida, Wyoming, Utah State, Liberty, East Carolina and Utah Tech. Of those games, three are what one could call trap games — contests that an expected win could turn into a dogfight and go either way. The opener with USF is in this category, as is in-state USU and the trip to Liberty.
To get to nine or 10 wins, the Cougars have to win the games they are favored in, the 60-40s, and stage an upset over at least one of the 40-60s, where they’ll be a decided underdog. There can be no trap game slip-ups.
The Cougars will play 10 straight games without a week off and a road game to Boise State at the end of that stretch is a game that could do the Cougars in. It turns into a 50-50 game because of the circumstances, travel and potential injuries. Many local experts believe this will be a loss for BYU because of where it sits in the schedule at the end of a no-break stretch with no time to heal up and rest.
Running back Jackson McChesney said BYU’s coaching staff is working hard at keeping an edge to practices and the approach this season — knowing the Cougars cannot afford to break down, get distracted or lose focus on the work at hand.
“I feel we are trying to keep that edge,” said McChesney. “We’ve had two good seasons in a row, but we’re trying to not get comfortable, not be comfortable with being in the top 25, but get to the top 10. We play great teams this year, beginning with a very good team in South Florida. We want to flip the switch and not just be good, but great.”
McChesney said the coaching staff is expecting greatness every day.
“Like today, if it’s not perfect, then they are pulling the perfect out of us and making sure we have it by the next practice,” he said. “We aren’t having back-to-back bad practices, but just building good practice after good practice.”
One could say Sitake and his staff are striving to take the next step in consistency and attitude heading into the season — knowing much more will be needed once in the Big 12. Still, this 2022 schedule with the four ranked teams is as challenging as some P5 teams already have on tap.
It is said BYU plays to the level of its competition. If so, there should be some interesting matchups and outcomes in 2022.
For comparison purposes, here are some season predictions I collected from members of the media who cover BYU football and are hip-deep in conversations and interviews and see portions of the practices that are opened to reporters.
They were asked to give a win-loss record and where the losses would come.
Jay Drew, beat writer, Deseret News: 8-4 (losses to Baylor, Oregon, Arkansas and Boise State)
Jake Hatch, producer 1280 the Zone, Locked on Cougars Podcast: 9-3 (losses to Baylor, Notre Dame and Boise State)
Mitch Harper, KSLsports: 9-3 (losses to Oregon, Notre Dame, Boise State)
Ben Criddle, host ESPN 960 radio: 10-2, (losses to Notre Dame, Arkansas)
Sean Walker, KSL.com reporter: 8-4 (losses to Baylor, Oregon, Notre Dame, Boise State)
Hans Olsen, host 1280 the Zone, former BYU, NFL lineman: 10-2 (losses to Notre Dame and 1-1 against Baylor and Arkansas)
Dave McCann, Y’s Guys podcast, BYUtv sportscaster, Deseret News contributor: 10-2 (losses at Oregon, Notre Dame)
Your humble correspondent: 9-3 (losses to Notre Dame, Oregon, Boise State)