With a daily dose of television details and kickoff times lighting up social media, the gap between spring and fall feels like it’s shrinking. The summer temperatures have yet to arrive, but August’s heat is already here for BYU.

After a 5-7 season, including just two wins in their Big 12 debut, Las Vegas know-it-alls forecast less success in 2024 to the tune of 4.5 victories and another bowl-less holiday. The Cougars believe that, while they have work to do, they will prove the prognosticators wrong.


Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick is selling the idea that quarterbacks Jake Retzlaff and Gerry Bohanon can run his offense, score points and take care of the football. Las Vegas isn’t buying.

Receivers coach Fesi Sitake is convinced Chase Roberts, Darius Lassiter, Kody Epps, Keelon Marion, Parker Kingston and JoJo Phillips are big and fast enough to get separation in Big 12 secondaries. Las Vegas isn’t so sure.

BYU offensive line hopeful sifts through challenges, miracles

The Cougars’ new tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride has faith that Keanu Hill’s conversion from receiver to tight end is a match made in heaven. Las Vegas isn’t a believer.

Run game coordinator TJ Woods and running backs coach Harvey Unga trust a healthy LJ Martin, Hinckley Ropati and Miles Davis can rejuvenate the ground attack and average four yards per carry. Las Vegas has its doubts.

Woods is also the new offensive line coach. His anchors up front include returning starters Connor Pay, Caleb Etienne, Brayden Keim and Weylin Lapuaho. They are big and experienced with a young stable of reinforcements. Woods visualizes this group providing the protection Unga, Gilbride, Sitake and Roderick all need for their guys to move the football. Las Vegas doesn’t see it.


Jay Hill is optimistic about the “other” side of the ball in his second year as defensive coordinator and safeties coach. Las Vegas is pessimistic.

Hill kept his staff together, including Sione Po’uha (tackles), Kelly Poppinga (ends), Justin Ena (linebackers) and Jernaro Gilford (cornerbacks). Each position coach has a key returner, including John Nelson (tackles), Tyler Batty (ends), Ben Bywater (linebackers), Jakob Robinson (cornerbacks) and Micah Harper (safeties).

During BYU’s seven conference defeats, the defense allowed, on average, 38.7 points. The number is a byproduct of poor play on both sides of the ball. Head coach Kalani Sitake likes the adjustments being made and the new players coming in to help. Las Vegas doesn’t.

Beating the odds

To refute a win total of 4.5 games requires BYU to get off to at least a 2-1 start. The Aug. 31 opener against Southern Illinois at LaVell Edwards Stadium becomes much more than a tune-up. It is a pressure-packed game to show the naysayers and an anxious fanbase that 2023′s problems are in the past.

Beating the Salukis and splitting road games at SMU (Sept. 6) and Wyoming (Sept. 14) would send BYU into Big 12 play needing three wins to rise above the Las Vegas expectations and four to become bowl eligible.

This year’s best football road trips for BYU, Utah, Utah State — and NFL fans

According to ESPN, kickoff times and television details for the Cougars’ first three games will be announced on May 30.

Kansas State, Arizona, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Houston all play conference games in Provo, where the Cougars have historically been a tough team to beat. If BYU goes 3-2 at home, it will need to pick off a road win at Baylor, UCF, Utah or Arizona State to qualify for the postseason.

Can it be done? BYU says yes. Las Vegas says no. The answer is hidden in the months ahead, but it begins with a must-win in August. The excessive heat on the Cougars at kickoff won’t be exclusive to the weather, but more of a byproduct of a disappointing 5-7 season and the fear of it happening again.

From now until opening night is summer, when fans pass the time with parades, granddaughter dance recitals and fireworks, while football players lift weights and bulk up. The 106 days will pass slowly, but the 16 weeks are sure to race by — they always do.

Rest assured, the clock will keep ticking and the pressure will keep mounting until the moment arrives when BYU can start making its case that Las Vegas had it all wrong.

BYU quarterback Jake Retzlaff throws the ball to his teammates during a practice on the SAB outdoor practice fields at the start of spring camp in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. | Marielle Scott, Deseret News

Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is a play-by-play announcer and show host for BYUtv/ESPN+. He co-hosts “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com and is the author of the children’s book “C is for Cougar,” available at deseretbook.com.