Loyal Cougars

BYU can still beat Vegas’ preseason expectations

If you had asked most BYU fans about their 2014 expectations in August, they would have probably said something like, “10-2 would be good, but I can see 9-3. 11-1 or 12-0 would be a dream. 8-4 with this schedule would be a bit of a disappointment.”

When you do something like annihilate Texas in Austin, expectations tend to change. That’s ok if that happens, but it’s important to remember that most casinos had the preseason over/under on season win totals at 9.5. Some had it at 8.5, depending which side of the bet was given a little juice.

So, if you were a big BYU fan in a place where gambling was legal and you were personally ok with putting down $20 that they would exceed expectations this year … you wouldn’t have lost that bet yet. Sure they have to go 6-0 to close out the year to make you a winner, but that’s doable. Tough, but doable.

As bad as the last two weeks have been, 2014 could still be BYU’s best season as an independent. Granted, that’s not the highest bar in the world, but getting a little better is certainly preferable over getting a little worse.

Based on what Jordan Leslie said today, the team knows where they are. “We want to go 10-2 then win the bowl game … I know a lot of people expected us to go undefeated and kinda see it as a letdown. We’re trying to work on every game. 11-2 is a great record at any other school, and it should be a great record here.”

Expecting anyone to go undefeated is a formula for disappointment. ESPN liked BYU’s chances of going undefeated more than anyone in the country, but they still only gave the Cougars a 25% shot.

2014 seems to have the potential to be a lot like 2011. That year, BYU finished the season 10-3 and ranked #25 in the Coaches Poll, but unranked in the AP. So far, the first halves of the season match up pretty well with a quarterback switch, a home loss to a rival and a close loss on the road. In 2011, the Cougars managed to close out the season winning the games they should, but losing in Dallas to TCU.

BYU will face two TCU-like opponents in the back half of its season. Wins at Boise State and at Cal would likely allow BYU to beat Vegas’ preseason predictions for them for the season as a whole.

BYU is a long way from finishing 10-2 and the defense has struggled in the first half of the year. Statistics that adjust for opponents’ strength are particularly unkind to the 2014 team. Football Outsiders stats rank BYU’s defense at 80 (S&P) or 63 (F+) out of 128 teams in the country so far this year. Last year those stats ranked them 16 and 15, respectively at the end of the year.

The good news is that the same kind of advanced stats say that the UCF game overall was the defense’s best effort of the year. Bcftoys.com tracks Game Factors, which rank the performance of the offense and defense game by game.

Out of 668 games played so far, the defense had very poor showings in the Houston (606th), Connecticut (567th), and Utah State games (432nd). All these teams have pretty bad offenses and each team moved the ball plenty against BYU.

Against UCF, BYU’s defense put up the 123rd best game played this year out of 668 so far, its best effort of the season, especially after UCF’s first drive.

BYU’s offense was great before Taysom Hill got hurt. The offense had the 9th best individual offensive performance of the 2014 season against Virginia. UCF was the offensive unit’s worst outing, which isn’t unexpected for a long road trip with a new QB on a short week.

If the defense can get their feet back under them and the offense can recalibrate to what Christian Stewart can do, beating Vegas’ projections for this year is still doable.

Back in August, I wrote, “I say it’s OK if you, as a fan, dream of the 1.6% chance that maybe everything falls into place in 2014—as long as it doesn’t turn into angrily calling for everyone to be fired when BYU is not able to knock off two 10-win teams on the road in the same year.”

In the end, Utah State and UCF may turn out to be more like 8 win teams this year. We’ll see. BYU had a long-shot chance at going undefeated. That ship has sailed, but BYU can still have a good season. It all starts with Nevada on Saturday night.

One Comment

  1. Jason Bel

    October 17, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Seriously? The fans I heard from at the beginning of the season were confident BYU would go undefeated.