The BYU Cougars could find the 2010 season to be a difficult one.
The forgotten team in the Mountain West, the BYU Cougars are coming off of a fantastic season in which they went 11-2 and wrapped up the year with a big Las Vegas Bowl win over the Oregon State Beavers.
Without a doubt, QB Max Hall was the pride and joy of the BYU NCAAF college offense last season. At a school historically rich in passers, Hall threw for 3,560 yards and 33 TDs in '09. However, he has since graduated and will be replaced most likely by Riley Nelson. As a sophomore last season, Nelson completed just 7-of-10 passes in relief of Hall.
Three others will also get the chance to compete for the starting role under center, but it appears Nelson, at least for the time being, still holds the upper hand.
Whether it is Nelson or anyone else calling the shots for the Cougs, he is going to have to break in a heck of a lot of new ballplayers with him on his offense. Running back Harvey Unga had a 1,087 yard campaign last year, but he is now gone. JJ Di Luigi ran for 248 yards on just 45 carries in '09, and he is probably going to head up a running back by committee situation.
Though most of the wide receivers return, the best option in the passing game last year was TE Dennis Pitta. He had 62 receptions for 829 yards and eight scores, but graduated and is now in the NFL football. No one returning from last year's squad caught more than 32 balls last season.
The offensive line is going to be the strength of this unit. Four of the five starters from an O-Line that was largely accepted as one of the MWC's best in 2009 are back and should be as strong as ever. This unit should be able to regulate an offense that could be in flux for most of the year.
Coming anywhere near the 35.5 PPG and 427.5 YPG from a year ago would be a tremendous accomplishment for a NCAA college football team that is used to putting points on the board in bunches.
Defensively, BYU had ups and downs last year. The unit allowed just 328.2 YPG and 21.5 PPG, both which ranked it in the Top 30 in the country. The Cougars finished between second and fourth in almost every NCAAF college defensive category. The 'D' only returns five starters though, and that could cause some real issues, particularly if the offense struggles at times over the course of the year.
The NCAAF college schedule this year for BYU is absolutely atrocious. The first three games are all very losable. For a defense that is going to be awfully inexperienced, bringing in Heisman Trophy candidate QB Jake Locker right away is going to be difficult. Trips to Air Force and Florida State immediately thereafter aren't going to be walks in the park either.
The Mountain West schedule is a bear as well. The Cougs should have plenty of slam dunk home wins, but they have to travel to Utah State, TCU, and Utah.
Football Betting fans should be ecstatic to see BYU playing so many road games this year. The team went 5-2 ATS and 7-0 SU away from Provo last season, including beating Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl and Oklahoma at Cowboys Stadium.
The only losses of the year are both able to be avenged, but again, the Cougs lost to both Florida State and TCU at home last year, and they did so by a combined score of 92-35. The road probably won't be nearly as kind.
For the season, BYU went a moneymaking 7-6 ATS.
Because the Cougars are going to have long odds just to win the Mountain West, trying to invest on them to win the BCS National Championship is going to be difficult. However, if you feel so inclined, they are lined at plus 12500 at Olympic Sportsbook.
The bottom line is that this is going to be a long year in Provo. Growing pains are things that every NCAAF college team goes through from time to team, and though getting to a bowl game won't be an issue, a fifth straight 10+ win season seems virtually impossible.