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No. 15 Brigham Young

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Friday, August 15, 2008

The Basics

2007 Record

11-2, 8-0 Mountain West (defeated UCLA, 17-16, in Las Vegas Bowl)

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Returning Starters

10 offense, 3 defense

Key Game

at Utah, Nov. 22

Player to Watch

Max Hall, junior quarterback

In what was thought to be a rebuilding year, Hall passed for 3,848 yards and 26 touchdowns. He won't surprise anyone this time: The latest heir to BYU's QB legacy is the Mountain West preseason offensive player of the year.

Why They're Worth Watching

BYU has the best chance to become the fourth team from outside a major conference to crash the BCS party, a feat that's been accomplished in each of the past two years. If the Cougars win at Washington in the second week of the season, they'll likely be favored in each of their remaining games. BYU is one of just two teams in the nation that returns a 3,500-yard passer and a 1,000-yard rusher. (Central Michigan is the other, and it's the same person -- quarterback Dan LeFevour passed for 3,652 yards and rushed for 1,122.) Hall became a familiar name last season. Running back Harvey Unga, for both his production and novelty, may become one, too. As a redshirt freshman, the 243-pound, 6-foot cannonball rushed for 1,227 yards and 13 touchdowns and also caught 44 passes for 655 yards. Jan Jorgensen, who had 14 sacks last season, is a preseason candidate for the Ted Hendricks Award, given to the nation's top defensive end.

Why They're Vulnerable

The defense lost eight starters, most alarmingly the entire starting secondary. BYU's chance to finish undefeated may hinge on how quickly the new defensive backfield meshes. The Cougars will face Washington's Jake Locker, one of the best quarterbacks in the Pacific-10, on the road Sept. 6. BYU's defense also will undergo a slight transition: Though Coach Bronco Mendenhall will continue to call the plays, Jaime Hill will move from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator this season. The schedule offers potential pitfalls. The Cougars have won 16 consecutive games in the Mountain West, a streak that dates from 2005, but they'll have to play their primary conference threats, Utah and TCU, on the road in charged atmospheres. BYU plays the Horned Frogs on a Thursday night on four days' rest, and Utah might also be unbeaten for a season-ending showdown Nov. 22. Either game could foil their BCS hopes.

-- Adam Kilgore

Tomorrow

No. 14 Virginia Tech

Previously

No. 25 Arizona State, No. 24 Alabama, No. 23 Cal, No. 22 Penn State, No. 21 Wake Forest, No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 19 Tennessee, No. 18 Oregon, No. 17 Illinois, No. 16 Kansas


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