Top 25 Countdown

No. 24 Brigham Young Has Great Talent and a Tough Nonconference Schedule

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why They're Worth Watching

BYU has plenty of talent, and its conference schedule should at least ease the path to its third Mountain West championship in the last four years. The Cougars host Utah and Texas Christian, both of which defeated BYU last season, and have won 18 straight at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Senior quarterback Max Hall, who threw for 3,957 yards and 35 touchdowns last season while completing 69.2 percent of his attempts, is a Heisman Trophy candidate, and the Cougars return the core of their front seven on defense. The veterans will look to improve a defense that allowed an average of 32 points over BYU's final seven games last season.

Player to Watch

Dennis Pitta, Sr., TE

Hall might be a Heisman Trophy candidate, but Pitta, who caught 83 passes for 1,083 yards and six touchdowns last season, should have a heightened role after the departure of wide receivers Austin Collie and Michael Reed.

Why They're Vulnerable

The Cougars have a brutal nonconference schedule. BYU opens against Oklahoma at the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in Irving, Tex., and then plays at Tulane and against Florida State. Even if BYU has the horses to win the Mountain West, a poor showing at the start could hurt its chances at a BCS appearance. In order for a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to become BCS eligible, it needs to finish in the top 12 of the final standings, or in the top 16 and higher than a champion of one of the six conferences with automatic berths. That could be more difficult because of the Cougars' opening stretch.

-- Mark Viera

© 2009 The Washington Post Company