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Fans can’t be upset with how BYU performed in Kalani Sitake’s first season as head coach, reaching nine wins that included a bowl victory. The Cougars got out to a slow start, but that was mostly due to schedule difficulty. None of their losses were considered bad, although none of their win were considered elite. They’ll try and build on that performance, but it won’t be easy with a couple new faces in the ground game.

While quarterback Tanner Mangum has plenty of experience having started most of 2015, he still was the backup to Taysom Hill (603 rushing yards, 20 total TDs) in 2016. Hill was a vital part to the running game last year along with record-breaking RB Jamaal Williams (1,375 yards, 12 TDs). Mangum can be just as good at quarterback, but running back is expected to be a committee between last year’s backup Squally Canada, along with Ula Tolutau, KJ Hall and a couple others. Matching Williams’s numbers will be tough, although should be attainable given the four starters returning on the line. Mangum will also have some new targets to work with at receiver with tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau (former WR) expected to be the top guy.

Either way, BYU remains a team that builds its identity on the defensive side after allowing 19.5 points per game a year ago. The biggest question will be along the line where the Cougars lose every relevant starter from a solid group of guys that stopped the run and got to the quarterback. To alleviate some of that concern, all of the linebackers return with Fred Warner, Butch Pau’u and Francis Bernard. They also lost their top safety, but return the other three starters in the secondary. This group probably won’t be as good with new pieces on the line, but should still be a stout defense that keeps BYU competitive in every game.

That’ll need to be the case early with another tough schedule to open the season, namely the game against LSU that’s being played in Houston. That’s followed by a rematch against Utah and then Wisconsin, which could be a top-10 team this season. With 13 games on the slate, depth will be tested, but the schedule lightens up later in the year with teams like ECU, SJSU and Fresno, among others. With that favorable stretch in the last half of the season, nine wins will be attainable again, even if they lose four games in the first half of the campaign.

With an experienced offensive line, Mangum should be fine to lead the offense to plenty of wins. If the defense doesn’t take too big of a step back, 10 wins is a possibility, but that’s banking on BYU to win at least four of its first seven games with six of those being tough competition.


2017 BYU Cougars Football Schedule

Aug. 26 vs. Portland State
Sept. 2 vs. LSU (NRG Stadium, Houston)
Sept. 9 vs. Utah
Sept. 16 vs. Wisconsin

Sept. 29 at Utah State
Oct. 6 vs. Boise State
Oct. 14 at Mississippi State

Oct. 21 at East Carolina
Oct. 28 vs. San Jose State
Nov. 4 at Fresno State
Nov. 10 at UNLV
Nov. 18 vs. Massachusetts
Nov. 25 at Hawaii

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