OK. We’re not really in Oxford, MS, but thanks to the magic of the internet, it is only a click away. We found a blog called “The Ole Miss Blog.” We also found the Clarion Ledger news outlet. We wanted to see what they think about their opener with BYU. The short answer is that they know even less of what to expect this year from their team than we do from ours.
One thing they do know, though, is that Randall Mackey, who appeared to have the inside track on the QB job, won’t be playing, because he was arrested after a bar fight. WVU transfer Barry Brunetti will get the nod, with juco transfer Zack Stoudt waiting in the wings if Brunetti doesn’t perform. If Stoudt’s name sounds familiar, its because his his dad is Cliff Stoudt, a career NFL back-up QB who “earned” two Super Bowl rings on the bench with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ole Miss went 4-8 last year, with a 1-7 record in the SEC. After two consecutive years of 9-4 records and Cotton Bowl wins under then-new coach Houston Nutt, Ole Miss expected better last year. They lost a lot of players, including Mr do-it-all Dexter McCluster, but picked up Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli as a grad student transfer.
Obviously, 2010 was a terrible year. It was so bad, as a matter of fact, that Houston Nutt’s wikipedia entry ignores the entire year, with the exception of the record being listed. Nutt has a 133-86 all-time record, and doesn’t lose like he did last year very often. Really, though, nobody in Oxford knows whether Nutt can get the job done or not. What they do know is that Ole Miss is in a rebuilding mode.
So, what do they expect out of the Cougars? What do their fans think? What are their general expectations? After a thorough scouring of all things Ole Miss, I can say they are fifty percent scared and fifty percent confident. They want to believe that the Cougars are overrated, and that they haven’t played anyone, but BYU remains an unknown quantity to them, just as their own team does. With both teams having new offensive coordinators, film study is rendered only fifty percent effective at best.
Ole Miss fans, for the most part, appear to be pretty classy. They don’t do a lot of trash-talking. The closest thing we found was blogger Jake Adams questioning how many BYU students will commit honor code violations by consuming alcohol once they get to Oxford. This was actually pretty mild, taken within the context of the article. Also, it must be noted that Ole Miss fans like their food and beverages, and see nothing wrong with “tipping a few” in the parking lot before and after the game. Those in the Rebels’ fanbase who are confident think that the Cougars “didn’t beat anybody good” last year.
Since nobody knows anything, I guess Vegas will have to be the tiebreaker. They have BYU minus three, at least for now. By this time, all that means is that more bettors favor the Cougars than Ole Miss.
Our game week pick: BYU 28, Ole Miss 17.
Conference Expansion is Getting Interesting
A year ago, BYU was a team playing out the string as an underrated team in a mediocre conference. The wisdom of their move to independent status was debated. Some thought it was great, while some thought it was a terrible move.
Fast forward to a year later. The Cougars are now a prime candidate for Big 12 membership. The Big 12 might be falling apart, but they aren’t going down without a fight. While we still think the Big 12 will eventually be amalgamated into two of the four impending superconferences within the next five years, the Big 12 represents a good opportunity for the next few years.
While AD Tom Holmoe says there has been no contact, some reliable sources say there has been some, and some interesting things have come out of the meeting. First of all, it is rumored that BYU wants to be wherever Texas and Notre Dame go. According to this rumor, though, if Texas and ND don’t end up in the same place, being in a conference with ND is supposedly the Cougars’ first priority.
Reportedly, the Cougars want to know what ND plans on doing, which is always a losing battle, and also want Texas to commit to staying in the Big 12 if they do, indeed, join. Also, LDS officials are adamant that any move be done in an ethical manner, and are concerned about how leaving the WCC in other sports after they just joined would affect the image of the church.
Ultimately, there is still a lot of work to do before the Cougars even get an invitation to the Big 12. The way this usually works is that a school is unofficially told that if they apply, they will be accepted. Then, the school applies for membership, and is accepted.
The main advantage is that the Cougars would be eligible for a lot of great bowls in most years, and almost guaranteed access to the BCS title game if they could go undefeated. Also, if the Big 12 did fold and was amalgamated into the Pac 12 and Eastern Leftover conferences, it would be an easier transition than doing it as an independent.
The main disadvantage is that the Cougars would give up a lot of the control they now have over their schedule and TV rights. However it goes, the BYU Cougars are now a major player in the realignment sweepstakes. They couldn’t say that a year ago.
Jimmer Fredette Engaged
Jimmer Fredette may be old school when it comes to doing things right, but he is definitely modern when it comes to Twitter. Friday night, Jimmer announced to the world on Twitter that he is now engaged to BYU cheerleader and senior-to-be Whitney Wonnacott.
“I’m officially engaged everyone. She Said yes and she was completely surprised! It was perfect!!”
Wonnacott’s Twitter response: “Proposed! Were officially engaged!”
Congratulations to Jimmer and Whitney.
Trying to figure out the starting lineup for the Cougars can be difficult. Like most college head coaches, Bronco Mendenhall has a depth chart in the press guide, but doesn’t go out of his way to verify who will actually be on the field when the Cougars open the season at Ole Miss on September 3. So, while we may have a pretty good idea of who is going to be starting, it is never etched in stone.
Let’s take a look at the offense first. It all begins with Quarterback Jake Heaps. Heaps broke nearly every freshman QB record last year. Heaps completed 219 passes out of 383 attempts for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns with 9 interceptions. That was good for a completion percentage of 56.8, 10.6 yards per completion, 6.0 yards per attempt, and a passer rating of 115.4.
Heaps performed well as a freshman in an offense that might not have been really designed for his strengths. With the promotion of ex-BYU QB Brandon Doman to offensive coordinator this year, though, the Cougars will return to a pass-heavy version of the West Coast Offense that is much closer to that of LaVell Edwards than that of departed OC Robert Anae.
Now, Heaps is a sophomore, and he seems to be growing in “dog years.” Everyone from coaches to writers have remarked how much more mature he is, how much more confidence he has, how much better he grasps the offense, and how much greater his command in the huddle is than last year. Even as national writers predict three or four losses for the Cougars because of their schedule, they say Jake Heaps is the real deal.
National writers are predicting a breakout year for Heaps based on his improvement, the depth and talent at receiver, and a good offensive line coming back. Tweaking the scheme to accent his strengths will help, too.
At center, senior Terence Brown will start, with senior Matt Reynolds at Left Guard, senior Braden Hansen at Right Guard, junior Braden Brown at Right Tackle, and a battle between sophomore Houston Reynolds and freshman Ryker Matthews. Sophomore Austin Holt is the probable starter at Tight End, but watch for sophomore Marcus Matthewto see a lot of time. Richard Wilson is also starting to come on and did catch a TD pass from Jake Heaps in the scrimmage.
At the receiver positions, sophomore Cody Hoffman, who lead the Cougars in receiving last year, and senior McKay Jacobson return, with redshirt freshman Ross Apo expected to return from last year’s injury and be a large part of the rotation.
At running back, Senior JJ DiLuigi, who gained 917 yards last year, returns, rotating with senior Brian Kariya, and Zed Mendenhall will be the fullback.
Sophomore Kicker Justin Sorenson returns, as does junior Punter Riley Stephenson.
On defense, senior Romney Fuga returns at nose tackle, sophomore Graham Rowley at one end and senior Eathyn Manumaleuna at the other. The Linebacking corps are projected by many to be the strength of the team. Jordan Pendleton starts at Strong Linebacker, with junior Uona Kaveinga at MLB, junior Brandon Ogletree at BLB, and sophomore Kyle Van Noy at WLB.
Junior transfer Joe Sampson started at Boundary Corner in the scrimmage on Saturday, while senior Corby Eason started at field corner. Senior Travis Uale, sitting out cracked ribs now, is slated to start at free safety, but Mike Hague is a play maker, getting a lot of reps in his absence, while sophomore Daniel Sorenson is slated to man the Kat position.
Some trends we see so far:
Last year’s starter Riley Nelson is in a very tough battle at backup QB with junior James Lark. Nelson looked very good in the scrimmage, and made a lot of plays with his feet. Nelson is faster and Lark is taller. Nelso would probably be the back-up short term, but if Heaps went down for more than a game or two, look for Lark to be the Starter
The offense is going to be very good this year. With four returning starters on the offensive line, a plethora of very good receivers, and a solid stable of running backs, the Cougars are set on that side of the ball. Heaps was expected to have a big year because of improvement and schematic tweaks, but there is a lot of talent here to protect him, catch the ball, and run it well enough to provide balance and keep defenses honest.
When playing the tough schedule early in the year, though, the defense is going to have to come through and win at least one game. Ole Miss is not quite a upper echelon SEC team, but they have a lot of great athletes and a head coach who likes to run the ball. It is essential that the Cougar defense doesn’t let Ole Miss get a downhill running attack going.
Texas presents a similar challenge. They are full of elite athletes at every position. Texas gets almost anyone they want out of their home state, and fills in with a few “outsiders.” The Cougars will not see the athleticism and power that those two teams present the rest of the year.
They will, however, play two very well-coached teams in rival Utah, probable top-five team TCU, and an always-dangerous Oregon State team, for a total of five games that could turn into disasters if the defense doesn’t play well. The Cougars are going to have to show a lot of discipline on defense to win their share of these games. If they get caught out of position against any of those teams, they will pay.
If the Cougars play well on both sides of the ball, they have the talent to win all of their games. There is a chance that they will be the underdog in all five of them, though. These games will be seen by the national public as THE gauge of whether or not BYU belongs in the upper echelon of college football.
If they make a good case for themselves in those five games, it will mean a lot for not only this year, but the next few as well. If the Cougars win three of those five games and take care of business with the rest of their schedule, they could be looking at a BCS bowl this year.
Anything over two lossses, though, and it’s the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas.
This weekend, Texas A&M was very close to joining the SEC. The SEC didn’t invite them, but their wording was so vague that it was obvious that the door will be open to them when they “fix” a few things. A&M’s main hurdle, as a state university, is the blessing of their legislature to make the move. The SEC won’t invite A&M until they are sure A&M can actually make the move.
This brought up a lot of discussion in the blogosphere on where expansion is ultimately headed. The specifics were different from person to person, but almost everyone’s vision, including that of ex-NCAA president Cedric Dempsey, includes a break from the traditional NCAA structure by somewhere around four or five “superconferences.”
So, where does this leave BYU? Will they stay independent and be “left behind,” or will they end up with a prized superconference berth? What would be the best path for the Cougars? Let’s take a step or two back and survey the landscape.
The way it looks right now, there will be four superconferences. The Big Ten, the Pac 12, and the SEC have been the most aggressive of the six conferences, and are here to stay. They will fill their conferences with the best teams and leave the ACC, the Big East, and the Big 12 to form one superconference with whoever is left after the realignment starts.
The Big Ten has academic requirements that leave a lot of teams out. The four most likely candidates for the Big Ten are Notre Dame, Missouri, Boston College, and Syracuse. Notre Dame is a great fit for obvious reasons, and the other three schools would increase the “conference footprint,” which is becoming an increasingly important consideration. Basically, the larger a conference’s footprint, the more homes it can reach on television, and the more money it can make from TV contracts.
The SEC was rumored to be looking at A&M, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Missouri, depending upon who was producing the rumors. The first thing one needs to know about the SEC is that it is very strongly rumored to have a tacit agreement not to invite a team from a state that already has one. That would seemingly disqualify Clemson and Florida State.
The SEC, though, would invite two teams from Texas, for example, to join at the same time. This would make Texas Tech and Texas A&M a possible “package deal,” with Virginia Tech and one more team. We think that the SEC would dissolve their “gentleman’s agreement” if Florida State or Miami wanted to join.
Given the bitter rivalry between Florida State and Florida, and both the physical and cultural distance between Miami and Gainesville, we think Miami would be the more likely choice. They are very South and very East. As for Missouri, we think they would be a longshot because it wouldn’t make geographical sense.
The Pac-12 would need four more teams. The two most obvious choices are BYU and Boise State. We believe the other two teams would be from the Big 12. They would need two northern teams to balance out the north/south distribution. We are guessing that Kansas and Kansas State would be the main targets. Iowa State would probably lobby heavily for entrance into the Big Ten or Pac 12.
When this was all said and done it would leave five teams in the Big 12, ten teams in the ACC, and seven in the Big East. We could easily imagine the top sixteen of those teams forming the fourth superconference. This would leave six teams unaffiliated if the math worked out that way.
However, Cedric Dempsey seems to think that some of the conferences will have as many as 18 teams. This would work easily into four superconferences, and four championship games that would be a de facto first round of an eight-team playoff to determine the BCS Champion.
If we were to guess, we would say that under the current system, there will be a “plus one” format with four teams seeded into two bowls for semifinals and a title game played a week later within three years. This would put a system in place where the four superconference plan will fit into what already exists.
The Big Ten has told its schools to “clear their schedules” for a nine-game conference slate by 2017. This could be “the” year when the shift happens. By then, most of the realignment and jostling for position will be over, and it will be a simple matter for the four superconferences to simply start their own division.
They may continue to call it the BCS, or they may come up with a new name, but we fully expect the four superconferences to form their own division by 2017. There will be a lot of obstacles and “growing pains,” but at the end, we should see the first eight-team playoff for a true National Champion at the end of the 2017 season.
But where do the Cougars fit? They are in the perfect position right now. As an independent, they will be able to increase their own footprint and their value to a superconference. Most of all, they are free to take all offers and do what they want. The ACC and the Big 12 are already rumored to be interested in them. Ultimately, though, it should come down to the Big 12/East/ACC or the PAC 12.
The PAC 12 makes the most geographical sense for BYU. The schools are closer, and BYU was one of the original proponents of their variation of the West Coast Offense. The problem is that BYU is antithetical to the West Coast lifestyle. And would BYU go to the pac if invited? Big 12 would likely let byu keep rebroadcast rights. Probably not the PAC 12
But if the PAC would invite, and work with BYU on allowing their network, we could see an “Inland Division” of what should then be the PAC 16. BYU, Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State, Utah, Colorado, and whichever two Big 12 schools they can get. We are guessing it turns out to be Kansas and either Kansas State or Iowa State.
Our ultimate option would be if ESPN brokered a new conference, built on allowing schools their own networks and centered around BYU, Texas, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame. This conference could raid the leftovers of the Big 12, Big East, and ACC. It might even be able to sneak into the PAC 12 and raid say, Arizon and Arizona State. Not sure the current leadership of the Big 12 would allow that kind of expansion, although that conference definitely has the structure. This would allow the forging of new TV deals and solve the problem of who becomes the 4th superconference.
Whatever happens, it appears that the landscape of college football is about to change again.
Incoming search terms:
- College Football Realignment BYU
- ncaa football realignment byu
- NCAA Realignment BYU
- what division is byu
Jake Heaps came to Provo with a lot of promise. He was the number one rated quarterback recruit in the country by both Scout and Rivals. He started out sharing the quarterback job with Riley Nelson, and took over the job when Nelson was injured against Florida State.
He went 6-4 at the helm of the Cougars. The winning percentage might not have been what anyone in Provo wanted, but Heaps did break every major freshman quarterbacking record at BYU. For any freshman quarterback, these stats are impressive: 219 completions in 383 attempts for 2.316 yards, 15 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, a completion percentage of 57.2, and a quarterback rating of 116.2.
If any freshman quarterback on a team that plays in a major media market had those stats, he would have Tim Tebow-esque publicity. He would be THE quarterback going into 2011. While most national media expect Heaps to be very good, he is still under the radar in most of the country.
This could actually work in Heaps’ favor, though. In his media day interview, he looked very poised, confident, and mature. He got married over the summer, which usually accelerates the maturity process. Even though there is “competition” for the job, Heaps is the starter going into camp, and it is a lot different for him than it was last year.
He has had a year to get acclimated to being away from home, to the difference in speed, and isn’t learning an entirely new system this time. When the new coordinator was your position coach and didn’t change any of the terminology of his “new” system, it’s a lot easier to keep the momentum going.
Make no mistake, though; Jake Heaps has a lot of momentum going into 2011. He went 1-3 for his first four games, but 5-1 for his last six. This includes being named the Most Valuable Player in the New Mexico Bowl victory over UTEP.
Last year, even with a lot of spread formations, the Cougars ran the ball a lot, especially early in the season. With Brandon Doman’s return to the roots of the LaVell Edwards version of the West Coast Offense, expect to see more passing. Doman kept a lot of the plays that worked from last year, and kept the terminology, but you can bet the plays he is adding will be mostly passes.
With a return to the principles of the LaVell Edwards WCO, we can expect to see a lot more short passes and bubble screens. These not only open up the middle for the run, but also gives the quarterback an opportunity to put up great stats if he earns them. There is no doubt in my mind that Heaps will continue to demonstrate why he was able to win the starting job as a freshman.
If Jake Heaps stays healthy for four years and Brandon Doman is successful as the offensive coordinator, Heaps will have an opportunity to break every quarterbacking record at BYU. If he does, though, he will have to do it against a tougher schedule.
This year’s slate includes road games at Mississippi, Texas, Oregon State, and TCU, with tough games against Beehive Boot rivals Utah and Utah State, and “trap” games against UCF and Hawaii.
2012 gets even tougher, with Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, and Boise State added to the schedule, and a continuation of the Beehive Boot series with Utah and Utah State. Hawaii and Oregon State also stay on the schedule, and three games are yet to be announced.
2013 will bring Texas, Boise State, Georgia Tech, Utah State, and Southern Mississippi so far. By then, Heaps will be a senior. He should have an even better supporting cast by then, too, because increased visibility will help recruiting immensely.
By the time Jake Heaps is finished at BYU, he will probably have been on television more than any quarterback in history. The fact that BYU players are actually student-athletes and abide by the honor code has the potential to make Heaps the most scrutinized player in the country.
For years, BYU players have been underrated by most of the national media. Quarterbacks putting up huge numbers were said to be “system quarterbacks.” The two main reasons cited for this were a weak conference schedule and a lack of national TV opportunities. The Cougars have addressed both of those reasons with their move to independent status and their contract with ESPN.
So, now, Jake Heaps gets to be “the man.” He gets to be the face of the BYU program. He is photogenic and handles himself with poise and intellect on camera. For many quarterbacks, the kind of publicity he will be getting would be a curse. For Heaps and the Cougars, though, it will probably be a blessing.
When it’s all said and done, the BCS Championship game is a beauty contest. Playing in the WAC or MWC, even an undefeated BYU was never going to make it to the BCS title game. Boise State and TCU are great examples of what happens when “outsiders” go undfeated; they don’t get into the title game. As an independent with a great TV schedule, BYU will now be taken seriously. If they win all of their games, they could make it to the BCS Championship Game.
And if they do go undefeated any of the next three years, Jake Heaps is going to be one of the biggest reasons.
So, what should we expect this year? Last year but with more highs and less lows. An SEC road game, a Big 12 road game, and a rivalry game at home against Utah is a tough start for anyone. I look for a slow statistical start the first three games, followed by a very good game against UCF.
After that, it could be “off to the races.”
Max Hall started out at Arizona State, but left for Iowa (the state, not the school) to go on a mission. When he was finished, he decided BYU was a better place for him, and never looked back. He quickly became the starting quarterback, and would go on to lead the Cougars to a 32-7 record, including a 2-1 bowl record, during his three years as the starter.
By the time Max Hall left BYU, he was third in the Mountain West Conference in career passing yardage with 11,365 yards, and had the ninth-best total for an individual year in the conference with 3,957 yards in 2008.
Unfortunately, Hall is generously listed at 6-1 and 205 pounds, so he wasn’t drafted. He caught on with the Arizona Cardinals and earned his way onto the roster. Not only did he earn a spot, but was the backup to Derek Anderson by the time training camp was over. The Cards saw enough that they released former first round pick Matt Leinart.
Hall got a couple of appearances, and was given the start in game five against the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. He went 17 of 27 for 167 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception, with two fumbles. Most importantly, though, the Cards won the game, 30-20. Pepsi subsequently named him rookie of the week.
He started two more games and eventually gave way to original starter Anderson. He would finish with only 370 yards, one touchdown, six interceptions, and a QB rating of 35.7. It wasn’t really an impressive year, but the Cardinals had a huge letdown from their 2009 playoff loss to the eventual champion Saints.
Really, there is no way to sugarcoat it. In 2009, the Cardinals were in utter disarray, finishing 5-11. In comparison, Hall’s 1-2 record is right in line with what the rest of the team did.
Fast forward to 2011. Hall appeared to have a chance to compete for the starting job, but the Cardinals went out and got Kevin Kolb, signing him to a $63 million contract, with a lot of feedback from star receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
At this point, Max Hall is going to be relegated to backup status at best. He should be fine in competition with fellow holdover John Skelton. Hall has the stats in college, and performed well for a rookie on a team that was pretty much faxing it in after the second or third game of the season, but the politics of the NFL are going to make it tough for him.
First of all, the players making the most money usually call the shots. Not officially, of course, but in a de facto sense. The more you are paid, the more of an “asset” you are perceived to be by ownership and management. If you are one of the top five on the club in salaries, and haven’t done anything to anger the management, your feedback in seasonal debriefings usually carries weight commensurate to your salary. It’s a lot easier to replace a minimum wage guy than someone who has a huge contract, so management usually does what they can to keep the higher-paid players happy.
Obviously, this puts Kolb in a great position. The only way Kolb won’t start the entire season is if he is injured. Since injuries are common in the NFL, it isn’t out of the question that the backups will see time, but the job is Kolb’s until he is unable to play.
Hall’s height is another political problem. Even though Drew Brees, Troy Smith, and Micheal Vick aren’t really very tall, the prototypical NFL QB is at least 6-4 and preferably 6-6. If two players are of equal talent and one is three to six inches taller than the other, the taller player will get the nod at QB.
Of course, if you asked Max Hall, he would probably tell you it doesn’t matter. Hall is a gamer, and will do everything he can to earn as much playing time as he can.
When Hall had his victory over the Saints last year, Kurt Warner was calling the game for Fox Sports. As you may remember, Warner was also undrafted and older than the traditional rookie. He played in the NFL’s European league, and was working at a supermarket for $5.50 an hour when the Rams gave him a chance. Warner had a great career, winning the Super Bowl MVP award with the Rams, and taking the Cardinals a only play off berth in 2009, his last season.
Warner remarked that Hall reminded him of himself with his maturity and his ability to handle pressure. He called Hall “just what the Cardinals needed” at QB, and said he gave them “some personality, a spark at the position.”
Obviously, Warner is proof that an undrafted QB can overcome the politics of the NFL and have a nice career if given the opportunity. Hopefully, Max Hall will get that opportunity again.
Ideally, a quarterback sits on the bench and develops for a year or two, playing mop-up time, learning the system, and gaining experience. Hall was thrown into the fire during his fifth week, and defeated the defending Super Bowl Champions. He may not have finished the season off as he or the Cardinals would have liked, but he did acquit himself well for a rookie.
According to the prevalent opinion, Hall is already a mere curio, part of a three-headed talisman of a season to forget, while Kevin Kolb is the savior who will lead the Cardinals back to the playoffs. The media have mostly written him off as “old news,” while Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t seem to want anything to do with anyone who played the position last year.
The coaching staff knows their job, and are doing everything they can to prepare Kolb for the season, and seem to have forgotten all about Max Hall.
Luckily, Max Hall hasn’t forgotten about Max Hall. And he hasn’t forgotten that things can change in the NFL in a split second. Hopefully, he gets another chance to prove himself.
Incoming search terms:
- matt hall former byu
Last updated byat .