The Cougars recently announced their full 2012 schedule. Here’s a few thoughts about each game, and what we should see. We will, of course, cover the games fully as they get closer.
September 1: Washington State.
The eyes of the entire football world will be on this game, but most people outside of Provo or the LDS faith won’t be cheering for the home team. This game features the return of “The Pirate,” Mike Leach. Leach is different, and is a walking storyline generator.
The media will be all over this one, and many of them will be openly rooting for Leach to win because of the dubious nature of his firing at Texas Tech. Since Craig James no longer works for ESPN, and it was revealed in Leach’s book that James hired a PR company to discredit Leach, ESPN might side with Leach and disassociate themselves from James.
Either way, this “Cougars vs Cougars” matchup could be one of the more entertaining games of the year. We think this one is a tossup.
September 8: Weber State
Two words: tomato can. The experienced and well-coached Cougars of BYU should make this one a blowout.
September 15: at Utah
There is no way to sugarcoat this: the Cougars got embarrassed at home last year by the Utes, and this will be even more of a grudge match than usual. Not only was the game a blowout, but the conduct of some of the Utes and their fans rubbed salt in the wound, both on and off the field. I think the Cougars will find a way to win this game out of sheer determination.
September 22: at Boise State
This could be the best year to play Boise State in the last seven or eight. BSU expects to have as many as 14 graduating players see the inside of an NFL camp this year. While the bigger football factories such as Alabama can reload, BSU will be rebuilding. The graduation of all-world QB Kellen Moore will be too much for BSU to rebound from. BSU will win eight games due to a fairly easy schedule; BYU won’t be one of them.
September 29: Hawai’i
Hawai’i is a very good team at home. They aren’t at home on September 29.
October 5: Utah State
As always, this will be an intense “rivalry game.” We don’t see USU pulling off the upset here, though. Even though it practically took a miracle to win last year, BYU has learned not to overlook this game, and will bring their ‘A’ game the same way we expect them to against Utah.
October 13: Oregon State
Normally, it would appear unwise to schedule a Pac 12 team for homecoming. Normally, Oregon State would have something resembling a decent football team. It’s not a normal year. If BYU takes care of business the way we expect them to, the Cougs will come into this game undefeated. We’re not overlooking OSU, but, seriously, look at their performance lately…
October 20: at Notre Dame
This could be a matchup of undefeated teams. Or, Notre Dame could enter this game on a four game losing streak. Our guess is that Notre Dame will find a way to be good this year. Then, again, BYU is a “trap game” for Notre Dame, because they play Stanford the week before and Oklahoma the week after.
Beating Notre Dame at home is difficult any year despite the weaker seasons the team has had the last few years. Even though we’ll cheer BYU onto the win, this is a game that BYU could very likely lose.
October 27: at Georgia Tech
Normally, a team that went 8-5 last year and is starting a redshirt freshman QB would not be much to worry about. Georgia Tech, though, is always a team to worry about. They are one of the few teams that uses the triple option, and they execute it very well.
The problem defending the triple option isn’t that it is anything special, but that teams almost never see it. It requires a different mindset to defend than any other offense. Also, because it can produce some prolific rushing yardage, it has a tendency to produce an advantage in time of possession, and can keep the other team’s offense off of the field.
This game is scary. Very scary. It is on the road and is right after Notre Dame. It doesn’t look good for the Cougars here, especially if the team loses against ND. This is one we’ll go ahead and predict a loss for, despite our confidence that BYU can win this game. It’s just probably the toughest on this year’s schedule.
November 10: Idaho
This game could be close in the first half, but we see the Cougars pulling away in the second half. This will probably be one of the games that the coaching staff will plan to get some team-building done for next year. Riley Nelson may play the first half, but will probably wrap the game up and let the 1st backup play the rest.
November 17: at San Jose State
This is another game that the Cougars should win easily, but it is on the road, and things can happen on the road. Luckily, we don’t see any of those things happening this time around. BYU has consistently played pretty well against average teams on the road the last few years. This will be a game that will be played for four full quarters, but the Cougs should probably win by a margin of at least two scores.
November 24: at New Mexico State
Another game that the Cougars should win. Pretty much everything that applies to San Jose State applies here, too.
This is one of the best opportunities the Cougars have had for a shot at the National Championship in a long time. Returning QB Riley Nelson might not be the prettiest QB in the country, but he is one of the most courageous, and is great at getting the job done, no matter what that entails.
The major roadblocks are WSU, Utah, BSU, Notre Dame, and GA Tech. We really think that the Cougars will beat Utah, BSU, and possibly Notre Dame, but it might be too much to expect an undefeated season. If the Cougars are going to get a shot at the BCS Championship game, they will have to go undefeated. They have a good enough schedule to make a case if they go undefeated, but will probably not make it with even one loss, due to the usual college football politics. As we’ve seen in the past, the ones in control are just waiting for that one loss to write you off.
While it didn’t apply to Alabama’s loss to LSU last year, the NCAA’s advertising slogan “Every Game Counts” will apply to the Cougars this year, as long as they keep on winning. Our guess is that a one-loss season could still result in a BCS bowl, but that anything less will end up in a Poinsettia Bowl berth.
There is a slight chance that a two-loss season could still result in a BCS bowl as the “top independent,” or “top non-BCS conference team,” but it would be a lot better for the Cougars if they took care of business every week since the number of undefeated or near-undefeated non-BCS contenders has grown in the last few years. We don’t really see this happening, but the colllege football landscape is a complicated field where these conditions could potentially exist. Not likely though.
We’re always optimistic, but even we can’t predict an undefeated season. But we will go with 11-1 as our totally overly-optimistic prediction and a BCS bowl berth.
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For a school that does things right and isn’t known as a golf factory, BYU has been well-represented on the PGA tour. We are going to take a look at a few, past and present, who have enjoyed a little bit of fame on the tour and represented the Cougars well.
1. Johnny Miller
Miller is the king of BYU golfers who have made it onto the tour. He won 25 tournaments on the PGA tour and seven other tournaments for a total of 32. This includes the 1973 US Open and the 1976 British Open. He also finished second in the Masters three times. He was the PGA Player of the Year in 1974, when he was also the top money winner.
Miller played in an era when Arnold Palmer was still around, and Jack Nicklaus was dominating the tour. Gary Player and Lee Trevino were also at the top of their games while Miller played. Many of those we see as legends today also played during Miller’s tenure on the tour. Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, and Tom Weiskopf were also on the tour with him.
Miller was as good as anyone on the tour until he developed the “yips” on the putting greens, and it would eventually frustrate him into leaving the tour. He was in a slump from 1977-79, won again in 1980, and had one more great season in 1981, winning the Million Dollar Challenge in Sun City, South Africa, and making the Ryder Cup team that year. Miller was also on the Ryder Cup team in 1975.
Miller went into “semi-retirement” in 1990, and was hired by NBC as a commentator on their tour broadcasts. He almost immediately established a reputation as the most honest commentator in the game. He would later become the lead commentator, and still enjoys a reputation as the best and most honest analyst on television.
Miller has stirred up a bit of controversy with his honesty, but it is what makes him the most trusted source of information on television when it comes to golf. Miller is known for never pulling punches, even when discussing his friends on the tour. If that isn’t enough, Miller is also a successful golf course architect.
2. Mike Weir
Weir, who lives in Canada, had a very good career in the 2000’s decade. He graduated from BYU in 1992, and started his career as a pro on the Canadian Tour. Weir flirted with the PGA tour with limited success, but won the 1998 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. That would start him off on a very nice ten year run.
He got his first US Tour win in 1999 at the Air Canada Championship in Surrey, BC, Canada. He would go on to win eight times, including the 2003 Masters, the 2001 Tour Championship, and the 2000 WGC American Express Championship. His last win was in 2007.
Weir’s career hit a downward trend when he started using the popular “Stack and Tilt” swing during the later part of the decade. In 2010, he went back to work with his old teacher, Mike Wilson, but then rehired the creators of the Stack and Tilt, Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer. He ended up with a torn ligament no his right elbow in 2010, and started 2011 on a major medical exemption.
Now, Weir doesn’t have full status on the US Tour, but he has activated his European Tour status that he won by virtue of being a Masters winner. When not jetting off to Europe, Weir lives in Draper, Utah, with his family. We hope he “finds it” again soon.
3. Daniel Summerhays
Summerhays turned pro in 2007, after becoming the first amateur to win a tournament on the Nationwide Tour. The Nationwide Tour allowed him the same privilege they would a professional, and his win earned him a spot on the tour through 2008.
He would finally earn his PGA Tour card by finishing fifth overall on the Nationwide money list for 2010. In 2011, he had an up and down year. He made over $190,000 in his first five events, but only around $42,000 in his next 19. He would eventually have to go back to the PGA Qualifying Tournament, where he regained his card by two strokes.
Summerhays currently travels to tour events in a motor home with his wife and preschool-aged children. In one stretch in 2011, he played 25 tournaments in 30 weeks. Summerhays is well on the way to keeping his card. He has already won $323,256 in eight tournaments. He has made six cuts, and is averaging 70.7 so far, which would be his best by 1.6 strokes if he could maintain this pace.
4. Bobby Clampett
Bobby Clampett graduated in 1980. He was a three-time All-American from 1978-1980, and was Collegiate Golfer of the Year twice. As an amateur, he also won the Porter Cup, the Sunnehanna Amateur, and the Western Amateur.
Clampett was mildly successful as a pro, winning only once, but he would keep his card from 1980-1995. He made over $1 million in his career, in the days when purses were a lot less than they are now. He is currently on the Champions Tour as a part-time player. Clampett has also worked covering golf for CBS since 1991.
5. Keith Clearwater
Clearwater graduated in 1982, and turned pro shortly afterward. He was only moderately successful on the tour, but he did lead the Cougars to the 1981 NCAA Championship, and was a first team All-American. He managed to win twice on the PGA tour, and is now on the Champions Tour.
6. Rick Fehr
Rick Fehr was on the National Championship team, and was a two-time All-American. He won twice on the PGA tour, the last time in 1994. Fehr might have done the smartest thing of any of his contemporaries. He used his BYU degree in finance to start his own business as a sports agent. He currently represents golfers on the PGA Tour.
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BYU to the Big 12 is a rumor that just won’t go away. Rumors don’t always happen, but this one has been so persistent that we think it might be close to happening. There are some pros and cons to this move.
First of all, the Cougars have a great deal right now. They have their own TV contract. They can schedule whoever they want, and give themselves the optimum mix of easy and difficult games. They have a bowl deal, and currently have a realistic chance of a BCS bowl if they simply beat out Notre Dame as the best independent in any given year.
The problem is that the BCS will obviously be going to a plus one format soon, and probably to a true playoff somewhere down the road. It might not even be called the BCS after the next round of negotiations. If everything was going to stay as it is now, the Cougars would be better off as an independent. Unfortunately, major changes are about to happen, and the Cougars don’t want to be left on the “wrong end” of the system when they do.
There is a chance that the BCS conferences and schools will form a new division within the next ten years. We would say the next five, but things move slowly in the NCAA. As it sits right now, schools like Alabama are upset that schools like Indiana State have a vote that counts just as much as theirs. They also don’t like it that there are more of the smaller programs than big ones, and that the smaller ones often win the voting when any kind of NCAA regulations are discussed.
This makes it apparent that getting into a major conference soon, before the changes begin to accelerate, is the best move for the Cougars, if they want to compete at the highest level of intercollegiate sports.
The Cougars’ options to join a major conference probably come down to two conferences: the Big East and the Big 12. Why only these conferences? The Pac 12 apparently doesn’t want BYU because of their LDS affiliation. The Big Ten wants, for the most part, public universities that are members of the prestigious Association of American Universities. BYU is not a member at this time.
The SEC would probably love to have the Cougars, but the SEC is a meat grinder for most football teams. They are full of football factories where football is a lot more important than education, and there are no such things as “admissions standards” for athletes who can play football at an elite level. This creates a grossly unlevel playing field when compared to a school with an honor code where students actually have to attend class. While the Cougars can beat teams like this on occasion, a steady diet of them would be suicide.
As for the ACC, it’s just too far away. Also, the same things that apply in football in the SEC apply in basketball in the ACC. The Cougars would be going up against too many rosters full of McDonald’s All Americans.
This leaves the Big 12 and the Big East. The Cougars have already turned down the Big East, and they don’t make geographic sense, either. Even with San Diego State and Boise State, there would be just too many cross-country flights to make the Big East a practical choice.
By the process of elimination, that leaves the Big 12. There is a lot to like about the Big 12, but a major downside, too. The Big 12 lost Nebraska, and will lose Texas A&M and Missouri next year, but are gaining West Virginia and Texas Christian University. They are a tough conference, especially for football.
Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State currently have very strong football programs, and the addition of WVU and TCU guarantees at least five strong programs in the conference. Baylor has “upped their game” recently, though the graduation of star QB Robert Griffin III might signal the beginning of the end for their flirtation with elite status. The teams at the bottom of the conference are a step above most of the MWC teams the Cougars used to play.
So, for football, the Cougars would probably play at least five strong opponents, and three more that are a step above the teams they play now. In addition, they would be expected to keep rivalry games with Utah and USU. In other words, the Cougars would suddenly have one of the nation’s toughest schedules.
In basketball, it would be more of the same. Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, WVU, and Baylor would all be better than anyone in the WCC at this time. Other Big 12 teams flirt with elite status for a year or two at a time, too.
The dominant teams might be a bit different, but the story would be the same: the Cougars would be playing against a lot more teams that consider athletics to be a lot more important than honor codes, grades, class attendance, and SAT scores. As much as we detest the thought, we would project a temporary down season or two as the Cougars adjust their personnel to compete in the Big 12.
Another downside would be the amalgamation of the Cougars’ ESPN TV contract into that of the Big 12. We don’t know the finances, but we are guessing that the Cougars would probably be losing a bit of money on the deal. While there is a chance that the larger numbers of the Big 12’s TV and bowl affiliations would more than offset the loss of the individual contract, there is also the Texas factor. The Big 12 has historically allowed Texas to run the conference. Texas collects a disproportionate share of the money, and it’s “vote” seems to count more than those of other teams.
The positives are that the Big 12’s “footprint” would give them access to more players, and that they would no longer be chronically underrated. Also, while the Pac 12 would make more geographic sense, the Big 12 is probably the best overall fit of all of the major conferences. It is the second-closest geographically, and definitely gives the Cougars access to better competition.
The bottom line here is that the Cougars are going to have to find a way to upgrade their personnel if they want to compete against the football factories in the Big 12. If they want to win another National Championship, 2012 might be one of the last opportunities to take advantage of the current system and get into the one game for all the marbles.
We’ll see how it goes.
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