COUGAR TRACKS

Four Realistic Expectations For BYU Football Entering 2022 Season

Aug 22, 2022, 9:56 PM
BYU Football, Jaren Hall...
BYU football quarterback Jaren Hall leads the Cougars offense that is expected to be a high-powered one in 2022. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)
(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU football is about to kick off a 2022 season that will be unique. It’s the final year of Independence before the Cougars enter the Big 12 Conference.

The final Independent tour won’t be easy.

One-third of BYU’s 2022 schedule features opponents ranked in the preseason AP Top 25, headlined by No. 5 Notre Dame in Las Vegas on October 8.

The roster features experience everywhere you look, from the offense, defense, special teams, and even the coaching staff. BYU is one of five coaching staff’s in America that brings back everyone from last season.

There isn’t a player out in the mission field that has Cougar fans saying, “If only BYU had that guy this year.” The key players in the program have been going through fall camp practices for the past month at the Student Athlete Building.

It’s a roster and, more importantly, a program built for success in 2022. But no one will mistake BYU for one of the national powers like Alabama, Ohio State, or Georgia. A lot is returning, but what is realistic for BYU while facing a schedule with no byes until week 11?

BYU cornerback/nickel Jakob Robinson told KSL Sports that he felt BYU deserved to be in the Top 10 when asked what he thought of BYU checking in at No. 25 in the preseason AP poll. Could BYU crack the top 10 this year? Yes, they could. This team is good. But is it realistic?

BYU hasn’t finished in the Top 10 since 1996.

So anyone who cares about BYU football, go ahead and dream big, but it’s also okay to have realistic expectations in the back of your mind.

Here are four things I would consider realistic expectations for BYU football entering the 2022 season.

Top 20 passing offense

BYU’s quarterback factory has been revived under the direction of offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick. Once written off in the coaching world after being fired from Utah, Roderick has done a masterful job with BYU’s quarterbacks since he took over the group in 2018.

Since Roderick joined the staff, BYU has produced three seasons in the top 31 of the four years he’s been the QB coach. The best was a No. 8 passing offense in 2020, with Zach Wilson leading the way. It’s probably unrealistic to expect a top 10 passing offense going into any season. Top 20? That’s realistic for this team.

BYU quarterback Jaren Hall has a full year of starter experience under his belt, and now he has a clean bill of health. Last season, he was playing after suffering cracked ribs. Roderick has made it clear to the media that there isn’t a quarterback in college football that he would trade Hall for if trades were a thing in college.

There’s no shortage of personnel for Hall to target in the passing game. At receiver, BYU has its deepest receiving unit of the Independence era, with Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney leading the way. Then at tight end, BYU has a dynamic tight end tandem in Isaac Rex and Dallin Holker.

Cal grad transfer Christopher Brooks has been a star in fall camp. He’s going to be the starting running back for BYU, and he might be a better receiver out of the backfield than Tyler Allgeier was during his record-setting two years.

All the pieces are there for the passing attack to be among the best in college football this season. It’s not unrealistic to forecast that.

Average two sacks, 1.5 takeaways per game

A significant area of focus for BYU’s defensive staff in fall camp has been takeaways. Last season, BYU averaged 1.5 takeaways per game. That was good for a Top-50 mark nationally. However, what helped mask the lack of takeaways was how well BYU’s offense took care of the football last year.

The BYU offense only had 12 turnovers lost in 13 games.

You can’t always assume there will be that level of ball security. Sometimes turnovers are just bad luck. But it’s reasonable to expect BYU’s defense to be at that 1.5 takeaway threshold again. If BYU could bump that up to two takeaways a game, that bodes well for the Cougars, as the offense will be hard for opponents to slow down this season.

Another defensive stat that would be a realistic expectation this year is two sacks per game.

Last year, teams that averaged two sacks per game were good for 78th nationally. So it’s not unreasonable for BYU to aim for that stat. By comparison, BYU finished 109th nationally in sacks last season with 1.54 in 13 games.

With Tyler Batty back at the outside edge spot, a healthy Earl Tuioti-Mariner at defensive end, and a rejuvenated, healthy Lorenzo Fauatea lining up at defensive tackle, the sack numbers should go up this year.

Be competitive in every game

During BYU’s loss to Baylor in Waco last year, BYU was not only defeated but also physically beat at the line of scrimmage. As a result, the game ended in a 14-point loss for BYU. However, it wasn’t a loss to hold against BYU, considering Baylor turned out to be a top-5 team and the Big 12 Champion last year.

But seeing a nationally-ranked BYU team get pushed around the way they did on that hot October afternoon in Waco showed where BYU needs to make improvements to get into that upper crust of college football.

The 2022 schedule has challenging games, but there isn’t an opponent that BYU should be afraid of or outclassed by this fall.

Nine wins for BYU football

The critical question every year how many wins does BYU need to get to have a successful year? For 2022, a reasonable goal that would also equal success is nine wins. If BYU goes 9-3 and then enters the postseason with a chance for a 10th win in a bowl game, that’s a good year. It’s a year that would continue to move BYU forward with momentum entering the Big 12 era in 2023.

Anything less than nine wins in the regular season would be a disappointment. The pressure is on. No one around BYU is ducking from the expectations. But going into any season, it’s always fair to have realistic expectations set in the beginning.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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