COUGAR TRACKS

Bold Predictions For BYU Football In 2023

Aug 27, 2023, 11:46 AM | Updated: 1:33 pm

PROVO, Utah – BYU football kicks off its Big 12 era on Saturday. After two years of ramping up for life in a power conference, the moment has arrived for Kalani Sitake and his program.

This time of the year always springs hope and endless hot takes.

Let’s get into the mix with some bold predictions of our own.

My six bold predictions for BYU football during the 2023 season.

1. BYU football opens the season with a 5-0 start

How’s that for a bold prediction?

BYU has traditionally, under Kalani Sitake, been a good September team. Since 2018, BYU has been 16-5 in games played in college football’s opening month. That includes wins over Arizona, Wisconsin, Tennessee, USC, Navy, Utah, Arizona State, and Baylor.

So, the Cougars know how to jump out to a fast start. I think they will again this season.

BYU has two games they should win comfortably against Sam Houston and Southern Utah. They will have a primetime kickoff in SEC Country against Arkansas. But the Cougars have always fared well in revenge spots. Arkansas is going away from the uptempo attack with new OC Dan Enos for more of an under-center approach with QB KJ Jefferson and RB Raheim “Rocket” Sanders.

Then BYU kicks off Big 12 play with a challenging road game at Kansas. But still, winnable. Preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Jalon Daniels is the star that makes Kansas run. He’s been experiencing some back tightness throughout fall camp. They’ve got a talented backup in Jason Bean, but Daniels has superstar power that, if he isn’t at full strength, BYU could pull off a win.

Finally, the fifth game is against Cincinnati on a Friday night before General Conference weekend. It’s a tough turnaround for the Bearcats, who go from hosting Oklahoma on a Saturday afternoon to traveling two timezones to face BYU at altitude on a weeknight.

The scheduling quirks line up well for BYU to make some national noise in the season’s first month.

2. Three BYU players earn First Team All-Big 12 recognition

On my preseason Big 12 ballot, I had BYU offensive tackle Kingsley Suamataia and running back Aidan Robbins grabbing first-team All-Big 12 honors. So I’ll stay with those guys earning that honor at season’s end.

My third pick is cornerback Eddie Heckard. There’s stiff competition in the secondary in the Big 12 this year. But this is a bold prediction article. The Weber State transfer has been a star for BYU in the secondary, and he’s a playmaker.

3. UConn transfer Keelan Marion emerges as BYU’s top wide receiver

The speed of Keelan Marion was on display throughout fall camp. BYU added the former UConn Husky after spring ball concluded. He brings an ability to be a home run threat in the passing game while also providing a jolt of energy to the return specialists unit.

BYU has a solid top six at receiver, but there’s a big question about who will be the star. I’ll go with Marion, but redshirt sophomore Chase Roberts is right behind him.

4. BYU football finishes in the Top 25 nationally in sacks

Sacks, what are those? That’s what BYU fans have been saying for the past two seasons. BYU was 129th nationally (out of 131 teams) in sacks last year, with only 15 in 13 games. Look for BYU to increase that number significantly, with new defensive coordinator Jay Hill calling the shots.

Teams that finished in the Top 25 nationally for sacks averaged close to three per game. That would mean 36 sacks on the season. It’s a tall task, but you have to think bold here.

BYU upgraded the edge rusher spot, adding Boise State transfer “Zay” Bagnah. Tyler Batty returns after an offseason where he shed weight and looks to be in the best shape of his career. Then there’s a buzz about the young redshirt freshmen edge rushers Aisea “Ice” Moa, Bodie Schoonover, and sophomore Michael Daley could be ready to make plays on opposing quarterbacks.

5. Kedon Slovis throws at least 25 touchdown passes

BYU’s season rests on the arm of USC and Pitt transfer QB Kedon Slovis. It’s a big lift for Slovis. But he picked BYU over offers from Notre Dame, UCLA, and SEC programs because he felt comfortable in BYU’s offensive scheme.

The comfort has been evident since he arrived on campus. Slovis is a player that feels like he has been in Provo for years.

Everything has gone better than expected with Slovis at BYU this offseason. I expect he will have success this season. I’ll call for Slovis to have at least 25 touchdown passes this season. If he does that and continues to follow the trend of previous BYU QBs (Zach Wilson, Jaren Hall) with single-digit interceptions, Slovis will probably hear his name called at next April’s NFL draft.

6. BYU football wins one game because of a kicker

BYU enters the 2023 season with Boise State transfer Will Ferrin or Matthias Dunn as the two leaders in the kicker battle. Ferrin appears to have the inside track on the job. Regardless of who kicks, let’s call for one BYU win this season courtesy of the leg of Ferrin or Dunn.

There are too many potential toss-up games on BYU’s schedule to think there won’t be a game or two coming down to a BYU kicker’s leg.

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 Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on Twitter/X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Bold Predictions For BYU Football In 2023