One year ago, I made five bold predictions for the 2011 BYU football season. Two of my five predictions came to fruition.

1. Three Tight Ends Will Catch a Touchdown

Four tight ends (Marcus Mathews, Richard Wilson, Kaneakua Friel, Matt Edwards) caught touchdown passes after no tight ends caught one in 2010.

2. BYU Will Return a Kickoff for a Touchdown

Cody Hoffman became the first BYU player to return a kickoff for a touchdown since Mike Rigell thirteen years earlier in 1998. As a bonus, JD Falslev also took a punt return to the house. It was the first time since 1996 that the Cougars had both a kickoff return and a punt return for touchdowns.

3. Justin Sorensen Will Kick the Longest Field Goal in BYU History

Owen Pochman owns the BYU record with a 56-yard field goal against New Mexico in LaVell Edwards’ final home game in 2000. Fresh off his LDS mission, Justin Sorensen had a season-long 46-yard field goal against Utah. Hampered by a back injury, Sorensen was 0-3 from 50+ yards, with a season-long 53-yard attempt. He had surgery during the offseason.

4. No Running Back Will Rush for 100 Yards Against BYU

Three opposing running backs ran for 100+ yards against the Cougar defense. Utah’s John White ran for 157 yards, but had only 57 yards after the first three quarters. He ran for 117 yards on just three attempts in the fourth quarter. Utah State’s Robert Turbin ran for an 80-yard touchdown on the game’s first play from scrimmage, but managed just 43 yards for the rest of the game. Idaho’s Princeton McCarty ran for 127 yards, but 82 of those yards came on the team’s lone touchdown of the game with BYU ahead 42-0.

5. BYU Will Not Play in the Armed Forces Bowl

BYU finished the regular season with three losses. The Cougars had no first downs in the fourth quarter at Texas and the Longhorns overcame a 13-0 deficit to win by one point. BYU led Utah until the final minute of the first half and turned the ball over a total of 7 times in a blowout loss. Against TCU, the Cougars had three botched punts and Riley Nelson turned the ball over three times in a game they dominated statistically.

 

5 Bold Predictions for 2012:

With that, here are my five bold predictions for the 2012 BYU football season.

1. Riley Nelson Will Pass for Over 3,000 Yards

Riley Nelson threw for just 1,717 yards a year ago, but wasn’t named the starting quarterback until the sixth game of the season. Historically, senior quarterbacks have had extremely successful seasons at BYU. The previous ten senior quarterbacks who played their senior seasons as the undisputed starter all threw for over 3,000 yards.

2009: Max Hall -- 3,560 yards

2006: John Beck -- 3,885 yards

2001: Brandon Doman -- 3,542 yards

1999: Kevin Feterik -- 3,554 yards

1996: Steve Sarkisian -- 4,027 yards

1991: Ty Detmer -- 4,031 yards

1985: Robbie Bosco -- 4,273 yards

1983: Steve Young -- 3,902 yards

1981: Jim McMahon -- 3,555 yards

1979: Marc Wilson -- 3,720 yards

As a bonus, those ten quarterbacks also combined for a 108-21 record their senior seasons. I predict that Riley Nelson will pass for over 3,000 yards in 2012.

2. A BYU Running Back Will Rush For 100 Yards in 5 Games

No BYU running back cracked the century mark last season. Michael Alisa came the closest, multiple times. After rushing for just two yards in the first five games combined, Alisa had games of 99 yards, 91 yards and 84 yards during the remainder of the season. In his junior season, Alisa is poised to be BYU’s primary ball carrier in 2012. In 2009, BYU also had a senior quarterback and a junior running back. Max Hall threw for 3,560 yards and Harvey Unga rushed for 100 yards five times. I predict a BYU running back will run for 100 yards at least five times again in 2012.

3. Kyle Van Noy Will Be Named A Consensus All-American

BYU has never had a linebacker named a consensus All-American. In fact, the only defensive player in BYU history to be so named is Jason Buck in 1986. Rob Morris was the last BYU linebacker to be named a first team All-American in 1999, but to be a consensus All-American, a player must be named an All-American by at least three of the five organizations recognized by the NCAA: Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of America, Sporting News and Walter Camp Football Foundation. Last season, Van Noy was the only player in the FBS to record a tackle, tackle for loss, sack, interception, forced fumble, fumble recovery, pass breakup, quarterback hurry and blocked kick. He has also scored a defensive touchdown in each of his first two seasons. I predict that Kyle Van Noy will become the first BYU linebacker to be named a consensus All-American.

4. BYU Will Have a +5 Turnover Margin

Last season, BYU forced 25 turnovers, but gave the ball up 27 times. For the first time since 1999, the Cougars turned the ball over in every single game. In the Bronco Mendenhall era, BYU is averaging a +1.7 turnover margin per season.

YEAR             GAINED        LOST                +/-


2011                25                    27                    -2

2010                23                    21                    +2

2009                24                    24                    0

2008                30                    28                    +2

2007                20                    26                    -6

2006                27                    13                    +14

2005                22                    20                    +2

Average           24.4                 22.7                 +1.7

Under Bronco Mendenhall, BYU is an astounding 36-3 when winning the turnover battle and 17-18 when losing the turnover battle. Of BYU’s 27 turnovers last season, seven came against Utah alone. BYU was -5 in turnover margin in that game alone. There is no reason why the Cougar defense can’t force at least 25 turnovers again this season, and I expect the offense to hold onto the ball better than the 12 fumbles lost a year ago. I predict that BYU will finish the 2012 season +5 in turnover margin.

5. BYU Will Be 3-1 On the Road Against Utah, Boise State, Notre Dame, and Georgia Tech

BYU will have a pair of back-to-back road trips to Salt Lake City and Boise, and South Bend and Atlanta. All four of those game are winnable -- three of the four teams finished 8-5 a year ago. In order to take three out of four, the Cougars will have to sweep one of those road trips. BYU will be hungry for the rematch with the Utes after last year’s embarrassing loss. Utah finished 8-5 last year, and lost five starters from that defense. Additionally, leading-tackler Brian Blechen will be serving the final game of his suspension and will be unavailable. Boise State lost 17 starters from the squad that went 12-1 a year ago. The Broncos will be more beatable this year than in any in recent history. Notre Dame also finished 8-5 last season and plays BYU sandwiched between games against Stanford and at Oklahoma. The Cougars could catch them tired, and looking ahead. Georgia Tech also finished 8-5 last season, losing to Utah in overtime in the Sun Bowl. I predict that BYU will win at least three out of those four road games.