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PROVO — According to recent statistics, BYU has about a 20 percent chance of going undefeated this season. While that number seems small, the Cougars actually have the highest probability of going undefeated of all FBS schools. However, here are some things that may prevent them from an unblemished record.
An injury to Taysom Hill
It's barely short of miraculous that Taysom Hill stayed healthy all of last season. Coming off of major knee surgery, Hill ran a whopping 246 times in 2013. Factor in the numerous hits he took while throwing, and it's very clear that the Cougars dodged a bullet when it comes to risk of injury for Hill. So far this season, it does not appear that the coaching staff plans to reduce Hill's load. If Hill gets hurt, the Cougars' season could quickly go down south because it is arguable that no one player in the nation matters more to his team's success than Hill does for BYU.
Thus far, the special teams have not been a major factor one way or another in BYU's season. While the Cougars have not allowed any big plays in punt or kickoff coverage, they also have not registered any big plays. Trevor Samson is 3-4 on field goals and 14-14 on PATs. But he missed the only field goal that he attempted, which was over 30 yards. If the Cougars find themselves in a close game this season, they will need the special teams to be special, rather than simply adequate. Thus far this season, it is uncertain whether or not the special teams can produce in that regard.
In just three games, the Cougars have committed a staggering 32 penalties for 288 yards. For those counting at home, that's 96 yards of penalties per game. On numerous occasions this season, BYU's defense has extended opponents' drives with silly penalties while offensive drives have been stalled by the mental lapses. In BYU's first three games, they have built comfortable enough leads to withstand the mistakes, but if they do not clean up in this aspect they could lose close games.
Through three games, BYU already has seven turnovers with three interceptions and four lost fumbles. Fortunately for the Cougars, teams have not fully capitalized on the lack of ball security. However, Houston remained in a game that the Y jumped out to a big lead in due to turnovers. Coughing the ball up for the Cougars could prove to be like playing Russian roulette and will catch up eventually. If the Y wants to go undefeated, they will have to address ball security with utmost scrutiny.
After the Utah loss in 2013, BYU seemed to hit a nice groove and racked up five straight victories against worthy competition. By the end of the season, however, the Cougars bogged down winning only 2 of their final 5 games with one of those wins coming against a FCS opponent. BYU often looked beaten up and fatigued in its adjustment to offensive line coach Robert Anae's "Go Fast, Go Hard" system. Have the Cougars learned how to handle the lightning fast pace they play at? Time will tell.
Dylan Cannon is a regular KSL.com contributor and can be reached via twitter @DylanCannon11 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.