Predicting a team to "rebound" after winning 10 games might seem odd. After the Cougars' brilliant 2020 run, they managed to survive turnover and continue playing at a high level offensively, but an inexperienced defense plummeted from 21st to 79th in defensive SP+, and their record was boosted by four one-score victories. Now their schedule gets more difficult, featuring road trips to Oregon and Boise State, a Vegas battle with Notre Dame and visits from Arkansas and Baylor. Improvement on paper might not produce improvement in the win column, but it could!
The Cougars return 16 of the 17 defenders who saw at least 250 snaps. Plus, cornerback Micah Harper and linebacker Keenan Pili are back from injury, and Vanderbilt cornerback Gabe Jeudy-Lally comes to Provo. If the defense improves to a top-50 level, the offense could make sure the Cougars have a chance in every game. Quarterback Jaren Hall is outstanding, the receiver duo of Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney is explosive, and Cal transfer Christopher Brooks could help mitigate the departure of running back Tyler Allgeier. This team has top-20 potential.