DJRoss' Prediction Gold (PG)-13 for 2003

<b><i>3rd in a series</i></b> <P> If we all could see clearly into the future, what fun would it be reading articles like this. I, for one, am grateful that the future is cloudy. <P> 1. <b>Aaron Francisco, by week three, will be a darling of ESPN street.</b>

Given this season's initial television exposure, the digital video of Francisco's hit on NFL rookie JR Tolver will become hot EBAY property. Francisco will have a breakout season and, mark my words, his name will be on all the right lips. Does the name Brian Urlacher ring a bell? One thing I am sure of is Francisco will be ringing a few this season.

2. By the end of the season, one unheralded player will establish a name for himself as a Cougar.

Every year, we break down different teams and talk about the starters and those waiting in the wings on the future NFL star red carpet plan. Usually, one or two players come out of nowhere and shine past the establishment to stake their own claim to fame. One possible candidate, but by no means the only one, is Nathan Kolbaba. He showed great promise during spring and had a solid fall campaign. If he gets the opportunity to play, he is the kind of player that will make the most of the opportunity.

3. The Berry/Beck quarterback controversy will die after the USC game.

It must be something in the water in Happy Valley, but no season can be complete without Cougar faithful at each other's throats in a contrived QB battle. Regardless of what the coach says, the QB wars rage off the field. To all John Beck apologists, Matt Berry will solidify his position as the starter by the end of game two. Georgia Tech game won't be enough to quell the naysayers, but a solid performance against a strong Trojan team win, lose or draw will settle will nail the discussion shut – at least for this season.

4. Colorado State will be BYU's toughest game of the season.

No joke! Georgia Tech and USC, while potential monster opponents, will be shaking of the off-season rust just like BYU. No matter how many times you hit your own teammates in practice, nothing can compare to a real game. Notre Dame, while potentially strong, still hasn't proven they can generate a powerful offense. CSU as well as BYU will be in mid-season form. The Rams will be our second ranked opponent of the season and whatever you might think of "Sunshine" Bradlee Van Pelt, he is a leader on the field. He reminds me of our own Jimmie Mac (McMahon) in a lot of ways. Their backfield will also loom large with Colorado transfer Houston showing his skills. BYU's new and improved defensive line needs to be ready for a battle royale.

5. BCS will feel major pressure for the first time since its inception. Serious talk from major players, BCS schools, politicians and the NCAA will fill the airwaves with college playoff soundbytes.

The grassroots organization CF-16 began with a BYU law school assignment, which ended up in a law review magazine at Tulane. From these small steps, organized efforts have been made to market and sell the idea of busting the BCS. The grassroots campaign has taken hold. Now that the Big East has been stung in the worst way, the ball is now rolling. Don't be surprised if by week eight you won't be able to watch ESPN College Game Day without a regular update on the war against the BCS.

6. Our offensive line will surprise everyone this year, including Coach Gary Crowton.

Many are cautiously optimistic of our offensive line and are looking at it as a work in progress. Keele, Kuresa and Mohetau will learn quickly, and they will adjust to the college game so that by midseason they will have gelled with the upper classmen. The Cougar OL will be so good, in fact, that they will lead the MWC. When opposing teams come to play at BYU, they will witness the breathtaking view of the WASATCH FRONT. No not the mountains in the backdrop of LES, the 1.5+ tons of solid OL they will have to contend with.

7. Wide receiver Rod Wilkerson will come into his own.

No other player on BYU's roster strikes both joy and fear in the hearts of Cougar faithful as Rod Wilkerson. A converted DB, Wilkerson has the speed and moves to get past just about anybody, which he has proven time and time again. Problem is that he seems to drop as many balls as he catches. Well, 50-50 will no longer live down to his name. He seems to have worked out the kinks in his catching skills. With an improved offensive line and top-notch fullbacks watching Berry's blindside, Wilkerson's speed and escapablility will finally be an real asset to the team. Look for Wilkerson to be among the leaders among receivers in total yards this season.

8. The BYU-Air Force game will be yet another lopsided affair. Head coach Fisher DeBerry and quarterback Chance Harridge will receive their own "shock and awe" when the option is completely shut down. DeBerry will not have the tools to exploit BYU as he did last year. Harridge is going to be finding the going extremely rough. There are quite a few Cougars who are anxious to show Harridge that last season's debacle was a fluke. All things remaining equal to today, my preseason line on this game BYU 52 Air Force 10

9. BYU will win their bowl game this year.

The MWC has three options for their three best teams. BYU will be one of these teams and they will go on to win their bowl this season. There is a key ingredient that was missing in Provo last year and that is team unity. That unity will take them over the top for a bowl victory.

10. BYU will have over 2,000 yds rushing as a team; Marcus Whalen will lead the way with 1,500 of his own.

Our running game has way too many prospects that will be given opportunities to play. Marcus Whalen will lead the pack.

11. If BYU runs the table this season and goes undefeated, they will force the BCS' hand in giving them an invite to a bowl game.

This is a big IF. I am not implying they will go undefeated as there are still many question marks and they have a tough schedule. But if they go undefeated, they will have beaten three ranked teams of which two – USC and Notre Dame – carry major weight as far as quality of victory. CSU will be the only ranked opponent in the MWC. This combined with U.S. Senate Judiciary talks and media pressure for the BCS will force their hand.

12. BYU's defense will be in the Top five nationally in turnover percentage.

BYU's defense should be a Top 25 in keeping with Bronco Mendenhall's tradition of stellar units. The quality of the athletes in the secondary, at Cougarback and Kat back positions is high and deep. Opposing offenses are going to find it difficult to go through the game without giving up several turnovers. Look for key opportunities on special teams for the defensive players to really shine..

13. Matt Payne will break at least one kicking record this year.

Matt Payne has an NFL-caliber foot and he has already proven himself. Look for his punts to be fewer, but longer and better placed.

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