July is the time for prognostications, a fun, speculative but really meaningless exercise in dabbling over college football issues during the dead-heat of summer when news is slow and optimism high.

In the Mountain West, the media will gather at Green Valley Resort near Las Vegas July 21-22 where we'll tally up the preseason ballots on the all-MWC team and predict how the league will finish. We'll also listen to the report that Dish Network isn't onboard with the league TV package yet, and it isn't known when, if at all, it will be.

We've already seen most national magazine predictions, and they state the defending champion Cougars should be favored to deliver a threepeat in 2008.

How solid is that guess?

Fairly solid.

But as it was pointed out a few weeks ago by a national recruiting expert, BYU fans have to come to the realization that their beloved team is only two plays from a 0-2 record against rival Utah the past two seasons.

True, regardless of statistics, standings and the race at hand, John Beck to Jonny Harline and Max Hall to Austin Collie on fourth and 18 have provided a significant positive and rosy outlook in Provo that would be watered down if 0-2 against the Utes.

Lucky or good?

In this day and age, you need to be both. And you likely are not one without the other.

The last two seasons with Beck/Harline and Hall/Collie, plus the blocked field goal for a win against UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl, cases could be made that BYU has magic, luck or is just good.

Even Bronco Mendenhall's mortal enemies must admit he's turned BYU around from the ugliest three season stretch in 40 years. He's got the right butts in the right seats on the bus and shooed off others who did not belong — and the transport is rolling.

Luck?

Back in September 27, 2003, at Fort Collins, Colo., Utah coach Urban Meyer bristled when asked if Utah's thrilling 28-21 win over CSU was luck.

In that game, the Rams were marching down the field for a sure win when Dave Revill delivered a hit on Marcus Houston, and the ball popped out on the ground and right into the hands of Arnold Parker, a 4.3 sprinter who raced 80 yards for a Utah touchdown.

"Two good players — two senior players — Dave Revill and Arnold Parker flat won the game for us," Meyer said.

No luck involved at all.

BYU can make the same case. The missed winning field goal at Boise State and dropped passes against UNLV in 2004 under snake-bit Gary Crowton have been replaced with big plays the past two seasons under Mendenhall.

This fall, here's how BYU wins the MWC or loses it: If Max Hall goes down and the offense has to back down on timing pass plays and rely on the run. Or if they suffer multiple injuries in the secondary and linebacking crew on defense.

They lose it if TCU or Utah is simply better. And BYU has to play at their places in 2008.

Here's how they win it: Because most all BYU's skill position offensive players were rookies with Robert Anae's offense a year ago. This includes Hall, Collie, Harvey Unga and tight end Dennis Pitta. This is the first season they're veterans with the system, and it will show with 10 starters back.

BYU wins it if for the first time since Mendenhall took the reins at the end of 2004, his defense won't rely on freshmen linemen or walk-on secondary players. The linebacking corps is faster than a year ago, and the two-deep secondary is not comprised of walk-on players if you accept safety Kellen Fowler and corner Scott Johnson as full-ride athletes, which they now are.

BYU wins it if a healthier kicker Mitch Payne and incoming freshman Justin Sorensen will increase field-goal range by at least 35 percent and kickoffs will stop being gimme first downs near midfield for opposing offenses, as witnessed the past two seasons when BYU went 16-0 in the league and won 21 of the last 23.

Prognostications.

Fun, but is there a science to it?

We shall see.


E-mail: harmon@desnews.com