Morning links: Cougars, Utes predicted to have top 25 defenses; RSL has a top ranked academy

Kerry Miller of Bleacher Report predicted the top 25 defenses in college football in 2017, and the BYU Cougars and the Utah Utes made list.

Miller had the Cougars at No. 14, saying, “BYU had one of the best turnover-forcing defenses in the country, finishing with a total of 31 takeaways. It wasn’t just one or two star individuals in on the action, either. There were 10 different Cougars with at least one interception and 10 different Cougars with at least one fumble recovery. Linebackers Fred Warner, Francis Bernard and Butch Pau’u led the defensive assault and will all return for another year.”

After talking about where the Cougars need to improve, Miller gave his 2017 projection, saying, “The three returning linebackers is a great starting point, but BYU loses a lot elsewhere.”

He then talked about the losses BYU suffered in graduation before talking about the 2017 schedule, saying, “With games against LSU and Wisconsin in the first month of the season, the defense is going to be put to the test early and often. But there are enough returning defensive pieces and more than enough winnable games on the schedule for BYU to compete in a 13th consecutive bowl game.”

Miller had the Utes coming in at No. 18 thanks to their ability to force turnovers. He also mentioned how important it was to the team’s success to do so, saying, “getting at least two turnovers in a game is critical to this team’s success. The Utes have gone 1-5 when forcing one or zero turnovers since the start of 2015.

“Force two or more, however, and they have gone 18-2.”

Miller then talked about the losses that Utah has on the defensive line before turning his attention to the upcoming season, saying, “Both in yards per play and yards per game, Utah’s 2016 numbers rank 24th among the teams in this top 25. Whether the Utes continue their three-year streak of winning at least nine games will depend on turnovers — both forced and committed.”

He then talked about what kind of success the Utes can have if the offense does its part, saying, “If Troy Williams and company can hang onto the ball when it’s given to them, Utah could challenge USC for the Pac-12 South crown.”

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