BYU managed just three votes in both the USA Today coaches preseason poll and finished last season with an 8-5 record. So Jesse Palmer knows that picking them as a potential sleeper for 2015 is "coming way out of leftfield."
Still, the former Giants backup quarterback, ESPN college football analyst and special contributor for Good Morning America calls the Cougars "an interesting team to watch" as the 2015 college football season gets set to begin in just over two weeks.
Palmer's two reasons why he's watching BYU: quarterback Taysom Hill and their schedule.
Hill started the 2014 season with a bang. The dual-threat senior threw for 975 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions while running for 460 yards and eight scores en route to leading the Cougars to a 4-0 record and a top-20 spot. But then he suffered a season-ending broken leg against Utah State, and as Palmer put it, "the team was completely different" afterward, losing four straight.
Now that Hill is healthy, he'll be expected to get BYU back into the top 25.
"I think he'll be the best quarterback on the field in virtually every matchup they play this year," Palmer told Newsday on Wednesday during a call to promote a call to promote the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which recognizes college football players for their off-field leadership and volunteerism. "He's got a lot of talent surrounding him on offense."
And those matchups that Palmer mentioned? They're not all easy. The Cougars have the 17th-toughest schedule in 2015, according to the NCAA's strength of schedule method.
"They're playing Nebraska, they're going to play defending Fiesta Bowl champion Boise State, they're going to play UCLA and Michigan, they're going to play Missouri, Palmer said. "And Nebraska, UCLA, Michigan and Missouri are all games that are going to have to be played on the road."
BYU plays four of the five teams Palmer mentioned -- Nebraska, Boise State, UCLA and Michigan -- in the first month of the season, so beating them will only help their case for a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Said Palmer: "If they can win and they can survive that early stretch of games ... I think all of a sudden this is a team that a lot of people will keep their eye on and a team that can potentially make a lot of noise in the postseason."