Ten of BYU’s games this year will be on an ESPN channel with one on BYUtv and the twelfth still yet to be announced. The season kicks off September 3 in Oxford, MS.
Sat. Sep. 3rd: BYU Cougars @ Mississippi Rebels. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, MS. 4:45 ET ESPN
The Cougars begin independence in SEC country. The Rebels aren’t exactly an SEC powerhouse. In fact they’re the only school in the SEC WEST who have never even been to the conference title game. Last year they were 4-8 even with Jeremiah Masoli who helped his Oregon Ducks win the Rose Bowl the previous season. They lost their season opener last year at home against FCS foe Jacksonville State in overtime.
They do return a great ball carrier in Brandon Bolden and their entire offensive line. The only position on offense where they don’t return a starter is at quarterback. As of right now a starter has yet to be named but Jr. Randall Mackay has the most experience. I expect the running game to battle with the depth of BYU’s front seven.
The defense is a bigger question. Only four starters return and there will be three freshman and a sophomore competing for positions in Mississippi’s front seven. I expect this BYU offense to see little trouble moving the ball. If they struggle, it will be due to first game jitters and their own mistakes. If they fire on all cylinders this one could get ugly.
Since it is the first game, I’m not expecting a blowout for the Cougars, but I am gonna predict a comfortable two score victory. Heaps should have no trouble getting the ball to his extremely tall wide receiving core and all three backs in Quezada, DiLuigi and Kariya could all have solid contributions. Look for Bolden to have a solid game on the ground for Ole Miss as well. BYU 27 Ole Miss 16.
Sat. Sep. 10th: BYU Cougars @ Texas Longhorns. Darrel K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX. 7PM ET ESPN2
This is the game all fans are looking forward to. I’m sure former Texas commit and current BYU wide receiver Ross Apo is as well. This is the first of a three-game series; two in Austin and one in Provo. With rumors of UT possibly becoming an independent football program, perhaps this will become a new yearly rivalry.
The Longhorns return twelve starters (six from both sides of the ball) from their 5-7 season a year ago. Coach Mack Brown has still yet to pick a starting quarterback. The race is between Jr. Garrett Gilbert, and So. Case McCoy, brother of recent great Colt McCoy. Only two guys from the offensive line return. Texas hosts Rice in week one and will use that to get the chemistry going. They were picked fifth in the pre-season Big XII rankings and #24 in the pre-season USA Today pre-season poll.
The defense returns two starters from each unit on the field and will look to use that leadership and experience to help the other new comers. Sure the Longhorns aren’t what they used to be right now … but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to come into town and get a victory. The talent differential from Ole Miss to Texas is drastic and I think the Cougars will have their struggles. Whoever the quarterback is has weapons at Wide Receiver. Malcolm Williams is a returning senior but So. Mike Brown is dangerous as well. BYU will have their hands full and I think will lose a close one but still look for Heaps to have a great game. Texas 26 BYU 24.
Sat. Sep. 17th: Utah Utes @ BYU Cougars. LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT. 9:15 ET ESPN2
The Holy War will be found much earlier in the season than usual. Even though it’s out of the ordinary to be played on a warm September day, I doubt that will change the drama and attitude of the game.
Jake Heaps and co. want revenge after last years 17-16 loss as Utah blocked a BYU field goal as time expired. The Cougars led 16-0. Look for a hostile environment (as usual) in Provo when the Utes take the field in the Blue vs. Red game.
The Utes have a lot of questions. Jordan Wynn returns from his shoulder surgery but his play remains in question because he’s been so inconsistent for Utah. He’s been a feast or famine (and that’s understating it) kind of player. With Norm Chow, new offensive coordinator, Ute fans are hopeful it will lead to great things like Chow has done in the past. The running backs were going to be led by two freshman, Harvey Langi and John White, but Shawn Asiata and Tauni Vakapuna have returned to the squad. That should give the Utah offense some depth and with an experienced O-Line, the Utes could very well drive the field and make some plays.
The defense is less experienced with only five returning starters. Three of those being linebackers. After hosting Montana State and traveling to USC, I’m not so sure all the holes will be filled. Having USC and BYU on the road back-to-back will be a great test and will tell us a lot about this Utes team. However, the linebacking core is very dangerous.
Before the news was released about Asiata and Vakapuna returning, it was looking like this could be BYU’s first blowout win over the Utes since 1996. But I don’t see it that way. With those two guys returning and an experienced receiving core, Wynn has enough weapons and protection to move the football. The question therin lies with him. Which Jordan Wynn will show up?
I do think the Cougars will move the ball with ease and if they can limit their mistakes, they will win comfortably. BYU 31 Utah 21.
Fri. Sep. 23rd: UCF Knights @ BYU Cougars. LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT. 8 PM ET ESPN
The Knights are defending Conference USA champions and coming off of an 11-3 season. They are no non-AQ dreg by any stretch of the imagination. Traveling to Provo could be their first real challenge of the season as they host Charleston Southern and Boston College, then travel to FIU the week before. But, that could be a good thing as the Cougars are likely coming off of a very energetic and emotional drain in the Holy War facing a short week.
Jeff Godfrey is coming off of a solid (but not outstanding) freshman season at quarterback for the Knights. Most of his protection returns and LaTavius Murray can be dangerous out of the backfield.
The defense is a different story. Last year they allowed only 17.1 ppg but lost most of their starters and this Cougar offense could be the only true test to see if this D can match 2010’s squad before they face their pass happy conference foes. With a young and inexperienced front seven I see the Cougars having success running the ball and using the play action to keep the Knights guessing. I see them being exploited and getting caught on many big plays. This could be Heaps’ breakout game of the year on a national audience. Big, big game for Jake and his receivers. BYU 38 UCF 24
Fri Sep. 30th: Utah State Aggies @ BYU Cougars. LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT. 8PM ET ESPN
I already posted a reminder of what USU did do the Cougars last season. (See the link to my part 2 at the top of this page). So no need to do it again. These guys remember and will have fire in their eyes for payback.
The Aggies return a stud of a running back in Robert Turbin along with eight other returners on offense. One of the two that aren’t returning is the quarterback. Head coach Gary Anderson will have a decision to make but whoever starts will have an experienced offensive line, receivers and backs. Jr. Adam Kennedy is the guy to likely win the job.
Nine returning starters won’t be enough though. With BYU’s monstrous linebackers, I see this game being their breakout game as a unit. Look for huge efforts by all of them, Kyle Van Noy, Jordan Pendleton, Brandon Ogletree, Uona Kaveinga, and others. They will all be every which way on the field and will seem unstoppable. The Aggies though experienced, just don’t have the talent to get it done or even compete in this one.
The offense will be firing on all cylinders. I see a near perfect game and every BYU fan will be watching gladly as the Cougars avenge their embarrassing 2010 loss in Logan. BYU 52 USU 13.
Sat. Oct. 8th: San Jose State Spartans @ BYU Cougars. LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT. Time TBA. ESPN Channel TBA.
Homecoming for the Cougars is their fourth consecutive home game as they face their second consecutive WAC opponent.
The Spartans return all eleven defensive starters from their 1-11 2010 year. Offensively they received good news recently. Former Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier will be transferring but not eligible til the 2012 season. These two schools will play in San Jose next year with Forcier at the helm for SJSU.
This year however can’t get much worse than last. They may have one or two victories by this time in the season but they won’t be getting their next one in Provo. Sure they have all starters coming back on defense … but that doesn’t really mean much for San Jose State.
This will be a field day and many of BYU’s backups will get some time. BYU 44 SJSU 10.
Sat. Oct. 15th: BYU Cougars @ Oregon State Beavers. Reser Stadium, Corvallis, OR. Time TBA. TV TBA
The Beavers are getting greatly overlooked in their conference. That’s possibly due to the fact that two teams in their division are in the top ten. The two who have been given the most likely chances of winning the conference and contending for a national title. Don’t overlook the Beavers folks.
Sure they last running back Jacquizz Rodgers to the NFL draft, but they still return eight starters on offense. Jr. Quarterback Ryan Katz still has Jacquizz’s brother James to throw the ball to and he has the ability the make plays. Nearly the entire O-Line returns and there is enough support for sophomore running back Jovan Stevenson to make his mark. This offense is still capable of making plays.
The defense is where the doubt lies. Only four returners, two in the front seven and two in the secondary. There are many holes and look for this high-powered BYU offense to have many opportunities to make big plays.
This is a trap game that not many are focusing on. The Cougars just played four games at home and won each of them (the last two being cakewalks). I see this one being a game where mistakes can be made due to complacency. The winner will be the defense who gets one more takeaway than the other. Hopefully Heaps and company can keep their heads on straight but I see Oregon State squeaking by.
Watch out for the trap … or dam in this case. OSU 26 BYU 22.
Sat. Oct. 22nd Idaho State Bengals @ BYU Cougars. LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT. 3PM ET BYUtv
The Bengals represent the Big Sky which is arguably the best conference in the FCS otherwise known as Division-IAA. Eastern Washington won the FCS title last season and Montana is a powerhouse but Montana State actually took the Big Sky conference title last season.
Though they come from that tough conference in the FCS, they were 1-11 last year. This could be a good pick up game from the tough loss in Corvallis for BYU. The starters will get some rest at the end of the game and it will be much needed as they travel to Arlington, TX to play TCU on a short week. BYU 55 ISU 0.
Fri. Oct. 28th: BYU Cougars vs. TCU Horned Frogs. Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, TX. 8PM ET ESPN
This was the last game of 2011 to be scheduled and Cougar fans are happy it came to be. TCU has been a solid rival from the Mountain West who has just throttled BYU the last three seasons. It also gives the fans a good game to look forward to late in the season.
Gary Patterson’s Rose Bowl Champion Horned Frogs have been ranked in the top 15 in the preseason coaches poll. Those who doubt that are justified. TCU lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and only three guys return on offense. Ed Wesley and Josh Boyce are familiar with the BYU woopings of the last few years as is MLB Tank Carder. Patterson’s defenses are known to be great but this season they will have a lot of rebuilding to do.
Fully aware of the results of the past, these Cougars will be ready for this game. The last time they played in Cowboys Stadium they upset then #3 Oklahoma Sooners. Look for Mendenhall’s Cougars to come out swinging from kick off. They will all be fired up and ready to perform to their abilities. The BYU defense will put the pressure on this inexperienced quarterback sophomore Casey Paschall. Carder and Greg McCoy will still showcase their talents and make plays, but Heaps and his solid receiving core will be too much and BYU will get their first victory over TCU since 2007. BYU 31 TCU 20.
Sat. Nov. 12th: Idaho Vandals @ BYU Cougars. LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT. Time TBA. ESPN Channel TBA.
The Vandals have been better as a program in recent years. They’ve been flirting with .500 and above .500 records and bowl appearances. They had three losses last year that were all within single digits and finished with a 6-7 record, one win shy of bowl eligible. They played Bowling Green in the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl and won 43-42. They are a program on the rise in the WAC and with the conference dwindling could very well be a contender for the WAC title real soon.
This year however will not be one of those. Their offense is chock full of questions. They have four returners and three are hogs up front. Brian Reader a senior could be the front-runner for the starting quarterback position.
The defense has experience led by senior defensive back Kenneth Patten. At this point in the season a bowl game may or may not be out of the question but this game sure won’t help them reach that goal. This Cougar team is too powerful and this one will not even be close even though they are coming off of a bye. I doubt any of BYU’s starters play in the fourth quarter. BYU 51 Idaho 13.
Sat. Nov. 19th: New Mexico State Aggies @ BYU Cougars. LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT. Time TBA. ESPN Channel TBA.
The Aggies have had four straight one conference win season. They have sixteen players returning so they have plenty of experience to improve off of their 2-10 campaign in 2010. I see a two to three game improvement for NMSU this year. Sophomore quarterback Andrew Manley returns as the starter but senior Matt Christian could see some time as well. The entire offensive line returns and there are two senior wide receivers, Taveon Rogers and Todd Lee, who are capable of making plays.
Having said what I did about the Aggies improving significantly from last season, they still won’t have enough to make this a game. Maybe if the Cougars completely self destruct and give the ball away more than three times, but I don’t see that happening. Still, I think NMSU is capable of putting together one or two scoring drives. BYU 48 NMSU 17.
Sat. Dec. 3rd: BYU Cougars @ Hawaii Warriors. Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI. 8:30 ET ESPN2
The Cougars and Warriors are renewing their once storied rivalry. This year is the first of a ten-year contract between the two programs. Look for the game in the islands to be late in the year (2013 is scheduled for September but most expect it to be moved to November so the Holy War can remain in September).
The Warriors return a senior quarterback in Bryant Moniz and are always known for throwing the ball 90% of the time. Moniz is more than capable of making things happen even though he doesn’t have any returning targets from last years 10-4 squad. Only Moniz and two offensive lineman return but by game thirteen, expect them to have established their targets.
Though coming from the WAC (and soon to be MWC) the Warriors are no dreg. BYU is coming off of a bye, two cream puff opponents, and another bye before they travel to the island. The Warriors finish this season with their third consecutive game without leaving Honolulu. I see this as a trap game for the Cougars.
This one is all about how prepared coach Mendenhall can have this team for a game like this. Look for the Warriors to jump on BYU early and being the secondaries most dangerous opponent. This will be a high scoring affair and will go down to the wire, but I think an early deficit in the game may be too much for the Cougars in this swing game. Look for a battle. It’s winnable, but I’m going with a home team victory. Too much rest can be a bad thing. UH 38 BYU 34.
There it is folks. Look for the Cougars to take their 9-3 record into the Armed Forces Bowl and look to get Bronco Mendenhall his fifth double-digit season in seven years in Provo. A win would also give him a 5-2 bowl record and be the first BYU coach ever to get his Cougars to a bowl in his first seven seasons. The Cougars will likely face their second consecutive C-USA opponent in a bowl game. Perhaps a rematch with UCF? Or maybe they’ll face Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars. Either way, I don’t see BYE being unprepared in the slightest. Expect a 10-3 finish.
2012 has the potential to be a special … and I mean special season. This is just a prequel.