The start of the 2011 college football season is exactly one month a way. Time to look close an scrutinize the Brigham Young Cougars 2011 schedule. First, I’ll give some quick facts followed by what I like and dislike about it. Last, I will take it game-by-game giving my thoughts on what factors might impact the outcome besides play on the field.
7 Home games, 4 Away game, 1 Neutral site game (2 if you include the bowl game)
3 games on Friday
1 SEC team
1 Big XII team
2 Pac-12 teams
1 Conference USA team
1 MWC team
5 WAC Teams
1 FCS team
10 games on ESPN
1 game on BYUtv
Homecoming: Saturday, October 8, 2011, versus San Jose State
I like that there are seven home games, and hope that this becomes a regular practice. As long as BYU continues to be aggressive with the road games, I don’t think that it matters, as far as outsider’s perception, if they play fewer road games.
I like that BYU will play an SEC opponent. In it’s history, BYU has only played four games against the current members of the SEC. Playing one SEC team each year should also be a scheduling priority.
I like that the schedule is front loaded. There are no breaks for BYU the first four weeks of the season. This is good because the team will be more focused in fall camp, and play at a higher level in game one than those schools who have two or three “warm up” games.
I like that BYU has a game December 3; otherwise known as “Championship Saturday.” Rather than step aside and let the bloated conferences that need championship games have the spotlight all to themselves, BYU will still be playing on ESPN2. In fact, the game at Hawaii could create some buzz if both BYU and Hawaii are having great seasons.
One thing I like more than I dislike is the way the few quality games that BYU has the last half of the season are fairly evenly distributed. After the first four contests, BYU only has three quality games: Oregon State, TCU, and Hawaii. The way the schedule is laid out they are not all clumped together. If BYU started well and is making a push for a high ranking/BCS bowl bid, then they should still be fairly visible the last two months of the season. Oregon State is the middle of October, and TCU is two weeks later at the end of October. Then, as mentioned, BYU plays on “Championship Saturday” against what should be a respectable Hawaii team, at the worst.
I don’t like that the first two games are on the road. I just don’t get a good feeling about not having the team play for the fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium (LES) until game three. It seems to take an edge off the excitement of a new season of football (especially if the team is already 0-2). The good thing about 2011 is that game three is against Utah, so the team and the fans shouldn’t have any problems getting ready for this game, regardless of how good or bad the season has started.
I don’t like playing Hawaii at the very end of the season. Perhaps I am still scarred from the 1990 and 2001 losses, but I worry about what distractions there might be that could take the players’ focus off of the game. It always seems that a lot is riding on this game when it is played at the end of the year, and Hawaii comes into the game with more motivation and better preparation.
Ole Miss (Saturday, September 3)
This game is a very good way for BYU to make a statement as it embarks on independence. It gets everyone’s attention since it is a road game in SEC country, but it is also a very winnable game for BYU. The Rebels have had trouble starting well the last couple of seasons. To make matters worse for them, they still have no idea who their starting quarterback will be. With all the independence hype, I expect BYU to be as ready to play this game as they were to start 2009 against #3 Oklahoma.
Texas (Saturday, September 10)
Game 2 appears to be another game perfectly placed to help BYU make a big splash in its first year of independence. Texas had a down year last season, and they don’t seem ready to bounce back—at least not early in the season. The Longhorns are still in disarray at quarterback. Head Coach Mack Brown is still be around, but many of his assistants changed. The biggest loss was defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. He was the best defensive coordinator in the nation, and losing him will have an impact. On offense, Texas lost its offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. The defensive line coach is new as well. Another favorable factor is the Texas schedule. Texas goes to UCLA the next week. The Bruins destroyed Texas in Austin last year, and the Longhorns could be looking at that revenge game more than the BYU game, especially if game one against Rice gives Texas a false sense of security that they are “back.”
Utah (Saturday, September 17)
This game has revenge written all over it. The controversial 2010 loss is still fresh in everybody’s mind. Utah has lost its entire run game from 2010 and is implementing a new offense. Playing this game early should greatly favor BYU. Utah is also coming off a tough road trip to USC. Hopefully, this turns out to be the long awaited blowout win over Utah.
UCF (Friday, September 23)
This is the first trap game for BYU. It is a short week, coming off not just the rivalry game, but a tough opening three games. If 3-0, BYU will be primed for a let down. The problem is, UCF is no slouch. They might not be from an AQ BCS conference, but they were Conference USA champions last year and return their starting quarterback who, as a freshman, had a better year than Jake Heaps did. Hopefully, even if BYU loses some focus, the altitude will play a big enough role and the Cougars can still win.
Utah State (Friday, September 30)
This is another revenge game. There is absolutely no excuse for BYU not having this game locked up at halftime. The tables are turned this year: BYU has the experienced offense, while Utah State will be breaking in a new quarterback.
San Jose State (Saturday, October 8)
This should be a good little break for BYU after having five very meaningful games to start the year.
Oregon State (Saturday, October 15)
This will be a good test for BYU. While Oregon State has lost Jaquizz Rodgers and Stephan Paea, they have proven to be a very good home team. The schedule doesn’t give BYU a chance to sneak up on the Beavers, either. The game before is a home game against Arizona, and the game after is at Washington State. Oregon State will be fully focused on BYU. They probably want a little revenge of their own for the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl.
Idaho State (Saturday, October 22)
BYU better annihilate Idaho State if they want to get even a smidgen of attention this week. Good game to have in between the Oregon State and TCU games.
TCU (Friday, October 28)
This is the year for BYU to get a win over TCU. After three long years, this is BYU’s best chance. Quarterback Andy Dalton is gone, and so is most of the starters from a year ago. Only 8 starters return (3 offense, 5 defense), but TCU figures to fill those gaps with talented players.
Idaho (Saturday, November 12)
Besides Idaho head coach Robb Akey making some controversial comments to stir the pot last week during WAC media days, there is nothing to say about this game.
New Mexico State (Saturday, November 19)
Not even a move to independence can get bad teams from New Mexico off the schedule.
Hawaii (Saturday, December 3)
This is trap game number two. In general, I think Hawaii usually cares more about this game than BYU does. I like that BYU has a bye the week before. Hopefully BYU will not come out flat after having more than a month between its last meaningful game. Hawaii will be a lot tougher than the two previous WAC foes. Perhaps the best part of this game coming at the end of the season is that the new BYU secondary will have had all year to get experienced and ready for what is expected to be the wildest aerial attack all season.
The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org