The Brigham Young Cougars have announced their 2013 football schedule. Next season's schedule was officially released on the BYU sports program True Blue last night. This schedule has long been promised to be the best in school history. The finished product is very impressive.
Game 1 - at Virginia Cavaliers, August 31
The season will kick off on the East coast. BYU and Virginia don't have a ton of history (this will be just the fourth meeting), but the last two meetings have been thrillers. Each school has won one, including a BYU overtime win in 2000 in a game played at Scott Stadium.
Virginia was just 4-8 last season and finished last in the ACC Coastal Division, but don't expect this game to be easy. First, it is a long road trip. Second, it is the season opener, and BYU is replacing a lot of starters on defense as well as breaking in a new quarterback and new system on offense. TCU started the season at Virginia in 2009--the year the Horned Frogs made their first BCS appearance--and won 30-14. Virginia finished 3-9 that season. Defense was key for TCU in that game, and will be for BYU.
Early odds for BYU win: 50%
Game 2 - Texas Longhorns, September 7
The home opener comes in week two. It should be a very stiff test from the Texas Longhorns. Texas finished last season 9-4, ranked in the top 20, and beat Oregon State (a team BYU lost to at home last season) in the Alamo Bowl. Texas was inconsistent last season. Some games it was the offense winning the game in a shootout, and other games the Longhorns won because of a strong defensive effort. Texas returns almost all of its starters from last year's team. With the experience gained last season, they could have a top 10 team.
BYU lost the last meeting between these two schools, which was the first time the Cougars had ever fallen to the Longhorns. The last time these to teams met in Provo (1988) it was also the second game of the season for BYU as well as the home opener. Texas came in nationally ranked, but BYU won convincingly 47-6.
Early odds for BYU win: 30%
Game 3 - Utah Utes, September 21
The Cougars get a bye before, arguably, the biggest game of the season. BYU has dropped the last three games to Utah, and the two schools will not play again until 2016. With this being a rivalry game at home following a bye week, this is a must win for the Cougars. Utah was just 5-7 last season and have to replace some key players on the defensive line. The Utah D-line was a big reason why Utah won last year in Salt Lake City.
Utah also looses a lot of its offense from a year ago. Running back John White IV is gone after back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons. This isn't just a must win game. There is no excuse for losing to Utah this year. Aside from the scheduling advantage and motivational edge, BYU should be the much better team.
Early odds for BYU win: 60%
Game 4 - Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, Friday, September 27
If there is a trap game on the 2013 schedule, this is it. Short week and sandwiched between two rivalry games. Middle Tennessee State isn't a big name school, nor are they from a big name conference, but they have had some very good athletes in recent years (Dwight Dasher). All it will take is a few big plays early in the game for Middle Tennessee State to make this competitive for 60 minutes. They shocked Georgia Tech last season and earned a 49-28 win in Atlanta.
Middle Tennessee State finished 8-4 and tied for second in the Sun Belt last season. Quarterback Logan Kilgore has started the last two seasons and will return for his senior year. The Blue Raiders also return their leading rusher from 2012.
Early odds for BYU win: 70%
Game 5 - at Utah State Aggies, Friday, October 4
The Utah State series has been very competitive the last three seasons, but will that change now that head coach Gary Andersen has left? The Aggies also lose star running back Kerwynn Williams, but quarterback Chuckie Keeton does return. How much drop off will there be with the loss of Andersen and Williams?
Utah State is coming off its most successful season in school history: 11-2, undefeated WAC Champions, top 20 national ranking, bowl win. However, they did not beat BYU. They will be motivated. The Aggies have the home field advantage, which appears to make a big difference in this rivalry. Utah State's only wins in this series the last 30 years have come in Logan. Two of the three wins BYU has had in Logan the last 15 years have been much more challenging than they should have been (1999, 2002).
Early odds for BYU win: 50%
Game 6 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, October 12
BYU embarrassed Georgia Tech in Atlanta last year. Head coach and defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall had an excellent game plan to stop the Yellow Jackets option offense. How well BYU duplicates that feat and how much improvement Georgia Tech makes on defense will determine whether this game has a different outcome in 2013.
The Georgia Tech defense played a strong game in the Sun Bowl against USC to help GT finish the season 7-7 after losing in the ACC Championship game.
Early odds for BYU win: 65%
Game 7 - at Houston Cougars, October 19
Houston is coming off a disappointing 5-7 season. Losing head coach Kevin Sumlin and the NCAA all-time passing leader Case Keenum took a toll on Houston. Poor defense also contributed to Houston going from 13-1 in 2011 to a losing record last season. Opponents scored 30 points or more in all seven losses, and over 40 in five of those games. Houston will throw the ball a lot, which is the one area that the BYU defense was susceptible last season.
The trip to Houston is the only game BYU plays in the Lone Star State next season. It is the first time since 1997 that BYU has played in Houston, which is one of the biggest recruiting hotbeds in the nation.
Early odds for BYU win: 45%
Game 8 - Boise State Broncos, October 26
The last half of the season has been a sore spot on BYU's first two schedules as an independent, but not this year. The home game against Boise State in late October is the first of three big games down the stretch. Boise State finished 2012 with an 11-2 record and ranked in the top 20 of both major polls despite never fully developing on offense.
The last two games in this series have been one-point losses for BYU. Both came on the blue turf in Boise. This year BYU gets the Broncos at home. It is very important that BYU wins this game. Besides being a match up of two regional powers, Boise State still carries a lot of clout nationally. BYU needs to establish itself as the best team in the Rockies, and the only way to do that is to beat Boise State.
Early odds for BYU win: 50%
Game 9 - at Wisconsin Badgers, November 9
BYU has a bye following the Boise State game, and it could not come at a better time. The Cougars will need the rest before make the first of two big November road trips. Wisconsin finished 2012 with an 8-6 record. The Badgers won the Big Ten championship. Former Utah State head coach Gary Andersen is now Wisconsin's head coach. The familiarity with him should help BYU. It also helps that Wisconsin lost running back Montee Ball to graduation. However, he will be replaced by James White who has over 2,500 career rushing yards and 32 career touchdowns.
Camp Randall Stadium will be a hostile place to play, especially since the Wisconsin program has improved by leaps and bounds since the last time BYU went there in 1980. The only games Wisconsin lost at home last year were in overtime.
Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel is the son of former BYU linebacker Rocky Biegel. Vince will be a redshirt sophomore in 2013 and should see playing time in this game.
Early odds for BYU win: 40%
Game 10 - Idaho State Bengals, November 16
BYU fans probably don't have to worry about freezing to death in the final home game of 2013. Expect this game to be played during the day. Idaho State was bad when the two schools met in 2011, and they don't appear to have gotten any better. The Bengals were just 1-10 in 2012 and winless in the Big Sky conference. This should be another nice send off for the seniors playing their final home game in LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Early odds for BYU win: 100%
Game 11 - at Notre Dame Fighting Irish, November 23
One of the best weekends, if not the best weekend, in college football is Thanksgiving weekend. BYU fans can look forward to being a part of that great weekend this year with a huge game at Notre Dame. BYU suffered a heartbreaking loss last year in South Bend and this will be an excellent opportunity to avenge it.
Notre Dame was 12-1 last season and played in the BCS National Championship game. Expect the Irish to take a step back this season. Manti Te'o is gone, and he was the leader on the defense that carried Notre Dame all season last year.
Early odds for BYU win: 55%
Game 12 - at Nevada Wolfpack, November 30
Kyle Van Noy will return home to Reno for his final collegiate regular season game. BYU leads this series 4-2-2, but Nevada has won the last two. Nevada, however, has not been the same team without Colin Kaepernick who was quarterback last time the two schools met.
Nevada was 7-6 in 2012 and finished fifth in the Mountain West Conference. That is pretty much par for the Wolfpack. Besides the breakout 13-1 season when Kaepernick was a senior, Nevada has had between 6 and 8 wins every year since 2006. Nevada will be breaking in a new coach in 2013. The Nevada icon Chris Ault has retired.
Early odds for BYU win: 70%
Bowl Game - Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, San Francisco
If BYU becomes bowl eligible, the Cougars will face a Pac-12 opponent in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl played in San Francisco. It will be the only game BYU plays in California, which is one extra reason it is important that the Cougars make it to a bowl game this season.
BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe did an excellent job laying out the 2013 schedule. There are no killer back-to-back road trips like the 2012 schedule had. There is only one really difficult game in the first half of the schedule. While Idaho State is the only gimme game on the schedule, there are many winnable games for the Cougars. The key to winning those games will be BYU consistently playing up to their potential. At this stage, Texas is the only team that appears to have to potential to be a juggernaut.
The 2013 schedule features 10 teams that BYU has played less than nine times. Only Utah and Utah State has BYU played double digit times in over 90 years of football history. Eight of the teams BYU has played less than five times. Two (Middle Tennessee State and Houston) will be the first ever meeting between the two schools.
BYU plays opponents from eight different conferences (ACC, C-USA, Big 12, Big Ten, MWC, Big Sky, Pac-12, Big East) plus independent Notre Dame, and will play in all four time zones of the continental United States.
Hawaii and Washington State were expected to be on this schedule, but they both backed out of contracted games with BYU. It is unknown when BYU will face either school again.
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