|BYU travels to Wisconsin for the second time in the last six seasons (Mike McGinnis, Getty Images).|
In the last 10 years, the BYU Cougars have had several big tests very early in the season. In 2009, it was Oklahoma, and then Texas in 2011 and 2013. Who can forget LSU just last season? Well, 2018 will be no different.
Blue Cougar Football surveyed site visitors and Twitter followers, and the overwhelming majority in both places think the September 15 game at Wisconsin will be BYU's biggest challenge in 2018. The official poll results can be found below.
Official ResultsIt is pretty easy to see why the Badgers ran away with poll. Camp Randall seats over 80,000 people. Wisconsin finished 2017 ranked in the top 10, and the way too early 2018 Top 25 rankings have the Badgers maintaining that lofty spot.
74% at Wisconsin (Sep. 15)
16% at Washington (Sep. 29)
10% at Utah (Nov. 24)
0% Cal (Sep. 8)
The 40-6 loss BYU suffered to Wisconsin last year adds to the feeling that Wisconsin will be the most challenging game. However, let's keep in mind, that was the game right after an emotional loss to Utah where Tanner Mangum went down with an ankle injury on the final offensive play of the game. Even with Beau Hoge making his first start, BYU hung around for a little while. The Cougars know a lot better this year what to expect in terms of physicality and style of play.
Camp Randall, while huge, isn't one of the strongest home-field advantages in college football. BYU lost by just 10 there in 2013 to a good Wisconsin team that finished the regular season 9-2 and ranked number 14.
I am inclined to think the Washington game will be the biggest challenge. Husky Stadium is an underrated tough place to play in college football, in general, but BYU has experienced the difficulty first hand. The 1996 team suffered its only loss there. The Cougars have won just once in Seattle, and that took a blocked extra point. Not to mention, Washington finished winless that season, while BYU had the nation's longest win streak.
Washington is coached by former Boise State head coach Chris Peterson. He has validated that he is a great coach by having a lot of success with the Huskies. That success has come with Jake Browning at quarterback. He will be back in 2018.
As for Utah, that game is a legitimate contender for most challenging. Post LaVell, BYU has beaten Utah just once away from Provo. That was the 2006 game, which required the near miraculous Beck-to-Harline touchdown. However, BYU has had several near wins in Salt Lake City this century, and I don't expect Utah to be as good as Washington or Wisconsin.
I got nothing to justify Cal, neither does anyone else, apparently. I just threw it on there to see if anyone out there had an outside the box view.
Thank you to everyone who voted. A breakdown of the votes from each polling source is below. Please vote in this week's poll: How much can Fred Warner improve his NFL Draft stock with a great combine?
At Wisconsin (Sep. 15)
At Washington (Sep. 29)
At Utah (Nov. 24)
Cal (Sep. 8)
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