College football season launched last week with a 35-10 win at UConn. But what do the rest of BYU’s opponents have to offer?
Here is Part 1 of a two-part story previewing each of BYU’s remaining opponents for the year.
1. Texas (away) — Sept. 6
Perhaps the game of the season.
BYU throttled the Longhorns in Provo last year, rushing a total of 550 yards on its way to a 40-21 victory. That victory proved to be the beginning of the end for Texas head coach Mack Brown, who announced his retirement in December 2013 .
New Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong has a plethora of talent on his roster to return his team to national prominence.
Texas running back Malcom Brown returns for his senior season and is poised to make big things happen for the Longhorns. With a talented and speedy receiving corps taking away attention, Brown will have plenty of open field to choose from.
A victory for BYU will depend on its ability to keep Brown to a minimum while also limiting the receiver’s opportunities down field.
Again, this well may be the game of the season, an early test that will determine just how capable either team is.
“We’re getting into the mindset that this could be a great year to start off in Connecticut and go to Texas,” said BYU running back Jamaal Williams at BYU Football Media Day on June 23. “I feel like this is the year we should show people we can beat big teams and stay consistent every year.”
But a second road game in front of 100,000 roaring fans against an unproven (but talented) team will be a lot for BYU to overcome.
Prediction: BYU loss (1-1)
2. Houston — Sept. 11
BYU couldn’t have chosen a more potentially exciting game for its home opener.
Houston hosted BYU last year in a 47-46 shootout victory behind Hill’s career-high 417 yards through the air.
The Houston Cougars return freshman quarterback sensation John O’Korn, who gave BYU’s secondary all it could handle by throwing for 435 yards and three touchdowns.
Considering last year’s thrilling contest, many fans will be anxious to see this game.
“Based on last year, they showed they’re a really good team,” Houston fan Rick Stockton said. “Their quarterback really impressed me.”
With O’Korn back, as well as an influx of talented receivers, Houston will test BYU’s secondary all day. Even if the defense performs admirably against Houston, BYU’s offense will need production of its own if its to come out with a win.
But in the end, BYU will feel more comfortable playing at home for the first time, and that will show on the field.
Prediction: BYU win (2-1)
3. Virginia — Sept. 20
No BYU fan will soon forget the audacity that was last year’s season opener.
Blame it on first-game mishaps, travel distance, one botched play or even the weather.
But bottom line, BYU lost to Virginia 19-16, a team whose only other victory came against the Virginia Military Institute that season.
“I hope we destroy them,” said Cougars fan Richard Barrett, who attended last year’s game in Charlottesville.
With that said, Virginia has a better roster than it had last year.
The Cavaliers return running back Kevin Parks, who rushed more than 1,000 yards last season with 11 touchdowns, and have signed five-star safety Quin Blanding.
Virginia’s roster has improved, but BYU’s will still be better. With three games under their belt, a home crowd and the desire to make up for last year’s loss, the Cougars will handle anything the Cavaliers bring to Provo.
Prediction: BYU win (3-1)
4. Utah State — Oct. 3
Chuckie Keeton, the Aggies’ star quarterback, looks to rebound after a season-ending injury suffered against BYU last season. The Aggies will look to thwart any weakness in the Cougars’ secondary.
But BYU will have an improved secondary and a talented linebacker group to put constant pressure on Keeton.
The Aggies have been on the rise in the past few years, but they have struggled to play their best against the Cougars.
Prediction: BYU win (4-1)
5. Central Florida (away) — Oct. 11
The Knights had a dream season last year as they went undefeated in conference play and defeated Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl under the stellar play of quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson.
However, UCF has seen a major fallout in talent, as both Bortles and Johnson made their way to the NFL. The offense will be good, but nowhere near what it was last year.
The Knights’ defense will be their strength, with nine returning starters and two JUCO transfers who should have an immediate impact.
UCF won’t be the powerhouse it was last year, but it will still be good. A longer week to prepare and home advantage on the East Coast gives the Knights the edge.
This one could go either way.
Prediction: BYU loss (4-2)