ESPN announced Saturday that it will broadcast the Virginia-BYU football game on their main platform, ESPN, during their prime Saturday time slot of 1:30 p.m.
The alternative was to show the game on ESPNU. Both of the ESPN channels are nationally distributed, but ESPN reaches over 23 million more television households than ESPNU.
Until just a couple of weeks ago, it was unknown whether any of the ESPN properties would televise the Virginia-BYU game. The delayed decision was because no one knew if Virginia would be a formidable opponent this season. Virginia went 2-10 last season, including a victory against BYU in the season opener. The concern was if Virginia had improved in the 2014 season.
After three games, Virginia has responded: yes, they have.
Virginia came out strong in its season opener against No. 7 UCLA. Despite losing, with a final score of 28-20, Virginia kept the game close and proved to be very competitive. The Virginia defense limited UCLA to 116 rushing yards and forced UCLA into two fumbles. On the offensive side, Virginia’s quarterback Greyson Lambert managed a total of 386 total yards and completed 16 of 23 passes.
The following week, Virginia responded to their strong performance against UCLA by dominating an over-matched University of Richmond, 45-13.
Virginia’s game this past Saturday against then No. 21 Louisville was the game that captured the nation’s attention. In a game that most pundits felt would be an easy win for Louisville, Virginia delivered a major upset by winning 23-21. The Virginia defense once again fought hard by holding Louisville to only 79 rushing yards while forcing two fumbles and two interceptions. Lambert completed 13 of 24 passes and totaled 285 yards to lead the Cavaliers to victory.
Virginia will visit Provo looking to upset another No. 21 ranked team and to show that last year’s victory against BYU was no fluke.
The game against Virginia is one BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall has been looking forward to.
“We’re anxious to play Virginia,” Mendenhall said. “They’re fast, athletic, tough and certainly gave us more than we could handle a year ago. Most of them are still there.”
For a game that a month or two ago seemed would be about BYU wanting to avenge last year’s lost, the theme for this Saturday’s contest is significantly more important, with a wide range of story lines.
“If we had to pick one game last year that we felt like we’ve should have won, it was the Virginia game,” BYU defensive end Remington Peck said. “They’re a lot better team this year. They’re a lot better than they were last year, so we’ll have to have a good week in practice and be ready.”
BYU’s win last week against Houston was slightly less impressive than most had expected. This week, the Cougars want to show that their performance against Houston in the first quarter, including two touchdowns and a safety, is more representative of who they really are.
In addition, the Cougars look to maintain their undefeated record as they continue to move up the national rankings. Playing against and beating a Virginia team from the ACC, considered one of the power 5 conferences, and a team that challenged UCLA and beat Louisville, helps with BYU’s strength-of-schedule discussion.
“They’ll be really good,” wide receiver Mitch Mathews said. “Their D-line is really good, but we’re not scared of anyone. We’re ready to take on the challenge.”
ESPN has noticed BYU and provided them with yet another national television platform, their fourth in four games. Suddenly the Virginia-BYU game has become an opportunity for both teams to show America that they are the real deal. The Cougars kick off against the Cavaliers on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 1:30 p.m.