Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a series featuring BYU football’s opponents and predictions.
1. Nevada, Oct. 18 (currently 3-2)
The Wolf Pack will visit Provo with quarterback Cody Fajardo. He proved to be decent against the Cougars last year in Reno but couldn’t pull off a win by himself, as Nevada lost to BYU 28-23 behind Jamaal Williams’ 219 rushing yards.
BYU will host Nevada during homecoming week and will be looking forward to a home game after what is sure to be a tough game at Central Florida.
Fajardo and running back Kendall Brock will put up a few good plays against the Cougars, but their defense (which finished 104th in points allowed last year) will fall if the quarterback and Williams can march down the field early and often.
Prediction: BYU win (5-2)
2. Boise State (away), Oct. 24 (currently 4-2)
The darling of the BCS busters has fallen out of the limelight in the past few years.
After the departure of Kellen Moore, the Broncos have taken a step back in national prominence and have competed more as a regular mid-major program.
This season, the Broncos will return quarterback Grant Hedrick and monster running back Jay Ayaji, but must replace three of four offensive linemen as well as three defensive linemen.
Perhaps the biggest downside for Boise State this year is going without coach Chris Petersen, who led the Broncos in their glory years.
This game, however, has underlying implications, as BYU and Boise State have recently been developing their own rivalry, with consecutive games scheduled all the way until 2023.
“They’re a great opponent to have,” said associate athletic director Duff Tittle. “They’ve been successful; we’ve been successful. It makes a lot of sense for Boise State and BYU to have a rivalry going on.”
The Cougars bested the Broncos 37-20 last year in Provo but must travel to Boise this year, when the Broncos are 93-4 in their past 97 home games.
This game could go either way. With some disappointing losses for the Broncos already this season, they may be starved for an upset.
But BYU has the opportunity to take advantage of Boise State’s inexperienced defensive line with its improved, high-paced offense.
Prediction: BYU win (6-2)
3. Middle Tennessee State (away), Nov. 1 (currently 4-2)
The Blue Raiders were good enough for a winning season and a bowl game last year but BYU rolled to a 37-10 victory over them in Provo.
This season, Middle Tennessee brings back running backs Jordan Parker and Reggie Whatley who combined for 1,402 yards last season. Both should help the Blue Raiders make a run at a conference championship.
But the team also replaced quarterback Logan Kilgore, who passed for 2,507 yards as a senior with Austin Grammer, a quarterback who has already made five touchdowns and 1,219 yards this season.
The Blue Raiders will give BYU more of a challenge this time by virtue of the game being played in Tennessee, but the Cougars may still prove too much for them to handle.
Prediction: BYU win (7-2)
4. UNLV, Nov. 15 (currently 1-5)
The Runnin’ Rebels finally started living up to their name, as they ran for their first bowl game in 14 years last season.
But UNLV is in danger of falling back into its old ways with the departure of quarterback Caleb Harring and running back Tim Cornett.
The team’s lone bright spot appears to be go-to wide receiver Devante Davis, who amassed 1,209 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. UNLV and BYU are familiar foes from their days in the Mountain West Conference, with BYU owning the series at 15-3.
This game will be just as familiar, with the Cougars easily handling the Rebels.
Prediction: BYU win (8-2)
5. Savannah State, Nov. 22 (2013 record: 0-5)
As an FCS school that went 1-11 last season and currently 0-4, the Tigers will be no challenge for BYU.
On senior night, the Cougars will get an easy win, with the offense racking up early points.
Prediction: BYU win (9-2)
6. California away, Nov. 29 (currently 4-1)
These teams last met up in the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl, when the Golden Bears outlasted the Cougars for a 35-28 win.
But Cal has been on decline since, posting its worst season in 13 years last season.
Cal’s defense proved helpless, as it gave up an average of 530 yards and 46 points per game — ranking it at No. 122 in both categories.
However, the Bears have quarterback Jared Goff, who showed potential after posting 3,508 yards last year and has taken the team to a 3-1 record this season. But the whole team will have to step up with Goff if it wants to win a game against the Cougars.
Cal has made a significant improvement from last year and will have a lot to prove against BYU.
Expect Cal to keep it respectable early, but BYU will outlast the Bears this time to finish off the regular season.
Prediction: BYU win (10-2)