Opinion: Previewing BYU football’s November slate (and bowl game scenarios)


Are you aware that BYU’s football season is still ongoing? No really, it’s true! You may just be confused because it’s been 57 days (approximately) since the Cougars last played a game, a 38-24 win over Cincinnati back on Oct. 16 (I refuse to count their more recent scrimmage against Wagner).

Thankfully, the Cougars come out of their late-season hibernation this Friday to play San Jose State. The Spartans will be the first of three Mountain West opponents BYU will face in November, in addition to a game against SEC opponent Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium.

Below is a profile of each remaining opponent, along with the narratives and major questions in play. There’s also a section that puts forth each game’s potential doppelgänger. Consider it all as a way to help you get back into the football mood.

Nov. 6 at San Jose State

Jamaal Williams rushes for a touchdown against San Jose State on Saturday.
Former BYU running back Jamaal Williams rushes for a touchdown against San Jose State on Nov. 17, 2012. The Spartans won the game 20-14. (Universe Archives)

Opponent snapshot: These Spartans aren’t anywhere near as good as the 11-2 squad BYU lost to in 2012. San Jose State relies heavily on running back Tyler Ervin, whose rushed for 1159 yards and averages 6.0 yards per carry so far in 2015.

Narratives in play: Do the Cougars win their first road game since beating Nebraska? Will they come out playing sharp after not playing a meaningful down in three weeks? Will the Spartan Stadium crowd be made up of mostly BYU or San Jose State fans?

Potential doppelgänger game: Dec. 3, 2011, BYU 41 Hawaii 20.

Nov. 14 at Missouri (Arrowhead Stadium)

Opponent snapshot: This game looked a lot sexier back in late September when both teams were ranked in the AP Top 25. The Tigers have gone 13 quarters since they last scored a touchdown, and Missouri quarterback Drew Lock has completed only 41 percent of his passes over his last three starts. Still, it’s not often the Cougars get to compete against SEC teams. Plus the game is being played in a really, really big stadium.

Narratives in play: Does BYU win its third straight matchup against an SEC opponent? Does Missouri score a touchdown? Would a win vault the Cougars into any of the top-25 rankings? Will Algie Brown throw a halfback pass to Tanner Mangum for the game winning touchdown?

Potential doppelgänger game: Sept. 6, 2014, BYU 41 Texas 7.

Nov. 21 vs. Fresno State

Opponent snapshot: Fresno State has gone 6-14 against FBS opponents since losing quarterback David Carr and wideout Davantae Adams in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. So far opponents have outscored the Bulldogs 351–144 in 2015.

Narratives in play: How cold will Provo be in late November? Is this really the best Senior Day opponent since 2009? What kind of blankets will the seniors receive after the game?

Potential doppelgänger game: Nov. 15, 2014, BYU 42 UNLV 23.

BYU wide receiver Mitch Mathews catches a pass over Utah State defensive back Tay Glover-Wright on Oct. 4, 2013. The Cougars beat the Aggies 31-14. (Universe Archives)

Nov. 28 at Utah State

Opponent snapshot: The Aggies have been up and down this season, but they haven’t lost at home and looked particularly good when they crushed Boise State 52-26 in Logan. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton is expected to be available after spraining his MCL mid-September, but that might not even matter considering how well replacement starter Kent Myers has been playing.

The rivalry has been especially tight of late, with Utah State owning a slight 107-100 edge when you add up each team’s respective points scored in the series 2010. Yet the Cougars have won three of the last five matchups and 13 of their last 15 dating back to 1994.

Narratives in play: Can both teams’ quarterbacks go the entire game without suffering a major injury (for the first time in four years)? Who plays quarterback for the Aggies? Does BYU continue the series’ recent pattern of defeating the home team in a blowout?

Potential doppelgänger game: Sept. 30, 2011, BYU 27 Utah State 24.

Dec. 19 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl/Dec. 24 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

BYU is set to play either an AAC opponent in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl or a Pac-12 opponent in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, depending on whether Vegas bowl executives prefer BYU to the MWC champion. A Vegas Bowl invite would pit the Cougars against the sixth- or seventh-place Pac-12 team. There’s still a whole lot of football left to be played, but some of the current candidates for that slot include Oregon, Cal, Washington, USC, Arizona State and Arizona.

If Sin City passes on BYU, the Cougars will play against the third- or fourth-place team from the American Athletic Conference in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Some of the potential opponents in this game include Temple, Houston, Cincinnati and Tulsa. Also a possibility (although currently a longshot) is a rematch with the endearing friends BYU made during last year’s Miami Beach Bowl, the Memphis Tigers.

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