BYU has the toughest and most unique first four games in all of college football this season. This is both the blessing and the curse of independence. We could have a pretty good team and still end up 0-4 or 1-3. Here is how I’d rank the games— from most winnable to least:
2018 record: 5-7 (4-5 PAC-12)
2018 recruiting ranking: 4
Strengths: Top ranked talent all over the field, top four WR’s returning, very good pass catching RB’s.
Weaknesses: Uncertainty at QB, new offensive coordinator, lost seven DB’s from last year’s roster, O-Line questions.
USC will come into Provo fresh off a battle with Stanford. Although they have greatly underachieved in recent years, their talent alone can be enough for a W on any given Saturday. Containing the Trojan’s air raid and taking advantage of a young defensive secondary will be key.
2018 record: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)
2018 recruiting ranking: 21
Strengths: Returning QB (3-year starter), top two RBs and top three WRs returning, SEC speed, Neyland Stadium
Weaknesses: Tons of coaching changes, lost key players on O and D lines, annual inconsistency.
Tennessee will face BYU following a skirmish with Georgia State. Although SEC road wins seem highly unlikely, I feel Tennessee may overlook BYU as just another cupcake on their typically cupcake-filled OOC schedule. If BYU can control the line of scrimmage and hit them in the mouth early (like they did vs Wisconsin), the Cougs will have a shot.
2018 record: 9-5 (6-3 PAC-12)
2018 recruiting ranking: 33
Strengths: D-line, experienced and talented DB’s, returning QB and RB’s, head coach, mental edge in the rivalry.
Weaknesses: Major O-Line questions, new o coordinator, may finally not have a solid kicker, linebacker depth (maybe).
I almost put Utah at #2, but until BYU shows they can beat the PAC-12 era Utes, I’ll have them lower on the list of likely wins. Utah will come into Provo nationally ranked in pre-season polls. With both teams giving each other bulletin board material on social media, emotions will play a major role in this game (as they always do). If BYU can contain Moss, Huntley, Covey and the Ute tight ends, the game will be winnable. Zach Wilson’s ability to avoid crucial mistakes will be also be a deciding factor.
2018 record: 10-4 (7-2 PAC-12)
2018 recruiting ranking: 16
Strengths: Chris Peterson, speed, depth, offensive line.
Weaknesses: Only two returning starters on D, new QB.
Although Washington is replacing many key positions, they have highly talented players who are expected to pick up where they left off. 5-star QB Jacob Eason, who transferred from Georgia, is expected to replace Jake Browning. Eason will have plenty of speedy weapons on offense. Although on paper Washington may not look as tough on paper, the I can’t get last years game out of my head. They made BYU’s offense look pathetic, and ran circles around our defense. Maybe playing at LES will change things, but I’ll have to see it.
Recruiting ranking source:
BYU 2018 ranking: 78