BYU football has some hard games this year, but these ones stand out.
BYU football will have its work cut out for it this fall with a tough 12-game schedule.
The Cougars have competed as a national independent since leaving the Mountain West a decade ago. Despite not being considered a Power 5 team, the Cougars are never afraid to put anybody on their schedule. 2020 will be no different.
This year, BYU will play six Power 5 opponents, four of which being road dates. Outside of the late November date with the North Alabama Lions, the rest of the Cougars’ schedule will be against Division I competition. While the Cougars play a heavy dose of teams in their geographical footprint, they are also playing six teams who don’t call the West Coast home, so props to them.
In his four years leading the BYU program, head coach Kalani Sitake has navigated his team to three bowl games as a national independent. BYU should achieve bowl eligibility easily this year, but here are their three toughest games in 2020: At Utah on Sept. 3, at Minnesota on Sept. 26 and at Boise State on Nov. 6. How will they do in these games? Let’s find out now.
The BYU football schedule features three potential challenges.
It all starts off with the latest rendition of The Holy War with in-state rival Utah. The Utes have won the last nine meetings and this game takes place at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on a Thursday night. Utah was one game away from seemingly clinching a College Football Playoff spot a season ago. The Utes might regress, but they’re still a tough out for the Cougars Week 1.
After a pair of Power 5 dates with Michigan State at home and Arizona State in Tempe, the Cougars will travel to Minneapolis to face an on-the-rise Minnesota looking to build on last season’s success. Like Utah a season ago, the Gophers were one of a dozen teams still fighting for a playoff berth heading into Thanksgiving. Don’t think going into TCF Bank Stadium and coming out with a victory will be easy for BYU.
Though the October slate has some challenges, including in-state rival Utah State, Houston and Missouri at home, the hardest game on BYU’s schedule post-September comes after their bye week. They have to go to Boise State and play on some blue turf. Though they beat the Broncos last year, you know darn well Brian Harsin’s is ready for some sweet revenge at their place.
So how will the Cougars fare this year? Look for them to finish around 7-5 heading into their bowl game like they’ve done the last two seasons. If BYU holds serve at home and steals a game or two on the road, maybe 8-4 or even 9-3 is in play for the national independent program. As for their three toughest games, we can’t entirely rule out them winning any or all them.
The Utah date seems like the toughest on the schedule. The Utes have had the Cougars’ number since leaving for the Pac-12. However, this is a major rivalry game, so really anything can happen. Will this be the year the Cougars end the streak? Probably not, but it’s still very much in play. Utah is good, but definitely not as good as the Utes were a season ago.
Frankly, Minnesota could prove a one-year wonder and regress back to being a middling bowl-level team if P.J. Fleck’s team doesn’t come out of the gate ready to play. Fleck tends to hold his players accountable, but this game with BYU coming to town has a sleepy feel to it for sure. If the Cougars believe they can pull the upset off, they very well just might do the thing.
As for going into Boise and beating the Broncos, it’s hard to see that happening. It’s a game Boise State has circled on its calendar, plus, it’s at home for the Broncos. If the Cougars beat the Broncos on their blue turf, it would be another signature victory for Sitake at BYU. Don’t count on it though, as Boise State has the feel of a New Year’s Six bowl contender heading into 2020.
BYU can win one of its three big road games and have a great season, maybe up to two of them?