Last season was a disastrous year for BYU. Nine losses in a season was the most this tradition-rich program experienced in one year since 1955. For some perspective, that was 17 years before the legendary LaVell Edwards became head coach of the Cougars.
The historic number of losses resulted in third-year head coach Kalani Sitake making sweeping changes to his offensive staff. Out goes BYU icon Ty Detmer as offensive coordinator and in his place is former LSU offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, who has 20 years of collegiate coaching experience, but this is his first time as an offensive coordinator.
Independent schedules for BYU are always loaded, especially in the month of September, and 2018 is no different as the Cougars face five Power 5 teams along with games against Boise State and Northern Illinois, two of the best Group of 5 programs in the past decade.
BYU Cougars 2018 Schedule
Bye: Week 8
Week 1 – Sept. 1 at Arizona (Tucson, Ariz.)
Two years ago, BYU defeated Arizona in Glendale in Kalani Sitake’s first game as head coach. Now the Cougars will look to knock off the Wildcats who boast one of the nation’s most electric quarterbacks in Khalil Tate who should continue to shine under new head coach Kevin Sumlin.
Week 2 – Sept. 8 vs. California (Provo, Utah)
The last time Cal played in Provo was in 1999, and the Golden Bears head coach at that time was Tom Holmoe, who is now the current athletic director at BYU. This is the second of a two-game series between the schools, with the first one resulting in a victory for BYU in 2014.
Week 3 – Sept. 15 at Wisconsin (Madison, Wis.)
Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibook had a record-setting performance for completion percentage last year against BYU en route to an easy 40-6 victory. He returns along with RB Jonathan Taylor and 11 other returning starters from a team that won the Orange Bowl a season ago.
Week 4 – Sept. 22 vs. McNeese State (Provo, Utah)
McNeese State missed the FCS playoffs a season ago despite posting a record of 9-2. BYU is undefeated in 12 all-time meetings against FCS opponents.
Week 5 – Sept. 29 at Washington (Seattle)
BYU and Washington have somewhat of a rivalry you could say that dates back to the controversial 1984 national championship season and also the Huskies derailing BYU from a perfect 15-0 record in 1996. Now BYU will look to derail Washington’s hopes of returning to a second College Football Playoff in three years.
Week 6 – Oct. 5 vs. Utah State (Provo, Utah)
Last year, BYU committed seven turnovers as Utah State earned its second victory against the Cougars under Aggie head coach Matt Wells. This battle for the Old Wagon Wheel is always played on the Friday evening before LDS General Conference weekend.
Week 7 – Oct. 13 vs. Hawaii (Provo, Utah)
This is the only team that appears on the 2018 schedule that BYU defeated the year prior. Hawaii has never beaten BYU in Provo, and the task will be even more difficult as the Rainbow Warriors’ top wide receiver from a season ago, Dylan Collie, transferred to BYU for his final season of eligibility.
Week 9 – Oct. 27 vs. Northern Illinois (Provo, Utah)
#MACtion makes its way to the Wasatch Front. BYU has faced programs from the MAC only eight times in program history, with the last one coming against Toledo in 2016. The Huskies could have one of the best defenses BYU faces in 2018.
Week 10 – Nov. 3 at Boise State (Boise, Idaho)
The defending Mountain West champs appear to be one of the favorites to earn the New Year’s Six Group of 5 bid entering the season. The Broncos won 11 games last year, quarterback Brett Rypien is back, but more notably the defense returns basically everyone from a group that held BYU to only seven points a year ago.
Week 11 – Nov. 10 at UMass (Foxborough, Mass.)
The lowest point of BYU’s disastrous 2017 season was a 16-10 Senior Day loss to UMass. Now the Cougars will try to get revenge for that embarrassing moment in New England.
Week 12 – Nov. 17 vs. New Mexico State (Provo, Utah)
The Aggies are making a return to the ranks of the Independents after departing the Sun Belt. BYU immediately reached out to fill November dates as that continues to be a challenge for the Cougars in their unique path of independence.
Week 13 – Nov. 24 at Utah (Salt Lake City)
For the first time since the two were conference foes in 2010, BYU and Utah will square off in a regular-season finale. Utah has won the last seven in the series. It’s possible we could see both programs start true freshman quarterbacks in Jack Tuttle for the Utes and Zach Wilson for BYU, something that has never been done in the history of the Holy War.
— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is BYU Insider for ESPN 960 Sports and Publisher of Cougar Nation, part of the Rivals network. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.