As an FBS Independent, BYU is no stranger to tough schedules and 2019 is no different. BYU is the only team in college football this fall to open up the 2019 season with four Power 5 opponents.
Last year, BYU went 7-6, capping things off with a victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Now with quarterback Zach Wilson and entering the second year of offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes' system, the Cougars look to be a more dynamic and versatile offense this fall. But the Cougars will have tough competition throughout the 2019 schedule that will pose unique challenges every single week in what is one of the most balanced and toughest schedules the Cougars have assembled as an Independent.
Byes: Week 6, Week 9
Week 1 — Aug. 29 vs. Utah (Provo, Utah)
There’s no game more important on BYU’s schedule in 2019 than the one against archrival Utah to open the season. The Cougars have lost eight straight to the Utes and it has been 10 years since the Cougars' last victory in the series. Many around the BYU team feel they let one slip away last year giving up a 20-point lead in the second half on the road in Salt Lake City. Now BYU will look to end the drought in front of what will likely be a nationally televised audience in the season opener.
Week 2 — Sept. 7 at Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn.)
This will be the first-ever meeting between these two schools. BYU is Tennessee’s “Power 5” opponent in the non-conference schedule this fall. Tennessee revamps their offense with Jim Chaney returning as offensive coordinator so the Volunteers hope to be more explosive on that side of the ball in 2019. The Vols might be the most talented team BYU faces this season.
Week 3 — Sept. 14 vs. USC (Provo, Utah)
Last time USC played a game in Provo was 15 years ago in 2004. That Trojans team featured USC legends Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. Those guys aren’t coming through the door at USC anymore. This game against BYU has the makings of being a make-or-break for Clay Helton’s Trojans tenure.
Week 4 — Sept. 21 vs. Washington (Provo, Utah)
Last year Washington annihilated BYU in Seattle when the Cougars were nationally ranked. It wasn’t a contest. This year’s game should be closer, but the Huskies are still the class of the Pac-12 and college football out west. Jacob Eason vs. Zach Wilson should make for one entertaining quarterback battle.
Week 5 — Sept. 28 at Toledo (Toledo, Ohio)
This marks the first time in the Independent era (since 2011) that BYU is traveling to a MAC venue. The last time BYU and Toledo met was in 2016 and it was a high-scoring classic that even saw Mack Brown leave the booth early due to how late the game was going. I wouldn’t expect as much scoring this go around but this could be a dangerous game for BYU after four consecutive weeks against Power 5 opponents.
Week 7 — Oct. 12 at South Florida (Tampa, Fla.)
BYU has never won a game in program history in the state of Florida. The Cougars will look to end that drought against Charlie Strong’s South Florida Bulls. USF finished last year on a six-game losing streak and it led to mass upheaval on Strong's coaching staff. This is the first meeting ever between these two schools.
Week 8 — Oct. 19 vs. Boise State (Provo, Utah)
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake is 0-3 in his career against annual foe Boise State. This year's meeting appears to be one of the better chances for the Cougars to spring the upset and get back on the winning side against the Broncos. Boise State will be replacing quarterback Brett Rypien and top running back Alexander Mattison, but the Broncos return all five starting offensive linemen and some weapons in the passing game. The last time BYU defeated Boise State was four years ago on a Hail Mary with Tanner Mangum at quarterback.
Week 10 — Nov. 2 at Utah State (Logan, Utah)
The Aggies put up a dominating performance against BYU last year in Provo that led to the Cougars making a switch at quarterback with how the game played out. Utah State lost head coach Matt Wells to Texas Tech but happily welcome back Gary Andersen, the man who brought respectability and a new commitment and passion to the program and now he will look to build off of a season where the Aggies went 10-2 and finished ranked in both polls. Quarterback Jordan Love is a nice player to have in the first year back as the lead man.
Week 11 — Nov. 9 vs. Liberty (Provo, Utah)
The Honor Code bowl! Two programs that have some the strictest honor codes in America square off in a game that features a pair of Independent schools looking to have big years in 2019. After Turner Gill announced his retirement, the Flames made a splash in the coaching carousel by hiring former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze to lead Liberty as they embark on their first season as a full-fledged FBS Independent.
Week 12 — Nov. 16 vs. Idaho State (Provo, Utah)
Ever since becoming an FBS Independent, BYU has had an FCS team on the schedule and Idaho State has been the most frequent. This is the third time the Bengals will make the trip to Provo. Idaho State has always been flexible to fill a date for BYU, so the Cougars do them a solid and give them a handsome payday to likely experience a convincing loss.
Week 13 — Nov. 23 at UMass (Foxborough, Mass.)
For the fourth consecutive season, the Minutemen appear on BYU’s schedule. The Cougars defeated UMass 35-16 last season in a game that was played in Foxborough at Gillette Stadium. This year's contest will take place in McGuirk Alumni Stadium on campus in Amherst.
Week 14 — Nov. 30 at San Diego State (San Diego)
An old Mountain West Conference rivalry renews to close out the 2019 regular season as BYU travels to Montezuma Mesa to take on San Diego State. Aztecs head coach Rocky Long is looking to revamp his offense with a heavier dose of passing as SDSU wasn't as dominant running the ball in 2018 compared to the past few seasons.
— 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.