BYU’s third season of independence features its most difficult schedule.
The Cougars play seven bowl teams from last season, including BCS bowl teams in Wisconsin and Notre Dame. BYU also takes on rival Utah in early September and an improving Virginia team in Week 1.
BYU returns 11 starters, including All-America linebacker Kyle Van Noy and rising star Taysom Hill at quarterback. The Cougars have a new offensive staff, which features the return of Robert Anae as coordinator.
If the Cougars improve on offense, the defense is strong enough to push for nine victories in 2013.
What will BYU's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
BYU's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
8/31 at Virginia
10/4 at Utah State
10/12 Georgia Tech
10/19 at Houston
10/25 Boise State
11/9 at Wisconsin
11/16 Idaho State
11/23 at Notre Dame
11/30 at Nevada
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The Cougars have a challenging, yet manageable slate. The first three games of the year will be a tough way for an offense with a new coordinator and quarterback to begin the season. However, BYU’s defense should still be solid despite the return of only four starters - especially with All-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy back in Provo - and will keep this team in every game until the offense has a chance to find its footing. The schedule lightens just a bit in the second half of the season, as games against Houston, Idaho State and Nevada are more manageable than matchups against BCS foes.
If the offense improves, I can see BYU finishing with an 8-4 or even a 9-3 mark. The road opener against Virginia, the Holy War showdown against Utah and the Oct. 12 date against Georgia Tech are the biggest swing games on the schedule. The matchup against the Utes was a tossup, but I gave a slight edge to Utah since it has won four out of the last five in that series.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Bronco Mendenhall has posted an 18-8 record over the last two seasons and has five 10-win campaigns in his last seven years. Quietly one of the better coached teams in the nation, BYU has survived independence. Can that continue this year, however, with massive college football blue bloods (Texas, Notre Dame, Wisconsin), solid tier two programs (Georgia Tech, Virginia, Utah) and elite mid-majors (Boise State, Houston, Nevada) dotting nearly every week of the schedule? There are maybe two or three sure-fire wins on this impossible slate but only two or three sure-fire losses. It will be a year of swing games for the disciplined Cougars and new star quarterback Taysom Hill.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Always tough picking games in July for a team hoping its rising star quarterback (Taysom Hill) will take the next step. I feel like we just did this with Jake Heaps. Anyhow, Hill and the new offensive approach are going to be the keys for BYU because the defense is going to be OK. If Robert Anae’s return to the coaching staff isn’t the answer, BYU may have more games like the 6-3 win over Utah State and 7-6 loss to Boise State last year. On top of the questions for BYU, two of the biggest swing games -- Utah State and Nevada -- feature new coaches. Those are big questions. For BYU, eight wins seems pretty safe for a program that rarely falls below that mark.
BYU is in their third year of independence, and the schedule is much improved over the first two years. The Cougars have ridded themselves of WAC teams from the schedule, and in 2013 have one of their toughest schedules in school history.
While the first half of the Cougars schedule is difficult, it does set up nice for them to have a good start, as their first seven are winnable, even the home opener against Texas. 2013 will also be the last time that BYU will be playing Utah before the Holy War takes a brief hiatus, and the Cougars will be looking to stop their three-game losing streak to the Utes.
There are so many toss up games this season for BYU that it is possible that they could win as few as four games or could reach the double-digit mark. BYU's ultimate success will be determined by the uptempo offense brought in by new offensive coordinator Robert Anae.
As an Independent, BYU has one of the most intriguing schedules in the nation. Games with Boise State, Georgia Tech, Texas and of course, Utah, highlight the home slate, while road games at Notre Dame and Virginia are intriguing for different reasons. Even with a fairly difficult schedule like this, I like the talent the Cougars have on offense and defense and believe they have a legitimate shot at eight wins before bowl season. The key games related to this goal will be against the Utes and Yellow Jackets at home and the Cavaliers, Aggies and Wolf Pack on the road.
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