By: Daniel Olsen
Strength of schedule is completely speculative…… right? There is no way we can predict how hard the schedule will be based on predictions or even results.
The truth is that unless someone can find a sports almanac from five years from now like Biff did in Back to the Future II, there won’t be any completely accurate prediction anytime soon but that doesn’t mean one can’t try. Here are the games for the Cougars ranked from toughest to easiest.
Tier 1 games: The Highly Doubtful games
These games are a 0-25% chance that BYU will pick up a win.
1. Utah at BYU: This game at home could arguably hurt the Cougars according to some BYU players last year who said that the road support for BYU is great but the home crowd is kind of a downer sometimes. You wouldn’t expect this from a rivalry but perhaps some BYU fans don’t want to see a game that their rivals have dominated for a decade. This game comes at the start of the year which means Utah could be a little rusty but they will also be healthy.
It will be close as the majority of the Holy War games have been in the last decade but in the end Utah is favored to come out on top. Of all the highly doubtful games I believe this is arguably the game BYU has the greatest chance to win because they always save their best for Utah. However, Utah appears to be one of the toughest opponents the Cougars will face this season. I don’t doubt that it will be close but I do doubt that the Cougars make the winning play with the game on the line based on recent history.
Final Score Prediction: BYU 21 Utah 24
2. BYU at Tennessee: This game will be a tough road game despite a couple extra days of rest after the Thursday night game. BYU travels to Knoxville to play the Vols in an early evening game.
Tennessee has had a lot of close calls to Group of 5 teams but have managed to pull them off. They are a tough team with SEC talent. Just ask the Aggies who were routed by the boys in orange in 2014. This isn’t Death Valley so the Cougars might cross midfield and gets some long field goals by Jake Oldroyd or even a touchdown off a turnover or trick play but other than that it should be a sound victory for Tennessee. You can’t sleep on BYU since they did go to Wisconsin and beat them while they were a Top 10 team. Tennessee won’t run up the score but their defense should be tough enough to get the job done.
Final Score Prediction: Tennessee 24 BYU 7
3. Washington at BYU: Again, this will be a really tough defense but the quarterback and a lot of personnel will be new. This isn’t Cal who beat BYU in Provo a year ago. Chris Peterson has proven to be very successful over BYU although the sample size is small. His record over the Cougars is 2-1 with one win coming last year, this time with him being the coach of the Purple Washington Huskies. His previous two wins were while he was at Boise State.
In the end Chris Petersen teams defend too well for any team in the state of Utah to compete. The Utes and Aggies have also had trouble against Chris Petersen. The Utes have only beaten Washington once in thirteen tries. The Aggies lost their last game to the Huskies by two touchdowns in 2015.
If you’re looking for a home game to attend, this isn’t it. Spend the money on the Holy War rivalry game. Chris Petersen is living rent free inside every team in the state of Utah’s head.
Final Score Prediction: Washington 21 BYU 10
Tier 2 games: Pick ‘Em
These games are a 25 -50% likelihood of a Cougar win.
4. BYU at USU: Wait a minute, this has to be a typo. Surely this is meant to be the USC Trojans of the Conference of Champions and not the USU Aggies of the “lowly” Mountain West Conference, right?
BYU as always has a lot of high expectations this offseason. They would like to beat their in-state rivals but both the Utes and Aggies appear to have taken a lead in the recruiting battle. Both coaches of the public state schools seem to have the advantage over Sitake. BYU obviously has some restrictions with honor code and getting guys back in shape after missions so it really takes a great coach to maneuver around that. Bronco and Lavell did that. Sitake has done alright. He isn’t Lavell yet but he was coached under him and is doing the best he can right now. This will be an important contract year for him.
In order for BYU to have a puncher’s chance to beat USU, the Cougar defense needs to be spectacular and Zach Wilson needs to play like Steve Young. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration. This game might be a little closer if it were in Provo where the Cougars are usually a little more successful against the Aggies.
Also this game being later in the year favors the Aggies as BYU tends to have more depth early in the year before injuries set in. Both defenses should be good so whoever can make more plays should win this game. So far the Aggies have proven that they are the more athletic team that makes the plays vs the Cougars.
I put this game more at the 45% range for the Cougars. As I mentioned in my Aggies preview, I believe this will be closer than in years past but I feel like there will be some magic in Logan in overtime. The defense that forces the most turnovers will win the game.
Final Score Prediction: USU 27 BYU 20 OT
5. Boise State at BYU
Boise is always Boise. They are tough but with a little magic they are beatable. Could Zach Wilson capture some magic similar to the déjà vu Tanner Mangum pulled when he threw a Hail Mary to beat the Broncos at Lavell Edwards stadium one week after throwing a Hail Mary game winner at Nebraska in the last play.
Boise will be new so they will be a little wet behind the ears after their senior quarterback Brett Rypien graduated. This will be close like last year. This time I think BYU ends up on top of this blue blood rival a week after getting embarrassed by their other blue blood rival who shares their exact shade of blue. BYU will “rise up” enough to beat one of these Mountain West teams but it might be a work in progress to sweep all the best teams in this conference in back to back weeks. Count on BYU to play close and one big play like a blocked field goal to seal the deal.
Final Score Prediction: BYU 21 Boise State 20
6. USC at BYU: This is a game BYU could very well win. It is no surprise that USC is down and has been for a while now. Clay Helton is still the football coach there. The game is early in the year.
The Trojans have the cachet to be the biggest win of the year to make Cougar fans turn heads just like the win over Wisconsin last year. They would probably prefer to have a 2-1 record at this point so they could possibly get some Top 25 votes like they did last year. It’s definitely hard to do with that tough of an opening schedule. If USC can have a better season than the Badgers did last year then this win would look really good on BYU’s schedule. How BYU responds to their first big win could be the difference between a good and special season. It’s not a good idea to ever be complacent in football. BYU struggled against McNeese State for the first quarter last year right after beating Wisconsin and it carried into the Washington and USU games. Expect BYU to beat at least 1 of the 4 scheduled P5 teams as they tend to most years with the exception of 2017.
Final Score: BYU 24 USC 17
7. BYU at San Diego State: BYU should win this game but it isn’t a lock. They are capable of beating or losing to any of their Tier 2 and 3 opponents. My guess is Utah will have at least one bad loss. It shouldn’t be this one though. The Cougars will end their 2019 season on a high note down in sunny San Diego.
Final Score Prediction: BYU 37 SDSU 27
Tier 3: Should Wins
These games have a 50 to 75 percent chance of a BYU win.
BYU at Toledo: This isn’t your momma’s average MAC team and it is being played in Ohio the week after a tough home game vs Washington. I expect BYU to win this game but just barely.
Final Score Prediction: BYU 7 Toledo 6 (Looking at you NIU)
BYU at South Florida: This is the bad loss I expect the Cougars to have this season. I gave them a good win vs USC but just like last year’s ugly loss to NIU, BYU isn’t absolved from a bad loss to make fans question their team a little. This isn’t a terrible loss as South Florida tries to be competitive in the American conference but of all the losses I have this one as their weakest loss.
Final Score Prediction: South Florida 30 BYU 28
Tier 4: Definitely 99.9% chance of winning
Liberty at BYU: BYU is winning this game. Liberty is a small school. BYU is big enough to win this by several touchdowns.
Final Score Prediction: BYU 41 Liberty 17
Idaho State at BYU: BYU is winning big in this one but their fair weather fans will be absent from this cold November game and then grumble why their team only wins by 30 instead of 50.
Final Score Prediction: BYU 49 Liberty 20
UMass at BYU: Absolutely 100% W.. ok maybe let’s pump the brakes. BYU lost to this bad team in 2017 so it’s always possible they lose but it’s likely that BYU pulls out this win here.
Final Score Prediction: BYU 52 UMass 49
Bottom Line: It is very possible for BYU to get to 8 wins if they turn to the BYU of old and either sweep the G5 schools or upset more than one P5 school. However, it’s a tough thing to ask for the Cougars. They will definitely be better assuming Zach Wilson recovers from his shoulder surgery. The problem is everyone on their schedule will be better too.
SOS: Overall I would put BYU as the best SOS in the state of Utah but not by much. The Aggies have a very underrated conference schedule and one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation. 4 P5 teams are more than 2 and BYU has some of the same tough G5 teams on the schedule that Utah State does so I would put them as the 35th ranked SOS in the nation.