A way too early look at BYU's 2014 football schedule: Part 1

George Frey

A way too early ranking of some of the Cougar's toughest opponents this coming season.

I realize its only February. I realize BYU won't be taking the field against UConn until August 28th. I understand August 28th is over six months away. But if you're anything like me, this time of year can bring about college football cravings that are hard to satisfy. So here is an attempt to quench some of our college football thirst during these non-football months.

With a rather favorable schedule lined up this fall, BYU is in a position to make some national noise. So for Part 1 of this series, let's take a very early look at BYU's 2014 schedule and rank the top three teams on their slate that could present the most trouble for the Cougar's in their attempt to turn some heads this fall.

This is simply a quick preview of these teams, and is not intended to be an in depth analysis of their 2014 campaigns.

NUMBER ONE

Who: Texas Longhorns

Where: Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium

When: Saturday September 6, 2014

Texas will undoubtedly be looking for revenge this season as the Cougars make the trip to Austin. The Longhorn's trip to Provo last season proved to be a disaster, from the postponed kick-off due to a weather delay to defense coordinator Manny Diaz waking up the next morning unemployed due in large part to BYU running all over his defense for 550 rushing yards. Texas' on field product in 2014 should be improved a notch or two in comparison to 2013's 8-5 campaign that resulted with the end of the Mack Brown era.

There are other factors that make this game probably the toughest on the Cougar's schedule. The fact that this game will be played on the road in front of over 100,000 Texas fans is challenging. That should rival some of the more hostile environments the Cougars have played at in recent years. Also, Charlie Strong will be looking to establish a strong first impression for Longhorn Nation and a loss at home to BYU in his second-ever game at Texas would probably disappoint some fans/boosters.

NUMBER TWO

Who: UCF Knights

Where: Bright House Networks Stadium

When: Saturday October 11, 2014

There is a valid argument for UCF being number 1 on this list, as many football analysts around the country have early projections of UCF entering the 2014 season ranked in the Top 25. UCF finished last season with a 12-1 record which was capped by a 10 point victory over the Baylor Bears in the Fiesta Bowl. Their only loss was by 3 points to the South Carolina Gamecocks. But the Knight's preseason expectations for 2014 have been lowered, as they have some big shoes to fill this coming season. With the loss of QB Blake Bortles (a projected 1st round pick in this year's NFL draft) as well as some significant losses to the offensive line (Justin McCray, Chris Martin) the Knights have their work cut out for them to match their performance level of 2013.

Despite key losses from last year's campaign, UCF should still present a formidable challenge to the Cougars this season. On the defensive side of the ball the Knights are returning 10 of 11 starters, including All-Conference selections Jacoby Glenn and Clayton Geathers. On offense they have depth at the running back position and a solid receiving corps. Much of their success will be dependent on the caliber of the replacements for Bortles and the offensive line.

NUMBER THREE

Who: Utah State Aggies

Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium

When: Friday October 3, 2014

Utah State, Houston, and Boise State are all viable candidates for this number 3 position. Utah State gets the nod for several reasons. First and foremeost, stud quarterback Chuckie Keeton is expected to be back at full strength this season. Chuckie Keeton was near the top of most national quarterback statistics last year before going down in the first quarter against BYU. The Cougars can expect to get Utah State's best shot this season when they come to Provo, as the Aggies will be looking to send Keeton out with a victory over BYU for his senior year.

In addition to Chuckie Keeton, the Aggies are also returning several other key pieces from last year's team. This list includes running back Joe Hill, wide receiver Travis Van Leeuwen, and linebacker Kyler Fackrell. With the Utah Utes not on the schedule this year, the Utah State game will be the closest thing to a rivalry for either team this season, and rivalry atmospheres often create unpredictable results.

Be sure to check back soon for Part 2 of the series, where we will preview the next three toughest teams on the Cougar's upcoming schedule. Comment below and let us know if you agree with the order so far. If not, how would you rank the Cougars three toughest opponents, and why?

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