Leading up to the Virginia game, let's take a look at the changes that have taken place and some key factors that will play into the opener.
Out with the old:
BYU made some dramatic changes this off-season. Coach Doman was fired, Coach Reynolds retired, Coach Weber was released and jumped ship to Utah St, Coach Dupaix was let go, Coach Cahoon got axed. There's nothing that smells quite as good as change, especially after a mediocre 2012 season where BYU players and fans alike felt the team underachieved.
Kyle Van Noy should have never had to win games by himself, but the offense was simply that bad. Riley Nelson, who was turnover prone, graduated, which paved the way for the highly-touted Jim Harbaugh product Taysom Hill. According to Steve Young, BYU has to get the QB position right, that BYU lives and dies by the QB position.
In with the new:
Coach Anae was brought back into the fold from Arizona to be the Offensive Coordinator once again; Coach Tujague was hired as the O-line coach from being head coach at College of the Canyons; Coach Holliday came in from UTEP with plenty of receivers coach experience; former player Jason Beck was brought in to be the QB's coach; and inexperienced Coach Atuaia, who's good friends with Coach Anae, is in as the running backs coach.
To say the BYU offense will be the same as the last two years is blasphemy for the lack of better terms.
Anae has instilled an up-tempo offense which strives to get a play off every 12 seconds from when the ball is whistled dead to the start of the next play. This will change the dynamic of the offense immediately from what BYU has ever seen in years past. Fans will be highly entertained by this. Oregon and Arizona are teams that use this no-huddle up-tempo offense. The goal is to get points on the board and tire the defense.
How the O will affect the D:
Bronco has repeatedly stated that the volume of plays on the offensive side of the ball will increase to the extent where the defense will play what is equivalent to an entire quarter more of football. This means a couple things, fatigue will be a factor, and statistically BYU won't look as good.
We can kiss the #3 defense in the nation goodbye simply by the default of the more plays the other team runs, the more yards and first downs they'll naturally get, and potentially more points. This doesn't mean BYU's defense will be any worse, it just means statistically BYU won't be as good. Yards per play won't be affected, and third down defense shouldn't be affected either, unless you want to say fatigue plays a major factor.
What to expect against Virginia:
First game jitters and rust. Yep, you heard it. A team isn't polished at all during the first game of the season, especially offensively. So expect some rust, some penalties, some nervousness, maybe even a few questionable decisions by Taysom Hill or some blown blocking assignments by the O-line. It's all part of the process in the "marathon" as Coach Anae would put it. These players haven't played a snap of real football under the bright lights since last December against San Diego St or since high school or Jr college for some of the players.
With that being said, Coach Mendenhall is exceptional in season openers. I fully expect BYU to win the game, as should you.
The Cavaliers finished dead last in the ACC Coastal division. They had a 4-8 record overall, 2-6 in their division. Their starting QB from last year, Rocco, transferred to Richmond, and Sims who got meaningful playing time, became ineligible and is no longer with the team. This leads to David Watford who is a sophomore. He is a mobile QB who will be making his first career start against BYU. He's played "in" 10 games in 2010, but hasn't seen any time since then due to the emergence of Rocco and Sims at the position. Some would say he got the position by default.
Head Coach Mike London will be entering his 4th season as Virginia's head coach. He has a 16-21 overall record at the helm, 8-16 in the ACC.
Virginia doesn't lack talent though, they currently have the 18th best recruiting class in the nation, something BYU has never had, and they have 15 returning starters. They return their leading rusher from last season and all their leading receivers. They have some solid players at key skill positions, but the inexperience at QB might be their biggest downfall. Look for Bronco to send all sorts of blitz packages to exploit that weakness.
I have BYU winning this game. It will be a close game early on, maybe through the entire first half, but then BYU's defense will be stout enough, and our offense will prove potent enough to get the job done. I have BYU winning by 14 pts. 28-14. The key is, not losing any key players to injuries. BYU plays Texas then Utah their next two games, they can't afford to lose any players to injury in their season opener against Virginia.
That being said, who's excited for the season to start?