Due to the pandemic-stricken 2020 season, BYU found themselves without a Power 5 opponent all year. They certainly took advantage of a lighter schedule, winning 11 of their 12 games.
Now, as the calendar turns to the 2021 season and a much more normal set of circumstances (although very much still in a pandemic), BYU’s schedule looks very much like the typical independent slate fans are accustomed to since the Cougars left the Mountain West after the 2010 season.
It features a whopping seven Power 5 teams, which is a program record. Boise State and Utah State also find themselves on the slate. The Cougars renew their rivalries with the Aggies as well as the Utah Utes this season, both games were nixed during last year’s chaos.
The preseason AP Top 25 poll released earlier this week, with very few surprises at the top. Alabama, the defending champion, reigns supreme at No. 1. Oklahoma, Clemson, and Ohio State round out the top four.
The Cougars themselves received six votes for the rankings, unofficially “37th” on the list.
From a BYU fan’s perspective, there is plenty of intrigue towards the latter half of the rankings. The USC Trojans, who will host BYU on November 27, check in at No. 15. Quarterback Kedon Slovis returns for a possible Heisman campaign. The Cougars handed him his first career loss as the starter in 2019 and he and the Trojans will be looking for revenge.
The Utes typically get ample amounts of preseason love from voters and this year is no different. Despite a lackluster 2020 season, the Utes come in at No. 24 in the initial poll. Charlie Brewer and Cam Rising are battling for the quarterback spot. Britain Covey returns at receiver for what seems like his 10th season in Salt Lake City. Kyle Whittingham is one of the most underrated coaches in college football and they will have plenty of chances to validate or increase this ranking. The Holy War gets renewed on September 11.
Finally, in the 25th and last spot in the rankings, Arizona State makes the cut. The Cougars and Sun Devils square off on September 18th in Provo. ASU had an up-and-down 2020 campaign, albeit short, at just four games. They finished strong with a drubbing of their hated rival Arizona Wildcats to the tune of 70-7 and beat Oregon State in a shootout. Their offense is proven and explosive. Quarterback Jayden Daniels is very talented, and he is likely where most of the preseason hype stems from.
The Cougars will face three teams currently in the preseason Top 25 this year. Last season, BYU ended up facing just one team from the 2020 preseason poll, No. 24 UCF, in the Boca Raton Bowl.