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BYU Football: Notes and analysis of the 2015 schedule

Could this be the toughest football schedule in BYU history?

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

With the season opener only 127 days away, the BYU Cougars have announced the schedule for the 2015 football season. Now that we know when the the teams play, and who the teams are, lets take a closer look at each of the games.

Saturday, September 5th- @ Nebraska Cornhuskers

Best player-S Nate Gerry - Junior

This will be coach Mike Riley’s first game as head coach of the Huskers, and Taysom Hill’s first game back from his leg injury. The Huskers have sold out every home game since 1962, and the streak won’t end when the Cougars go to town. This game will test the mental strength of the team early, and should be a good indicator of what sort of team BYU will field this year. The Huskers return a fair amount of starters from last year’s nine-win team, although they lost star RB Ameer Abdullah.

Saturday, September 12th Boise State Broncos

Best player- Offensive and Defense lines, they return 33/34 lineman from last year’s Fiesta Bowl team

This game has quietly turned into an important rivalry game for both of these teams. Boise State is coming off a 12-2 season and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Arizona. The Cougars are looking for a little payback after getting rolled in Idaho last year, and they will need to rely on good line play on both sides of the ball to get it done. Playing Boise State should never be called a trap game, but when hidden between two Big 10 schools and a PAC-12 school, that could be the case.

Saturday, September 19th- @ UCLA Bruins

Best Player-LB/RB Myles Jack

UCLA is (currently) the highest ranked team BYU will face this year. They lost QB Brett Hundley to the NFL and replacing him will be the focus, but they return a healthy number of players on both sides of the ball. Jim Mora has made them better every year he has been there so this game will be a battle if BYU wants to win in the Rose Bowl.

Saturday, September 26th - @ Michigan Wolverines

Best Player: CB/S Jabrill Peppers - Soph.

This is a money game for BYU, meaning that the Wolverines won’t make a return trip to Provo, but it’s their best chance to make a statement win against a legendary program in the Big House. The last and only time these two teams played was the Holiday Bowl in 1984 -- yes, that Holiday Bowl. We’ll see if Taysom Hill can play the role of Robbie Bosco in the sequel.

Friday, October 2nd- Connecticut Huskies

Best Player(s): The defensive line

This is the return trip for this series, BYU controlled this game last year in Connecticut, and will probably do so again this year in Provo. UConn’s one major strength is its run defense, so Taysom may be given the green light to air it out in order to move the chains.

Saturday, Oct 10th- East Carolina Pirates

Best Player(s): The WR corps

In case you didn’t know this, East Carolina is a very athletic team. They run an air raid offense that is both efficient and explosive, meaning that BYU’s defense needs to show some major improvement from last year if they want to slow the game down. They may receive some help from the lucky royal blue jerseys they will wear for this game.

Friday, Oct 16th- Cincinnati Bearcats

Best Player: QB Gunner Kiel - Junior

Compared to BYU’s September opponents, the Bearcats look soft, but this is a program on the rebound. They are a high-powered offense and a weaker defense with Gunner Kiel proving to be a very capable passer for Cincinnati. Like the East Carolina game, if BYU’s defense can step up and avoid a shootout, then BYU should win this one at home.

Saturday, Oct 24th- Wagner Seahawks

Best player- RB Otis Wright - Senior

Wagner College is the I-AA school that has the pleasure of getting stomped in Provo. If you were not aware, it is a quaint school on Staten Island that overlooks New York City. They are coming off a winning season last year, but probably don’t stand much of a chance in this one. However, getting them on the schedule was more than just finding a 12th game. According to Tom Holmoe, Wagner's ability to fill this date was one of the key factors in getting a series scheduled with Missouri.

Friday, November 6th- @ San Jose State Spartans

Best Player: WR Tyler Winston - Junior

The Spartans are coming off a 3-9 campaign last season, but they do have some talented skill players returning including the quick receiver Tyler Winston. The Spartans have solid lines on both sides, but notably bad pass defense (although their run defense was more solid).

Saturday, November 14th - @ Missouri Tigers

Best Player: QB Maty Mauk - Sophomore

Missouri is coming off a very strong SEC campaign, and might bring back an even better team this season. This is a rare thing for BYU in the independent era: a game in November that fans look forward to. If the Cougars play well up to this point, then this game in Arrowhead Stadium will become even more important and anticipated.

Saturday, November 21st- Fresno State Bulldogs

Best Player: QB Brian Burrell - Senior

The Bulldogs had a .500 regular season last year. Fresno's not great but will still have some weapons, and its head coach, Tim DeRuyter, played and coached at Air Force. So he is no stranger to what the Cougars are capable of.

Saturday November 28th- @ Utah State Aggies

Best Player: QB Chuckie Keeton - Senior

Utah State went 10-4 last season even with a revolving door of QBs after Keeton’s early injury. The Aggies are talented, they play well at home, and always seem to play well when BYU is on the schedule. There is some element of revenge for BYU generally and Taysom Hill specifically due to the loss and the broken leg. For all of these reasons, BYU players, coaches, and fans will not overlook this game.

Items of note

The schedule is very top heavy this season and most of the tough games are away, if BYU could somehow manage to march through September undefeated, the Cougars could have a chance to go 12-0 and challenge for a New Year’s bowl game.

Tom Holmoe announced yesterday that the Cougars will play in either the Las Vegas Bowl or the Hawaii Bowl, with BYU playing in the other bowl game in 2019. It appears that the matchup and location will be determined by quality of matchup and the need to avoid rematches.

Playing Utah State in Logan in late November is a welcome (and cold) change to the rivalry, and playing Mizzou in Arrowhead will be something to actually look forward to in November. You could make a case that this is the toughest schedule BYU has ever had in football, but who knows? With a senior-laden roster and weapons all over the field the question becomes, what are they capable of?

What stands out to you regarding the schedule? What game are you most looking forward to? Join in the conversation and feel free to leave your comments below.