COUGAR TRACKS

Mondays With Mitch: Ranking BYU’s Schedule From Easiest To Toughest

Aug 26, 2019, 7:00 AM | Updated: 5:10 pm
Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Browning (3) scores against the Brigham Young Cougars in Seattl...
Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Browning (3) scores against the Brigham Young Cougars in Seattle on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (Photo courtesy Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(Photo courtesy Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Note: Mondays With Mitch is a weekly column where KSLsports.com BYU Insider Mitch Harper gives a deep-dive look into BYU sports by answering your questions with stats, opinion, and insight.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s finally game week!

The college football off-season is the longest in all of the major sports and it’s so rewarding when the season finally arrives.

It has been 248 days from today since BYU last played a football game. For context, the Utah Jazz is back in action for preseason games in less than six weeks. Their season wrapped up at the end of April.

We made it BYU and college football fans! It’s time to enjoy some football.

Ranking BYU’s Schedule From Easiest To Toughest

Now that game week is upon us, where does the Utah game stack on the ranking of toughest games for BYU in 2019?

Here are my rankings on BYU’s opponents from easiest to the toughest.

#12 Idaho State

FCS game. Yawn. Although Idaho State has always been a quality partner with BYU that has filled open dates whenever the Cougars need a game.

#11 UMass

The fourth and final game of a four-game series with the Minutemen. BYU fans have been counting down the minutes till this series is over.

#10 Liberty

The Flames recently made the jump from the FCS to the FBS ranks. Like BYU, they have an honor code and they are an FBS Independent. Liberty is coached by former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze. LU hasn’t had a losing season since 2005.

#9 South Florida

Last year, USF started out 7-0 but then lost their last 6 games. That doesn’t happen unless you have some dysfunction in your locker room. Head coach Charlie Strong brought in new coaches, but USF should be one of the more winnable games on BYU’s schedule.

#8 Utah State

The Aggies are a trendy pick to win their third straight against BYU, but it’s not the same team that dismantled the Cougars last year in Provo. Utah State has 50 newcomers this season, but they return the best quarterback in the state in Jordan Love.

#7 San Diego State

SDSU head coach Rocky Long consistently puts out quality teams out on Montezuma Mesa. The Aztecs have been a Mountain West Conference title contender nearly every year under Long, in large part because SDSU continues to find great running backs. They have another good one in Juwan Washington.

#6 Toledo

The Rockets are the pre-season favorite to win the MAC. This game has trap written all over it for BYU, as it lands the week after BYU finishes a four-game gauntlet against programs from the Power Five conferences.

#5 Boise State

Boise State looks to be in prime position to be one of the top teams in the Group of Five conferences once again. The Broncos named true freshman Hank Bachmeier as their starting quarterback to replace graduated star Brett Rypien.

#4 Tennessee

The weaknesses for Tennessee heading into the Vols second year with head coach Jeremy Pruitt are the offensive and defensive lines. Those are areas where BYU feels they have strengths. Tennessee also has a handful of other personnel currently dealing with off-the-field issues.

It’s the first meeting ever between the two teams, and it remains to be seen how BYU handles the 100,000-plus seat-stadium on Rocky Top. Still, they hope to perform well for the estimated 7,000 fans wearing Royal Blue in the stands at Neyland Stadium. This game is winnable for the Cougars.

#3 USC

USC is a hard team to figure out. They could be a five-win team, or they could surprise everyone and win 10 games and take home the Pac-12 South. Head coach Clay Helton is on his last straw, and the BYU game might be make-or-break for him.

#2 Washington

Washington head coach Chris Petersen named Georgia transfer Jacob Eason the Huskies new starting quarterback to replace Jake Browning. The Huskies only return two starters on defense this season. Next to USC, the Huskies have been recruiting at an elite level on the west coast the past few years.

#1 Utah

Not only does this game pose challenges because it’s a rivalry and the losing streak BYU currently has against the Utes, but, Utah is the best team BYU will face this season. The Utes have the least amount of question marks compared to the other squads the Cougars will see on their 2019 schedule.

Win on Thursday night and there’s no reason to think that BYU can’t be competitive and pull out some wins against anyone else they go up against the rest of the season.

Mailbag – What’s up with Chris Wilcox?

Chris writes via e-mail (In response to my projected depth chart after fall camp): Notable absence was cornerback Chris Wilcox. Big things were expected of him this year, but we haven’t seen much in the way of an update regarding his injury. Do you know if he will play this year? Does he have a redshirt year to burn (like Troy Warner) and is that a possibility?

Wilcox had a second surgery this past February on the injury he suffered last season. Because of that second surgery, it pushed back his timeline towards returning in time for fall camp.

BYU’s coaches don’t comment on injuries unless they are season-ending. No one at BYU has ruled out the possibility of Wilcox playing this season. He just hasn’t appeared in any practices during fall camp and game prep for Utah.

When healthy, Wilcox might be BYU’s best senior NFL Draft prospect, and the second overall best NFL candidate next to Khyiris Tonga. Ed Lamb noted at BYU Media Day that NFL scouts and personnel have inquired often about Wilcox.

Recently, Wilcox was named to the Reese’s Senior Bowl Watchlist. Which continues to speak to the interest he is garnering for the NFL.

Will he play this season? I wouldn’t be surprised if he appeared in four games this fall. But I say four games because he does have a redshirt year available. He could get the game film out there for scouts and NFL personnel in four appearances and still be able to return for the 2020 season.

But the coaching staff is likely going to be cautious with his return and make sure he is 100-percent before returning to the playing fields.

Stat of the Week: 10

It has been 10 years since BYU last defeated Utah. The iPhone that was available for consumers during the 2009 rivalry game was the iPhone 3GS.

Needless to say, 10 years has been a long time for Cougar fans everywhere.

Video of the Week

Rivalry videos from back in the day are some of my favorite things to watch. How great and ridiculous is this video titled, “BYU of U?”

This video brings up nostalgia for me. My grandmother used to own that BYU of U sweatshirt that the artist in the video is wearing because she wanted to stay neutral between my dad (BYU fan) and my uncle (Utah fan). A family divided, indeed.

Feel free to send me questions or comments to my Twitter, @Mitch_Harper or shoot me an e-mail: mharper@ksl.com.  I’ll get to as many questions/comments as I can each and every Monday here on the Mondays With Mitch column.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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