Toughest Three-Game Stretch For BYU Football During 2021 Season

Aug 16, 2021, 11:01 AM

BYU Football - Utah Utes...

BYU wide receiver Gunner Romney (18) hauls in a pass from quarterback Zach Wilson (1), not pictured, while defended by Utah defensive back Jaylon Johnson (1) during the first half of an NCAA football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Colter Peterson, Deseret News)

(Colter Peterson, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU football heads into the 2021 season with a schedule that features seven Power Five opponents.

On paper, it doesn’t appear to be the toughest schedule BYU will face since they became an Independent. But there’s no shortage of intriguing games that could turn out to be 50-50 toss-ups.

Taking a deep look at BYU’s schedule, I asked myself, what is the toughest three-game stretch in 2021?

The answer shouldn’t come as a surprise. But, as is the case in most years for BYU as an Independent, the Cougars better hit the ground running out of the gates.

The toughest three-game stretch for BYU in 2021 is the first three games of the season.

BYU Football: Toughest three-game stretch in 2021

Sept. 4 – vs. Arizona (Las Vegas)

Sept. 11 – Utah

Sept. 18 – Arizona State

The only thing that made me pause on this being the toughest three-game stretch is Arizona might be one of the worst teams in the Power 5 this year. New head coach Jedd Fisch has done a marvelous job of instilling a hint of excitement around Arizona football with his upbeat and open personality. But this is a from-the-ground-up type of rebuild in the desert for the Wildcats.

BYU will be a sizable favorite over Arizona, and Las Vegas likely will become Provo South at Allegiant Stadium. But first games are always tricky. Especially when breaking in a new starting quarterback.

Then the three-game stretch gets really interesting with Utah the following week to open up the home season.

The “in-state game” with Utah

Is this the year BYU breaks the losing streak against the Utes? Kyle Whittingham might consider it just an “in-state game,” but the passion behind this matchup is always top-notch.

Utah will come into the game nationally ranked as they open the season against in-state FCS foe Weber State, which is expected to win. The last time Utah traveled to Provo as a ranked team didn’t fare well for the Cougars, as the Utes rolled to a 30-12 victory.

Like BYU, the Utes are in the thick of a quarterback battle between Cam Rising and Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer. However, if Utah hits it out of the park with their QB play this year, they have enough depth to get back to the Pac-12 Championship Game for the third time in four years.

If BYU can’t pull off the upset this year, they’ll have to wait until 2024 to get another crack at Whittingham’s program.

Arizona State might be the most talented team in the Pac-12

Arizona State will likely be in the Top 25 when they make their first trip to Provo since 1998. The Sun Devils check into the preseason poll at No. 25.

Herm Edwards’ team has a dark NCAA cloud surrounding the program as three assistant coaches have left on administrative leave. But the Sun Devils might be talented enough to overcome the lack of staff. ASU could be the deepest team in the Pac-12 Conference this year.

Quarterback Jayden Daniels didn’t take off last year as many expected, but ASU only played in four games as they were one of the hardest-hit teams by COVID-19 a season ago.

If BYU can find a way to open up 2-1 in this three-game stretch, it could set the table for a possible nine-win season in 2021 and blow the doors off any of the national pundits’ expectations for this BYU team. On the other hand, start 1-2, and it could lead to another 7-win campaign.

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

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Toughest Three-Game Stretch For BYU Football During 2021 Season