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John Raoux, AP
LSU head coach Ed Orgeron encourages players during the second half of the Citrus Bowl NCAA football game against Louisville, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. LSU won 29-9. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The 2016-17 college football season isn't even over yet, with the national championship still to be played. It is most certainly way too early to be talking about BYU's 2017 football schedule.

So what?

The Cougars have some exciting Power 5 opponents on the schedule, including LSU in Houston, Utah and Wisconsin at home and Mississippi State on the road. The first half of BYU's schedule looks about as good as any in the FBS.

The second half? Well, not so much.

Here's a way-too-early breakdown of BYU's 2017 schedule.


vs. Portland State, Saturday, Aug. 26

2016 record: 3-8 (2-6 Big Sky)

It's nice to see BYU start the season with a tune-up game against a lower-division opponent. This isn't a luxury BYU has been able to afford in recent years as the bigger-name opponents tend to want to play the Cougars early in the season. Since BYU is playing at Hawaii, it can play an extra home game and it can start the season a week earlier.

Portland State is not a good team even by FCS standards. San Jose State, which won just four games last season, scored 66 points against the Vikings. This will be a good chance for Tanner Mangum and the BYU offense and defense to work out a few kinks before a brutal test in Houston.


vs. LSU (at NRG Stadium in Houston), Saturday, Sept. 2

2016 record: 8-4 (5-3 SEC)

BYU has faced quite a few big-time opponents since it went independent, but perhaps no team will have more talent than LSU. The Tigers absolutely destroyed Louisville and made Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson look absolutely powerless.

Yes, LSU will lose a bunch of talent to the NFL, including RB Leonard Fournette. But RB Derrius Guice proved that the Tigers have plenty of talent against Louisville as he rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown. While LSU has a new head coach in Ed Orgeron, it would be extremely unwise for BYU to underestimate the deep talent pool Oregeron has at his disposal.

In short, BYU will be playing a whole bunch of future NFL players in an NFL stadium. Anybody who watched LSU's bowl game knows how terrifying this team is.


vs. Utah, Saturday, Sept. 9

2016 record: 9-4 (5-4 Pac-12)

Utah was painfully close to taking the Pac-12 South and likely getting a Rose Bowl bid before it dropped games against Oregon and Colorado to finish the regular season.

The Utes still have BYU's number, however. Kalani Sitake decided to roll the dice against his former team with a two-point conversion that came up short.

Utah loses Joe Williams, who will probably find a place for himself in the NFL. QB Troy Williams has had his ups and downs. On the one hand, he had 296 yards and four touchdowns against Arizona State. He also had just 160 yards, one touchdown and two picks against Colorado.

But Utah's stars are on defense. Lowell Lotulelei could leave early for the NFL draft, and several projections have Lotulelei going in the first round. If he does come back, he's going to be a nightmare for BYU's running game. Utah's defensive line is one of if not the best defensive line the Cougars will face next season if Lotulelei comes back. With LSU and Wisconsin on the schedule, that's saying something.


vs. Wisconsin, Saturday, Sept. 16

2016 record: 11-3 (7-2 Big Ten)

Wisconsin is the biggest-name team to come to Provo since Texas made the trip in 2013. And it's highly unlikely the Badgers will play as bad as the Longhorns did against the Cougars.

The good news is that Wisconsin won't have RB Corey Clament, who rushed for 1,375 yards last season. The bad news is that the Badgers have young talent like Bradrick Shaw capable of picking up the slack. Wisconsin loses QB Bart Houston, but Alex Hornibrook got plenty of experience as a freshman last season.

But BYU really has to worry about Wisconsin's defense. The Badgers allowed just 301.4 yards per game last season, good enough for No. 7 in the nation.


at Utah State, Friday, Sept. 29

2016 record: 3-9 (1-7 MWC)

The Aggies took a major step back in 2016. Utah State's five-year bowl game streak came to an end, and it managed to beat just one MWC opponent. QB Kent Myers had a rough year, and his performance against BYU just about says it all. He passed for a meager 103 yards, had zero touchdowns and threw a pick against the Cougars.

But the biggest regression for Utah State was on defense. The Aggies have sent several defenders to the NFL, including linebackers Nick and Zach Vigil. Utah State gave up 29.3 points per game last season, which is good enough for No. 73 in the FBS. The Aggies were No. 12 just two seasons ago.

All of that said, it's unwise to underestimate a team like Utah State when they're playing at home. Utah State will probably do better next season, but it's got a long way to go to get back to where it was just a couple years ago.


vs. Boise State, Saturday, Oct. 7

2016 record: 10-3 (6-2 MWC)

BYU came painfully close to getting its first win against Boise State on the Smurf Turf, but it came up just a point short. BYU's biggest challenge will be figuring out how to stop QB Brett Rypien. Rypien tore up BYU's defense for 442 yards and three touchdowns, although he did throw two interceptions. And while Boise State loses its top receiver in Thomas Sperbeck, WR Cedrick Wilson does return after getting 1,129 yards and 11 touchdowns.

At least Jeremy McNichols will not return as he's decided to declare for the NFL draft after rushing for more than 1,700 yards this season. The Broncos will have a tough time replacing McNichols as the No. 2 rusher on the team. Freshman Alexander Mattison had just 328 yards rushing last year.


at Mississippi State, Saturday, Oct. 14

2016 record: 6-7 (3-5 SEC)

BYU came away with a thrilling double overtime victory over the Bulldogs this season, and you can bet that Mississippi State will be hungry for revenge when the Cougars come to Starkville. QB Nick Fitzgerald is only going to get better after throwing for 2,423 yards, rushing for an additional 1,375 yards and scoring 37 total touchdowns.

Mississippi State was all over the map in 2016. While the Bulldogs took down teams like Texas A&M and demolished in-state rival Ole Miss, they also lost to the likes of South Alabama. Mississippi State could be a dangerous team if it can put it all together.


at East Carolina, Saturday, Oct. 21

2016 record: 3-9 (1-7 AAC)

There was a time when East Carolina was among the best outside the Power 5. That sure wasn't the case in 2016.

The Pirates' defense was abysmal as it allowed 45 or more points five times last season, including giving up 66 points to Navy. While East Carolina did manage to beat NC State, it lost nine of its last 10 games.


vs. San Jose State, Saturday, Oct. 28

2016 record: 4-8 (3-5 MWC)

Here's another team with a subpar defense. The Spartans gave up 41 or more points in half of their games last season.

And San Jose's problems don't end there. It will have a new starting quarterback. It has a trio of young running backs that got a ton of experience last season in Malik Roberson, Deontae Cooper and Zamore Ziger. The Spartans need somebody to step up in the backfield, but if they can't play defense it may not matter.


at Fresno State, Saturday, Nov. 4

2016 record: 1-11 (0-8 MWC)

What can you say about a team whose only win was over Sacramento State of the FCS? Yes, it managed to keep things close in its last two games against Hawaii (one-point loss) and San Jose State (two-point loss).

Fresno State should be better in 2017. After all, it's hard to imagine it getting much worse.


at UNLV, Saturday, Nov. 11

2016 record: 4-8 (3-5 MWC)

UNLV was part of one of the most high-scoring games of 2016 as it beat Wyoming 69-66 in triple overtime. The Rebels went through three different quarterbacks before settling on Kurt Palandech, and Palandech did have three touchdown passes against the Cowboys. Perhaps the Rebels will have a better season with a more stable quarterback situation next year.

Of course BYU has plenty of history with UNLV as they used to be conference foes. The Cougars have a 16-3 record against the Rebels.


vs. UMass, Saturday, Nov. 18

2016 record: 2-10 (independent)

UMass gave up 50 or more points three times last season, including a 51-9 loss to BYU last season. The Minutemen have a long way to go to compete with the likes of BYU.


at Hawaii, Saturday, Nov. 25

2016 record: 7-7 (4-4 MWC)

The trip to Hawaii is by far the most interesting game of the second half of BYU's schedule. The Rainbow Warriors struggle on defense as they gave up 50 or more points four times last season, but they can also score. They scored 52 points in their bowl game against MTSU. Diocemy Saint Juste had 170 yards rushing, while QB Dru Brown had a great bowl game with four touchdown passes.

This could very well turn into a WAC-style barn-burner.