BYU Media Day has come and gone, and with football season less than two months away it's time to reevaluate the Cougars' 2014 schedule. Much has changed since the way-too-early spring edition. We've seen injuries, dismissals and even an overturned bowl ban at teams that BYU will face this upcoming season. While this schedule is much easier than last year, it's no cakewalk either. Expect significant improvement from a lot of these teams as compared with last season.
Without further ado, here's a summer breakdown of BYU's 2014 football schedule.
Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.
TV: 5 p.m. MT, ESPN
2013 record: 3-9, 3-5 American Athletic Conference
Record vs. BYU: 0-0 (First matchup)
Summer outlook: Former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has his work cut out for him as UConn's new head coach. This summer hasn't been kind to the Huskies, as leading rusher Lyle McCombs was dismissed from the team for repeated off-the-field issues. The pressure will be on sophomore QB Casey Cochran, who took over as the starter for the final four games of the 2013 season. Cochran helped UConn end the season on a three-game winning streak with 883 yards passing, seven touchdowns and three interceptions in those games. However, the Huskies are rebuilding at multiple positions, as UConn has to replace four starters on the offensive line. While BYU under Bronco Mendenhall has a tendency to struggle week 1 on the road, the Cougars should win this game.
TV: 5:30 p.m. MT, FOX Sports 1
2013 record: 8-5, 7-2 Big 12
Record vs. BYU: 1-3 (Lost 41-20 at BYU on Sept. 7, 2013)
Summer outlook: BYU will have the Longhorns' full attention this fall, after Taysom Hill ran for 259 yards and three touchdowns against Texas at LaVell Edwards Stadium last season. Texas isn't going to let that happen again at Darrell K. Royal Stadium. The Longhorns have a new head coach in Charlie Strong, and he has plenty of talent already at his disposal, notably at running back. The Cougar defense will have its hands full with Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron. However, the Longhorns have issues at quarterback, since David Ash broke his foot in spring practice. While Ash is expected to recover before fall games begin, this could open the door for Tyrone Swoopes to take the starting position. Either way, expect the Texas offense to lean heavily on its running game. On defense, the Longhorns should be much more familiar with the read option BYU used to trample the Texas defense for 550 yards rushing. This will be BYU's most difficult game of 2014.
TV: 7 p.m. MT, ESPN
2013 record: 8-5, 5-3 American Athletic Conference
Record vs. BYU: 0-1 (Lost 47-46 at Reliant Stadium on Oct. 19, 2013)
Summer outlook: Houston will test BYU's secondary early and often in this game. The Cougars in blue should remember John O'Korn, since he threw for 363 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in last year's barn burner. O'Korn struggled late in the season in losses against UCF, Louisville, Cincinnati and Vanderbilt. That said, Houston has some excellent new weapons at wide receiver in Elton Dyer and Isaiah Johnson. Also, Deontay Greenberry returns after a 1,202-yard and 11-touchdown receiving season. On defense, Houston was excellent at forcing turnovers last season. The Cougars in scarlet led the FBS with a turnover margin with 25. While BYU should be favored in this game at home, the short turnaround after the Texas game will be a factor in what will likely be another high-scoring game.
2013 record: 2-10, 0-8 Atlantic Coast Conference
Record vs. BYU: 3-1 (Won 19-16 at Scott Stadium on Aug. 31, 2013)
Summer outlook: The Cavaliers beat BYU to start the 2013 season and failed to win another game against an FBS opponent. Yes, there was a two-hour rain delay and this was BYU's first game under Robert Anae's new "Go fast, go hard" offense, but this loss hurt the Cougars more than any other last season. BYU should have a chip on its shoulder in this game, particularly after the ACC's new scheduling rules that don't count the Cougars as a "Power 5" opponent. Virginia head coach Mike London has named sophomore Greyson Lambert as the starter at quarterback out of spring camp. Lambert struggled on the field last season, completing just 33 of his 75 passing attempts for 340 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. However, Kevin Parks is a threat at running back, rushing for 1,031 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Virginia has more talent than its two wins from last season indicate, and if it can find a way to put it all together, this could be a dangerous team. That said, BYU has plenty of motivation to absolutely destroy the Cavaliers in Provo.
TV: 8:30 p.m. MT, ESPN
2013 record: 9-5, 7-1 Mountain West Conference
Record vs. BYU: 35-45-3 (Lost 31-14 at Romney Stadium on Oct. 4, 2013)
Summer outlook: Chuckie Keeton's 2013 season came to an end after Keeton tore his ACL against the Cougars last season in Logan. Keeton should be back under center when the Aggies travel to Provo, and he's a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. Utah State has improved a lot over the past few seasons. The Aggies have their first bowl-game winning streak after they beat a solid Northern Illinois team in the Poinsettia Bowl. However, Utah State lost a lot of talent to the NFL, including defensive backs Nevin Lawson and Maurice Alexander, both of whom where picked up in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. However, the Aggies return a lot of nice defensive talent, including Nick and Zach Vigil, Kyler Fackrell and B.J. Larsen. This team will be in contention for the MWC crown. With a nice balance of offense and defense, Utah State is the most dangerous team to visit Provo this season.
TV: 5:30 p.m., ESPN
2013 record: 12-1, 8-0 American Athletic Conference
Record vs. BYU: 0-1 (Lost 24-17 at BYU on Sept. 30, 2011)
Summer outlook: This game has moved from Saturday to Thursday, meaning that the Cougars will play five non-Saturday games in 2013. The Knights defeated Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, but now they'll have to move on as QB Blake Bortles and RB Storm Johnson now both play for the Jaguars. That said, UCF returns nine starters on a defense that allowed just 362 yards and 21.3 points per game. While the offense will take a step back without Bortles and Johnson, the defense could be the difference in this game. Also, the new starting quarterback has a nice trio of wide receivers in Rannell Hall, Breshad Perriman and J.J. Worton. This three-headed monster combined for 2,418 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Make no mistake: this will be a tough game for the Cougars in 2014, even without Bortles and Johnson.
2013 record: 4-8, 3-5 Mountain West Conference
Record vs. BYU: 2-5-2 (Lost 28-23 at Mackay Stadium on Nov. 30, 2013)
Summer outlook: The biggest question surrounding Nevada these days is how can the Wolf Pack move on without Chris Ault on the sidelines. At least they have a decent dual-threat quarterback in Cody Fajardo, who passed for 2,668 yards and rushed for 621 more last season. Fajardo actually had a better 2012 season, with 2,786 yards passing and 1,121 more rushing in Ault's final season. Leading rusher Kendall Brock also returns, so Nevada has an interesting QB/RB rushing duo. However, Nevada's biggest problems are on defense, particularly with its undersized defensive line.
TV: 7 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
2013 record: 8-5, 6-2 Mountain West Conference
Record vs. BYU: 3-1 (Lost 37-20 at BYU on Oct. 25, 2013)
Summer outlook: The Broncos had a down year last season, at least compared with the high standard Chris Petersen set at Boise State. 2013 was the first year the Broncos didn't win 10 or more games with Petersen as head coach. Now, Petersen has moved on to the Washington job, and the Broncos are the biggest mystery on BYU's schedule with him gone. Will Bryan Harsin pick up where Petersen left off, as Matt Wells was able to do at Utah State after Gary Andersen took off for Wisconsin? At least Harsin has a nice QB/RB rushing duo in Grant Hedrick and Jay Ajayi, both of whom combined for 1,585 yards rushing. What's more remarkable is Hedrick didn't start in the first six games of the season. All the uncertainty aside, BYU cannot underestimate the Broncos on the Smurf Turf if it wants to win.
TV: 1:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network
2013 record: 8-5, 6-2 Conference USA
Record vs. BYU: 0-1 (Lost 37-10 at BYU on Sept. 27, 2013)
Summer outlook: Make no mistake: MTSU is no cupcake. While the Cougars handled the Blue Raiders handily at LaVell Edwards Stadium last season, this is a team that has gone to back-to-back bowl games. Middle Tennessee State has a new quarterback, but it has a solid RB duo in Jordan Parker and Reggie Whatley. However, the Blue Raiders are replacing three starters on the offensive line. While the Cougars should win this game handily, you can never look past a team like this on the road.
2013 record: 7-6, 5-3 Mountain West Conference
Record vs. BYU: 3-15 (Lost 55-7 at BYU on Nov. 6, 2010)
Summer outlook: This is the first time BYU will play the Rebels since the Cougars left the Mountain West to become independent. UNLV will hope for a much better outcome than the last time it came to Provo, as BYU absolutely destroyed the Rebels 55-7. UNLV fans thought there might not be much to play for this season after the Rebels received a bowl ban for not meeting the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards. However, UNLV was able to appeal the ruling and the NCAA overturned the ban. However, the Rebels still need to replace Caleb Herring at quarterback and RB Tim Cornett, and UNLV still has some work to do to get back to a bowl game in 2014.
TV: 1 p.m. MT, BYUtv
2013 record: 1-11, 0-8 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
Record vs. BYU: 0-0 (First matchup)
Summer outlook: This match is an acceptable home opener, but BYU's senior day unfortunately is against an FCS opponent, and a weak one at that. At least BYU has better home finales against Fresno State in 2015 and Utah State in 2016. Look for the BYU bench to get plenty of playing time in this one.
2013 record: 1-11, 0-9 Pac-12 Conference
Record vs. BYU: 0-0 (First matchup)
Summer outlook: This is the first time BYU will make the trip to Berkeley to face the Golden Bears. Cal was No. 122 in scoring defense and total defense last season, giving up 529.6 yards and 45.9 points per game. Even though this is just head coach Sonny Dykes' second season, he has to be feeling the heat after winning just one game last season, and Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour stepped down just last week. Dykes must know that he needs wins, and he needs them now. At least the Golden Bears get DE Brenn Scarlet back after he missed 2013 with a nasty hand injury and infection. QB Jared Goff is no slouch, either. Goff passed for 3,508 yards and 18 touchdowns as a freshman last season. Expect a much-improved Cal squad this fall. This will not be an easy season finale on the road for the Cougars.
Summer outlook: BYU fans finally found out the Cougars' bowl tie-in for 2014 in late April, and this is by far the most likely destination for BYU this bowl season, although BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said at BYU's Media Day he's "not conceding anything." This game is against an American Athletic Conference opponent, and BYU plays three of them (UConn, Houston and UCF) during the regular season. This bowl will try to avoid a rematch, so the Cougars will likely face a team such as Cincinnati or East Carolina.