Peavler: Summer breakdown of BYU football's 2014 schedule (13 items)
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.
1 of 13. at UConn, Friday, Aug. 29
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.
2 of 13. at Texas, Saturday, Sept. 6
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.
3 of 13. vs. Houston, Thursday, Sept. 11
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.
4 of 13. vs. Virginia, Saturday, Sept. 20
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.
5 of 13. vs. Utah State, Friday, Oct. 3
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.