The schedule moves to September next week, which means college football is around the corner. BYU kicks off its 2021 season on September 4 in Las Vegas against Arizona, the first game of the post-Zach Wilson era.
Expectations are high after an 11-1 season and finish 11e in the final AP poll. However, there’s a lot of turnover on the Cougar roster as well as a much tougher schedule looming. Expecting another 11-game winning season can leave you with a disappointment, especially given the seven Power 5 teams on the schedule.
Let’s dive into the meaty 2021 schedule and make some choices, using Phil Steele’s power ranking. BYU comes in at No.38 on its list.
vs. Arizona * (in Las Vegas)
PS ranking (Phil Steele): 105
Arizona is as desperate as anyone to put 2020 in the mirror and turn a new leaf. They limped to a 0-5 record, including a whooping-cough 70-7 at the hands of their biggest rivals, Arizona State. Now, with a new head coach in Jedd Fisch, hope is alive for a brighter future.
The Wildcats were 114th in team defense and 120th in points against last season. Logic would suggest BYU should move the ball well against them. With a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback to break through, the Cougars might not be as explosive as fans want them to be. Still, they should beat Arizona, which hasn’t seen a winning season since 2017.
BYU 24, Arizona 20
PS ranking: 15
After the pandemic blows up the 2020 game, the Utes and Cougars lock in again. The bitter rivalry has gone in Utah’s direction for nine straight games, with BYU’s last victory in 2009. The Utes still bring the defense. Their biggest question mark is the quarterback. Charlie Brewer has just become the official starter.
At this point, given some of the frankly inexplicable ways the Cougars have found to lose the Holy War, it might be safer to take a loss until proven guilty, even if BYU appears to be the better team.
Utah 27, BYU 20
against the State of Arizona
PS ranking: 20
This game has # PAC12AfterDark written all over it. Both teams know how to score points as the Cougars placed ninth in scoring last season and the Sun Devils placed 12th. The only difference is Arizona State is sending their quarterback back to Jayden Daniels while former Cougar Zach Wilson begins his NFL career and they will start over with a new call sign. The Sun Devils return the most production of any PAC-12 team. Head coach Herm Edwards will have his squad ready to play when they come to Provo. It could be as tough a test as Utah. Buckle up.
ASU 34, BYU 30
vs south florida
PS Rating: 108
The Florida Revenge Tour continues. BYU won its first game in Florida State in the 2020 Boca Raton Bowl against UCF. Now the Cougars have the chance to avenge their 2019 loss to the Bulls, this time at home. USF has been down recently, going 5-16 over the past two seasons. The Bulls placed 125th in team defense last season. The Cougars offense should be in good shape, and Jaren Hall will have a great opportunity to get revenge for the loss of two seasons ago.
BYU 37, USF 20
@ State of Utah
PS ranking: 113
BYU restored order against the state of Utah in 2019, giving them a 42-14 blow to Logan. Much like the Utah game, the Aggies and Cougars missed the revival of the rivalry last year. Blake Anderson takes over and has a project ahead of him. The Aggies 123rd overall in attack and 120th overall in defense last season and could be in the process of breaking a new quarterback. It’s a great opportunity to establish a winning streak against the Aggies.
BYU 38, USU 21
vs. Boise State
PS ranking: 39
This is the host team who should win, it could be so close. Between Hank Bachmeier and former USC transfer Jack Sears, the Broncos have some solid quarterback options. The bigger question is how the team will react to first-year coach Andy Avalos, as former boss Bryan Harsin left for Auburn after seven seasons at Boise. There is a lot of turnover in Bronco Land, but that has never stopped them from building strong football teams before. This game will come down to the last possessions and home ground advantage at LaVell Edwards Stadium could play a part.
BYU 27, BSU 24
PS ranking: 67
This is BYU’s first real road game outside the state of Utah for the 2021 season. While Baylor was down last year, they are only two seasons away from a campaign. 11-3 which saw them reach the Big 12 title game in 2019. Gerry Bohanon is the starting quarterback at Waco. Given the nature of a road game in Big 12 territory and a team eager to turn things around, things could get weird. Almost every team has a game they know they should have won, and that could be it for BYU.
Baylor 34, BYU 28
@ Washington state
PS ranking: 57
WAZZU is just 7-10 since his magical 11-game winning season in 2018. Former Tennessee Volunteers starter Jarrett Guarantano challenges incumbent Laura Jayden to quarterback. Head coach Nick Rolovich is entering his sophomore year, but frankly, the 2020 season was a lost cause in the PAC-12. It’s his first good shake at work. They return 18 holders including 10 in defense. They’ll be much improved, but BYU should be able to move the ball against the Washington State defense which hasn’t ranked higher than 109th in yards allowed in the past two seasons.
BYU 33, WAZZU 30
PS ranking: 77
The reluctant reunion finally takes place. After 11 seasons at the helm of BYU, Bronco Mendenhall took over at Virginia in 2016. The Cavaliers enjoyed unprecedented success under Mendenhall, culminating in 2019 with a trip to the ACC title game and a New Years Six offer. Bowl at the Orange Bowl, the school’s very first BCS / NY6 bowl. They usually have a strong defense, which is Bronco’s specialty. With Mendenhall, it’s kind of like a homecoming for offensive coordinator Robert Anae and defensive coordinators Kelly Poppinga and Nick Howell, all former BYU coaches or players. BYU has the advantage of being at home, 2,000 miles from Charlottesville.
BYU 27, Virginia 20
against the state of Idaho
PS Rating: N / A
Few analysis is needed to paint the picture against the Bengals. BYU is 6-0 against Idaho State, including a 42-10 in 2019. That should be a tune-up for two big road games to end the 2021 season. Make sure you play all seniors.
BYU 59, ISU 14
@ South Georgia
PS ranking: 94
This is the very first meeting between Georgia Southern and BYU. However, the Cougars are no strangers to opponents Sun Belt, who played three last year. The Eagles return 16 starters from a strong 8-5 campaign in 2020, including their third straight trip to a bowl game. They are not left out, despite the lack of name recognition. They replace a four-year-old starter as quarterback. With Allen E. Paulson Stadium holding just 25,000 people in Statesboro, 2,100 miles from Provo, and a trip to USC looming, the Cougars will need to be vigilant to avoid disappointment.
BYU 27, GSU 23
PS ranking: 11
The Trojans have a rematch in mind after their shocking 2019 defeat in Provo at the hands of Zach Wilson. This team is perhaps even better than the one that arrived at No.24-ranked Provo. Quarterback Kedon Slovis suffered his first loss as a starter at LaVell Edwards Stadium and he would love nothing more for the revenge. They return 16 starters from a solid, albeit brief, campaign in 2020 that saw them go 5-1 with a trip to the PAC-12 title game. This season, they start the year at # 15 in the AP poll. With a veteran QB and head coach as well as tons of experience from top to bottom, USC will easily be BYU’s toughest test of the entire season.
USC 30, BYU 20
Review 2021: 8-4