July 29, 2014

A look into one of BYU's toughest match-ups for 2014

I hear a lot about the Cougar schedule. I get asked about the difficulty of it all the time. Most people seem to think that if BYU doesn't win 10 games it's a failure of a season. And I understand that thinking. Of course BYU fans want to go undefeated. And is that a realistic possibility? Sure. But is it going to be a walk in the park to get 10 wins like some would like to believe? Absolutely not.

In my numerous discussions about this schedule, the comment I most often get is, "We'll probably lose to Texas but shouldn't have a problem with the rest of the games." Really? It's that cut and dry? It surprises me how many people have made comments like this or something similar.

I might hear someone say that Boise is always tough, or that Utah State's program has improved drastically. But I rarely hear more than that. Granted, this isn't chatter coming from inside the program. These are discussions I'm having with passionate fans. I'd like to believe that nobody in the program would ever overlook an opponent and that they truly believe the toughest opponent is the next one.

One of the opponents that I feel has been most overlooked is the University of Central Florida. This is a team that lost just one game last year and won the Fiesta Bowl. Losing Blake Bortles to the NFL is enormous - no doubt about it. But this is a championship team with what many are saying is a better defense and better group of skill players on offense.

They return 9 full-time starters on defense (10 guys with starting experience), including the entire secondary and a few award candidates. Coach O'Leary says this may be the best defense in the school's history. On offense, they return 3 receivers that all had over 700 yards receiving and despite losing 3 offensive linemen, the 2 returning are both pre-season all-conference picks.

This is a talented group of football players that will have given their new quarterback 4 games of experience by the time they line up against the Cougars. They're a preseason top 25 team in a couple of major publications and shouldn't be overlooked. In addition, BYU is 0-5 in the state of Florida and that's a long road trip for the Cougars. Making it even more difficult, the game will be played on a Thursday, making it a short week for travel. And George O'Leary is a very good coach and should have them ready on the short week.

BYU definitely has a couple of "easier" games on the schedule this year. But UCF is not one of them. They'll absolutely need to bring their A game if they plan on leaving Florida with the school's first victory in that state.

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