Brigham Young plays a murderous schedule in 2013, but with Kyle Van Noy wreaking havoc for a defense that looks to remain one of the best in the nation, the Cougars hope they can find their way into the top 25 -- or better.
BYU only allowed 14.0 points per game in 2012, third-best in the nation, but was sometimes offensively challenged, losing four of their five games by a touchdown or less despite generally strong defensive performances. With dual-threat Taysom Hill hopefully healthy at quarterback, the Cougars look to make the most of a rough slate:
2013 BYU schedule
Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.
It's always tough for teams without conferences to schedule a string of consistently good opponents. BYU did that and more, with a lineup that's actually a little bit stronger than what you might expect from a major conference member. Facing Texas at home is a doozy in the second week of the season, but things get really tough as October shifts into November.
First up is Boise State, reviving an old Mountain West rivalry. Then, after a bye, they head to Wisconsin, where they'll face the Badgers at Camp Randall. Winning in Wisconsin is never easy, especially in November, and the Cougars struggled in 2012 with Gary Andersen, holding on for the win in a 6-3 slugfest against the now-Badger coach's Utah State team. And after should-be-easy win against an FCS squad, the Cougars take on last year's national runners-up, Notre Dame, hoping for a win in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. After taking a 14-7 lead on the Irish last year, the Cougars couldn't score in the second half and lost 17-14.
Few opponents outside of the SEC have to play three games that difficult in that short a timeframe. But such is life without a conference, and if the Cougars can get some wins out of their tough matchups, they'll find themselves climbing the rankings.