BYU travels to Arizona to play the Wildcats at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale on this first weekend of college football in 2016, making for an interesting intersectional matchup. And because it’s set for a late-night start, this could be one of Week 1’s barn burners.
Arizona’s no stranger to farm-endangering pyrotechnics, given its eventful 2015. The Wildcats played six one-possession games over their last seven contests, scoring at least 30 points in all six of those games — and still coming away with a 3-3 record. Rich Rodriguez has brought offense and excitement to the desert, sure, but Arizona finished 106th in scoring defense in 2015 and conceded 45 or more points five times.
BYU’s offense was plenty potent last season, notching 30 or more points six times, but the Cougars’ 9-4 mark came with vexing near-misses and puzzling losses that made it bittersweet. A one-point loss to UCLA and a four-point defeat against turmoil-plagued Missouri were just precursors to a 35-28 loss to hated rival Utah in a bowl game in which the Utes built a 35-0 lead after the first quarter, then had to hang on late.
How to watch, stream and listen
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, FS1
Online streaming: Fox Sports GO
Spread: Arizona started the week as a 1-point favorite.
Three big things to know
1. Anu hope. Arizona junior Anu Solomon has had an uneven college career: He was brilliant as a freshman in 2014, throwing for more than 3,600 yards and 28 touchdowns, but less great after an injury that cleaved his 2015 into a magnificent four-game start and a mediocre eight-game finish in which he missed two starts and threw all five of his interceptions. Solomon’s got all the tools to be a national name in Rodriguez’s offense, but he has to stay healthy to make that happen.
2. BYU’s new head man. The Cougars got 11 excellent years of coaching from Bronco Mendenhall, who is second only to the legendary LaVell Edwards in winning percentage and wins at BYU. But Mendenhall decamped for Virginia in one of the offseason’s more surprising moves, and BYU turned to Oregon State defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake — a BYU grad, and the first Tongan to become a college head coach — to succeed him. Sitake’s defenses have been known for their aggressive play, and BYU fans know them well: Utah held BYU to 21 points or fewer over their last four meetings with Sitake helming the Utes’ defense.
3. Who will be on hand? Glendale would theoretically be a "neutral" site in name alone for Arizona, which is situated in Tucson, just two hours away. But BYU fans have snatched up tickets for this game in droves, leaving Arizona’s athletic director pleading with fans to avoid leaving his team in a hostile environment in its home state. It will be very interesting to see how well the loyal Cougars contingent actually travels.