This summer, I wanted to review some of the top out-of-conference games in the Pac-12 and what they mean for the involved teams. I am not looking at necessarily the biggest opponent games, but more the ones that will could show what a team’s trajectory might be.
Arizona (7-6 in 2015):
vs Brigham Young University Cougars
U. of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
Saturday, Sep. 3
Opponent at a Glance:
9–4 in 2015 (Vegas Bowl)
In the first year of the Kalani Sitake era at BYU, the Cougars are in a bit of a rebuild at spots, they do return 4 starters on their offensive line and most of their backfield. Quarterback Tanner Magnum is a dual threat QB who, if he can stay healthy, is a legit threat on any play. I also like their running backs on offense. Ty Detmer is the new OC for the Cougars and I think we can expect there to be some footballs flying around. With Mike Empey as their offensive line coach, I think the tradition of stout and physical linemen will continue.
On the defensive side, BYU is going to be fully bought into the 3-4 defense, and have a lot of returning linebackers and defensive linemen to help ease the burden on their secondary. I think up front, BYU will be stout and a tough team to handle.
Replacing all your receivers is not always easy, as we Beaver fans saw in 2014. Another thing that is not easy is coaching transitions (again, close to home experience). Sitake is a great guy and a perfect fit for BYU. I am not sure how many parallels there will be to what Coach Andersen is doing at Oregon State, but BYU will probably have some confusion and changes that are going to show in game 1. While Arizona returns a lot of starters and experience, the Cougars will be starting off with a lot of new terminology and expectations. It will be interesting to see how the incumbent players and personnel respond.
What this game means for the rest of the season?
A lot of people are down on Arizona. They are down on Solomon and the Wildcat defense. I think that is dangerous. As we saw, they are explosive when they want, and are aggressive on both sides of the ball. I think a win over BYU will be a big step in showing that Arizona is ready to compete in the south. I think their schedule sets them up nicely for a decent year. A win over BYU would give them, most likely, a 3-0 start heading into their game against UW. I am going to call that a loss, but if they can split their middle 4 games (@UCLA, @Utah, USC an Stanford) they have a shot at ending their season 3-1 for a 9 win season and a 4-2 record in the south. That would be a good boost to their already Pac-12 leading recruiting class of 2016.
So this BYU game is a huge one for Arizona to get rolling.