Complicating matters for the Cougars is the fact that their road games are bunched together in packages of two: They play Boise State just five days after playing at Utah; they make long trips to Indiana (Notre Dame) and Atlanta (Georgia Tech) in successive weeks in the middle of October, and they wrap up November with a trip to the Bay Area (San Jose State) followed by a trip to Las Cruces (New Mexico State).
If the Cougars win six games or more and become bowl eligible, they will play in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego on Thursday, Dec. 20, against an opponent from the Mountain West Conference. In all likelihood, that will be San Diego State.
Bronco Mendenhall said this is the deepest, "possibly" most talented BYU team in his eight-year tenure as head coach, and the program went to extra lengths in the offseason to ensure players will be ready by stressing conditioning work and fitness more than ever before.
"We will have to play, but I think so," Mendenhall said. "One of the biggest [places] where it is showing is special teams. There are very few walk-on players on our special teams. Usually, they were the heart of it, based on how hard they were trying. ... Now, our scholarship players and our best players want to do it. I just noticed, maybe for the first time, that our two-deep guys are [on special teams]. It is hard to get on it. Man, I think that will help us."
If there is a major concern for the Cougars, aside from a rugged September-October schedule that will get even more difficult in 2013, it is that kicker Justin Sorensen has a bad back. His status for the opener Thursday against Washington State is uncertain, although he started to kick for the first time last Tuesday. Punter Riley Stephenson or backup quarterback Taysom Hill, a kicker in high school, could be pressed into action.
Mendenhall said that's about the only issue keeping him awake at night.
"In terms of my biggest concern, that's probably it," he said.
Date Opponent Location Kickoff TV
Aug. 30 Washington State Provo 8:15 p.m. ESPN New WSU coach Mike Leach makes long-awaited return to Provo
Sept. 8 Weber State Provo 1 p.m. BYUtv In-state foes have not met since 1979, a 48-3 BYU win in Provo
Sept. 15 at Utah SLC 8 p.m. ESPN2 Cougars out for revenge in last BYU-Utah meeting in SLC until 2016
Sept. 20 at Boise State Boise 7 p.m. ESPN Thursday night special for ESPN comes five days after rivalry game
Sept. 28 Hawaii Provo 6 p.m. ESPN Norm Chow brings his Warriors to Provo, where Hawaii is 0-9 all-time
Oct. 5 Utah State Provo 8:15 p.m. ESPN Aggies return to the scene of their epic meltdown and Riley Nelson's rise
Oct. 13 Oregon State Provo TBA TBA Series is tied 5-5 after Cougars walloped Beavers last year in Corvallis
Oct. 20 at Notre Dame South Bend 1:30 p.m. NBC First of six scheduled meetings between the independents in next 10 years
Oct. 27 at Georgia Tech Atlanta TBA TBA A week after lengthy trip to Indiana, Cougars must make a longer trip to East Coast
Nov. 10 Idaho Provo TBA TBA Vandals are going independent, too, and will make trip to Provo for second straight year
Nov. 17 at San Jose State San Jose 2 p.m. TBA Spartans played Cougars tough in Provo last year, could surprise at home
Nov. 24 at New Mexico St. Las Cruces 1:30 p.m. Altitude
This will be BYU's first-ever trip to the home of the "other" Aggies