BYU survived its grueling early schedule, but the next four games are daunting as well

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Dax Milne (82) scores a touchdown as BYU hosts USC, NCAA football in Provo on Saturday Sept. 14, 2019.

Provo • As BYU’s 2019 football season neared, all eyes were on the first four weeks. The Cougars had four consecutive games against Power Five teams — the only team in the nation to play such a schedule — and three of them wound up being ranked opponents.

The Cougars survived it. They came out of the first month of play 2-2, with overtime wins at Tennessee and against USC.

As challenging and difficult as those first four games proved to be, though, the next four games could prove just as challenging, in a different way.

In order, the Cougars will face back-to-back road trips to the Eastern time zone with Toledo (Saturday) and South Florida (Oct. 12). Those will followed consecutive games against Boise State in Provo (Oct. 19) and Utah State in Logan (Nov. 2). Tucked into the two sets of games are a pair of byes.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake isn’t overly concerned about the upcoming itinerary. Nor was he at the start of the season with the Utes, Volunteers, Trojans and Huskies lined up in front of his team.

“We look at the whole entire 2019 schedule and my concern is getting us to be at our best, regardless of who we’re facing, whether it’s Timpview High School or San Francisco 49ers,” he said.

The trips to Toledo and South Florida, located in Tampa, Fla., will add a combined 8,000 miles to the Cougars’ frequent flier account.

BYU first played Toledo in 2016 in what turned out to be a high-scoring shootout that ended with the Cougars edging the Rockets, 55-53, in Provo.

This will be their first trip out to the Glass Bowl, and mark the first time the Cougars have played at USF.


When • Saturday, 10 a.m. MDT

Live stream • ESPN+

While Sitake said he doesn’t think the long trips will impact the team, wide receiver Micah Simon said the Cougars will try to ensure that it doesn’t become an issue.

“It’s different for everybody,” Simon said. “For sure, the time difference could potentially cause an issue, but we’ll get out of here Thursday and try to get our bodies and minds ready for Saturday morning.”

Yes, morning. Kickoff Saturday in Toledo is at 10 a.m. MDT, BYU’s earliest of the season after two straight afternoon games vs. USC and Washington. The Utah and Tennessee games were night contests.

“It’s definitely different, but I think it’s fun, where you can just get up and go eat breakfast and just go play,” Simon said. “Reminds you of Little League. You have games early in the morning and you just go out there and play. I’m looking forward to it.”

Though still a ways off, the second twofer against Boise State and USU will be just as daunting, if not more so. Mainly because the Cougars haven’t had much recent success against either team.

The Broncos are currently 4-0 and have moved up to the No. 16 spot in the AP Top 25 poll after beating Air Force 30-19 last week. BYU hasn’t beaten Boise since 2015.

The Aggies, who have beaten the Cougars in their last two meetings, are 2-1 and coming off a Mountain West-opening road win at San Diego State.

BYU has lost two of its starters — linebacker Zayne Anderson and running back Ty’Son Williams — to season-ending injuries, so one of the Cougars’ big goals going forward is just trying to stay healthy.

And, of course, there’s no looking back now. The high of beating USC is long gone, and so is the low of losing to Washington. The only relevant game now, Sitake says, is the one that’s in front of the Cougars.

“Whether we won or lost, I’ve got to be focused on Toledo,” he said.