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Utah State non-conference preview: BYU Cougars

Utah State will host BYU on Friday Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. ET with the game being on the CBS Sports Network.

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Utah State will host BYU on Friday Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. ET with the game being on the CBS Sports Network.

About the BYU Cougar athletic program: the Cougars are an independent football team in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), and most of their other sports compete in the West Coast Conference.

Coach: Bronco Mendenhall, 74-29, eight years.

2012 record: 8-5.

2012 season in review: The Cougars started off their season with two easy home wins over Washington State and Weber State, then traveled to Utah and #24 Boise State where BYU was handed two close losses by a total of 4 points. The next three games were at home with a shutout over Hawaii (47-0) and a 3-point win over a very good Utah State team. Two mid-season losses followed with one at home to #10 Oregon State (24-42) and a 3-point win on the road to #5 Notre Dame (14-17). A decisive 41-17 road win over Georgia Tech followed and set the stage for blowout wins over Idaho and New Mexico State, but it was not enough momentum to overcome a 14-20 loss on the road to San Jose State who finished the season 11-2 and ranked 21st in the nation. The Cougars completed a winning season and went on to face San Diego State in the 2012 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl which BYU won handily, 23-6.

Returning Starters: 8 (offense), 4 (defense).

Key Players and Returning Starters: QB Taysom Hill, RB Jamaal Williams, LG Solomone Kafu, OL Ryker Mathews, WR Cody Hoffman, CB Jordon Johnson, S Daniel Sorensen, LB Spenser Hadley, LB Kyle Van Noy.

2013 Strengths: The Cougars had one of the strongest defenses in the nation last year and ranked #3 in the country by giving up only 266.1 yards per game. The defensive was one the best in school history. But you can look for another big run by that squad this year with All-America candidate LB Kyle Van Noy and LB Spenser Hadley back for their senior years. SS Daniel Sorensen will be back as well, racking up more tackles and interceptions for the Cougars. Offensively, BYU could find a potent force behind offensive coordinator Robert Anae who has amped up the offense. Senior WR Cody Hoffman returns as a the major QB target after hauling in 100 passes for 1,248 yards in 2012, and accounting for 11 of the team's 25 passing TDs. That showing was on a team that averaged 400.4 total yards of offense per game and a team easily capable of doing so again.

2013 Weaknesses: Among the independents BYU has the second toughest schedule behind only Notre Dame. Their contests this year include road games against Virginia, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame while at home against Texas, Utah, Georgia Tech and the ever pesky Boise State Broncos. They also travel to MW teams Utah State and Nevada, either of which are capable of handing the Cougars a defeat. Mendenhall has brought in former offensive coordinator Robert Anae and a bunch of assistants to revamp an offense that failed to capitalize on big yardage last season alongside a great defensive effort. Sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill was injured at Utah State and missed the second half of the season and this year he has been named the starter following spring ball. That rises a crucial question as to if he will stay healthy. If he doesn't then BYU could once again be facing a quarterback carousel in 2013.

For more on the Brigham Young University Cougars visit Vanish the Foe.

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