The college football season is here and it’s time to make some predictions for BYU football.

Moving from Independence to the Big 12 certainly changes things for BYU as the Cougars won’t likely have the same success they’ve experienced the last three seasons (29-9). Instead of expectations for a 10-win season and a Top 25 finish, Cougar fans have adjusted their expectations and are hopeful he team can make a bowl game this year as they play a full P5 schedule for the first time in program history.

The Cougars definitely have the talent to do so, but it all depends if the team can stay healthy. With USC/Pitt transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis under center, the Cougars have experience and also one of the most accurate passers in all of college football.

Based on BYU’s schedule, there’s a number of games that could go either way, so without further ado, here’s the game-by-game prediction for BYU’s 2023 season.

BYU vs. Sam Houston — Saturday, Sept. 2
Prediction: BYU 50, Sam Houston 16 (BYU 1-0)

Instead of the gauntlet of a schedule to start the season due to life as an Independent, the roles have been reversed as the Cougars start with two easy games before playing 10 consecutive P5 opponents.

Sam Houston is moving up to the FBS ranks this year, so while BYU will be celebrating its first game as a Big 12 member, Sam Houston will be celebrating as well as the program will be playing in its first game as an FBS school. The Bearkats won the FCS championship in 2021 — the first in program history.

While I expect the Bearkates to keep it close for a quarter, I expect BYU to turn on the jets and cruise to a 50-16 victory Saturday night.

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BYU vs. SUU — Saturday, Sept. 9
Prediction: BYU 51, SUU 17 (BYU 2-0)

This is the second only meeting between BYU and SUU. The two programs played in 2016 as the Cougars came away with a 37-7 home win over the Thunderbirds. I expect this game to be an even bigger blowout, giving the young guys plenty of time to get some experience and show fans what they can do. Slovis will have 250+ yards passing by halftime and the Cougars will improve to 2-0 with a 51-17 victory at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

BYU @ Arkansas — Saturday, Sept. 16
Prediction: Arkansas 34, BYU 27 (BYU 2-1)

BYU fans, players and coaches will want to forget about last year’s game against Arkansas as the Razorbacks came to Provo and did whatever they wanted to on offense en route to a 52-35 win over the Cougars. Unfortunately for BYU, Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson returns and looks to improve upon his 5-touchdown performance.

BYU’s defense should be much improved, however, the Cougars have struggled when playing games in central and eastern time zones, including some inexplicable loses against: Toledo, Liberty, Coastal Carolina, South Florida, etc.

I think BYU will keep the game close, but Arkansas will win 34-27. Looking at both offenses, this could be one of the most entertaining games of the season and very high scoring.

BYU @ Kansas — Saturday, Sept. 23
Prediction: BYU 40, Kansas 33 (BYU 3-1)

Speaking of entertaining, BYU’s game against Kansas should have all the makings of an old-fashioned shootout with two high powered offenses going at it. Kansas is improving, but it’s defense was atrocious last year and I don’t think that’s changing anytime soon.

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels returns and was picked to win the Big 12 offensive player of the year award, so expect a lot of points. In the end, I think BYU will be able to pull it off and get the programs first conference win as a member of the Big 12.

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BYU vs. Cincinnati — Friday, Sept. 29
Prediction: BYU 30, Cincinnati 20 (BYU 4-1)

This is going to be fun!

BYU’s first Big 12 conference home game will come against fellow newcomer Cincinnati. The Bearcats will be breaking in a new head coach after Luke Fickell took the head coaching job at Wisconsin.

While Cincinnati has been a Top 10 team the last few years, the Bearcats went 9-4 last year and also lost three players to the NFL this past spring. With a new coach and with players transferring, this Cincinnati team isn’t the top program it once used to be.

Playing in front of what should be a sellout crowd for the Cougars’ first Big 12 home game, the team should be fired up and will use the home-field advantage en route to a 30-20 victory to improve to 4-1 on the season. The game is also on Friday night so BYU benefits in that it doesn’t have to travel on a shortened week.

BYU @ TCU — Saturday, October 14
Prediction: TCU 34, BYU 24 (BYU 4-2)

The bye week before this game comes at a perfect time for the Cougars who have one of the toughest October schedules with games against TCU, Texas Tech and Texas.

Playing TCU — the National runner-up — on the road is going to be tough. The Cougars struggled against the Horned Frogs during the Mountain West conference days and TCU has only gotten better thanks to its P5 status and the funding and resources it gave them since 2012.

According to ESPN’s FPI, the Cougars have just a 21% chance of winning the game and I tend to agree. BYU will keep it close before TCU pulls away in the fourth quarter at home. The loss will drop BYU to (4-2, 2-1 Big 12). The good news for Cougar fans is that even with a loss, the season isn’t over as the Big 12 title would still be in reach.

BYU vs. Texas Tech — Saturday, October 21
Prediction: BYU 30, Texas Tech 27 (BYU 5-2)

This is my upset pick!

Every year, BYU beats a team that it shouldn’t and loses to teams that it shouldn’t. Looking at this year’s schedule, I think the game against Texas Tech, gives BYU a great opportunity at an upset.

Texas Tech is all over the map on the hype scale as some people believe they’ll be one of the top 3 teams this year in the Big 12, while others believe the Red Raiders won’t live up to the hype and will end up 7th or 8th. Texas Tech is coming off an 8-5 season with wins over Texas, Oklahoma, and Ole Miss.

The good news is that the Red Raiders will be coming off a tough two-week stretch with games against Baylor and Big 12 champ Kansas State. Texas Tech also doesn’t get its bye week until after the game against BYU so injuries could be a big factor as well. Lastly, Texas Tech’s pass defense wasn’t great at all last year so if it’s the same, expect BYU’s Slovis to have a big night to lead the Cougars to victory.

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BYU @ Texas — Saturday, October 28
Prediction: Texas 34, BYU 24 (BYU 5-3)

This will be an entertaining game with a great storyline as well with Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian will go up against his Alma mater.

While most of the country keeps saying “Texas is back,” I’ll believe it when I see it. Texas is one of the worst underperforming school in the country over the past decade as the Longhorns have gone 69-56, despite all the money and resources that any school would want.

Having said that, Texas has shown improved and flashes that it can get back to the glory days. It also helps when they have arguably the best quarterback duo in the country with Quinn Ewers and 5-star prospect Arch Manning.

While I do think the game will be competitive — the Cougars always seem to rise up against the Longhorns — I think BYU’s lack of depth catches up to them at this point. If this game was at the start of the season, I could see BYU pulling off an upset. But with the game being later in the season, I don’t think the Cougars will have enough left in the tank to pull off an upset on the road. And according to the ESPN, BYU has just an 8% chance of beating the Longhorns.

BYU @ West Virginia — Saturday, Nov. 4
West Virginia 27, BYU 24 (BYU 5-4)

This is one of those games that you glance over and expect an automatic win. But it in the words of Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend.”

Every year BYU loses a game they shouldn’t, and I’m thinking this is the one. The biggest reasons are lack of depth and likely injuries, as well as playing on the east coast. For whatever reason, the Cougars struggle mightily on the East Coast.

Even ESPN’s FPI lacks faith as it gives BYU just a 38% chance of leaving Morgantown with a win. With West Virginia head coach Neal Brown is on the hot seat heading into the 2023 season and with an offensive line that boasts more than 100 starts together, this game will be far from easy. Playing at home, I think West Virginia comes out on top in a down-to-the-wire finish. If this was in Provo, I think the cougars would win — but it’s not.

BYU vs. Iowa State — Saturday, Nov. 11

Prediction: BYU 30, Iowa State 23 (BYU 6-4)

Iowa State used to be a top contender in the Big 12 every year, but the past couple of years the program has faded. In fact, the only Big 12 team that was worse than West Virginia last season was Iowa State. The cyclones are still a decent team with talent, but with the game being in Provo, I think the Cougars will be able to eke out a win to become bowl eligible.

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BYU vs. Oklahoma — Saturday, Nov. 18
Prediction: Oklahoma 37, BYU 30 (BYU 6-5)

Going up against Oklahoma on Senior Day — it doesn’t get better than that! This is especially true for Cougar fans who had to endure the cupcake schedule every November during Independence because everyone else was in conference play.

Yes, BYU has never lost to Oklahoma, but the Cougars have only played the Sooners twice (1994 and 2009), and haven’t played against them in 14 years. Meanwhile, Oklahoma is coming off it’s first losing season (6-7) for the first time since 1998 (5-6). For Sooner fans, the good news is that quarterback Dillon Gabriel returns in what should be a high-powered offense. The key, of course, is if the defense will be able to stop anyone.

The Sooners always have talent, so don’t expect them to have another season like they did. With the game in Provo, that should help keep the score closer, but in the end,  Oklahoma’s talent  — and with it being late in the season (injuries) — it doesn’t give me a lot of hope. In fact, ESPN’s FPI predictor gives BYU just a 20% chance of winning.  …

BYU @ Oklahoma State — Saturday, Nov. 25
Prediction: Oklahoma State 30, BYU 27 (BYU 6-6)

What a way to end the regular season! Nothing like a trip to Stillwater during Thanksgiving weekend. With the addition of the Pac-4 teams next year, hopefully the last game of the year will be reserved for the Holy War between the Utes and the Cougars.

Regarding Oklahoma State, the Cowboys had an unexpected down year as they finished the season with a 7-6 record. The Cowboys are expected to be better this year, but with all the newcomer additions this year (BYU, Cincinnati, UCF, Houston) it’s anyone’s guess how it will all shake out. A storyline that will certainly emerge is BYU offensive lineman Caleb Etienne  who transferred from Oklahoma State.

ESPN’s FPI gives BYU just a 27% chance to beat Oklahoma State on the road, and I tend to agree. This game could also come down to bowl eligibility for teams depending how the season shakes up.

BYU 2023 Season Predictions

BYU vs. Sam Houston: Win
BYU vs. SUU: Win
BYU @ Arkansas: Loss
BYU @ Kansas: Win
BYU vs. Cincinnati: Win
BYU @ TCU: Loss
BYU vs. Texas Tech: Win
BYU @ Texas: Loss
BYU @ West Virginia: Loss
BYU vs. Iowa State: Win
BYU vs. Oklahoma: Loss
BYU @ Oklahoma State: Loss

There are 4 games (Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa State and Oklahoma State) that I believe are tossups, so as long as the Cougars split them, they should be bowl eligible. And if they happen to win all four of those games, the Cougars will likely be 8-4 and should be ranked in the Top 25.

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