SALT LAKE CITY — BYU finds itself in a top 25 preseason list this summer.
This one gives the Cougars credit for a difficult schedule. Athlon Sports ranked the top 25 toughest schedules of 2019, and BYU's comes in at No. 23.
"Credit BYU athletic brass, the department did not take the easy route of piling up wins upon going independent. The Cougars play a demanding schedule in 2019," Athlon Sports' Kyle Kensing wrote.
The most difficult part of that schedule is the start, as the Cougars open the season with four straight Power 5 opponents.
- Aug. 29, vs. Utah
- Sept. 7, at Tennessee
- Sept. 14, vs. USC
- Sept. 21, vs. Washington
"The back-half of BYU's schedule is odd, which is a recurring theme for the program in its independent era," Kensing wrote. Following that four-game start, the Cougars face South Florida and Toledo on the road before matching up with rivals Boise State and Utah State. The final four games are against Liberty, Idaho State, UMass and San Diego State.
BYU is also mentioned in the section discussing the No. 3 team on the list, USC.
"Pac-12 play starts in Week 2 with the customary, early-season Stanford showdown. The Trojans travel to BYU a week later, the first of two non-conference roadies. They also head to South Bend, where they have not won since 2011. The BYU date is a prelude to a showdown with Pac-12 South favorite Utah just six days later," Kensing wrote.
BYU is one of just five teams not in a Power 5 conference to show up on the top 25 list, including Houston (No. 6), fellow independent Notre Dame (No. 10), Cincinnati (No. 22) and Middle Tennessee (No. 25).
Utah State is discussed briefly in the article as well. The Aggies travel to LSU to face the Tigers on Oct. 5, and LSU is ranked No. 5 on the list with what is called "a low-key contender for the toughest non-conference schedule in the nation." In addition to USU, the Tigers' non-conference slate includes home games with Georgia Southern and Northwestern State, as well as a trip to Texas, with the Big 12's Longhorns and the Aggies highlighting that group.