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BYU vs. Arizona: First look at the Cougars

It’s game week, so let’s take a look at what BYU brings to the table

Wisconsin v BYU Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

The season has finally arrived and the Arizona Wildcats host the BYU Cougars in Week 1. First-year head coach Kevin Sumlin will look to start his Wildcat career on the right foot.

Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 1 at 7:45 p.m. Tucson time. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Let’s get to know BYU.

First look

2017 Record — 4-9

Key Offensive PlayersTanner Mangum (QB), Squally Canada (RB), Thomas Shoaf (OL), Dylan Collie (WR), Matt Bushman (TE)

Key Defensive PlayersCorbin Kaufusi (DE), Sione Takitaki (LB), Butch Pau’u (LB), Dayan Ghanwoloku (SS)

Returning starters — 7 on offense, 7 on defense

The Stats

The following metrics are courtesy of Bill Connelly of SB Nation and Football Outsiders. You can read more about the rankings and theory behind them here.

· 2017 S&P+ Overall: 101st

· 2017 S&P+ Offense: 121st

· 2017 S&P+ Defense: 45th

· 2018 S&P+ Projection: 76th

· 2018 Project Record: 5-7

This is a rematch of the Cactus Kickoff in Glendale in 2016. BYU won that game 18-16 with a game-winning field goal in the final seconds. It was one of the uncommon, underwhelming offensive performances in the Rich Rodriguez era.

Now two years later, Arizona enters the game as heavy favorites.

Saturday will also be the first time Jeff Grimes takes the field as BYU’s offensive coordinator. It was announced that he has chosen Tanner Mangum as starting quarterback. as Mangum has fully recovered from his Achilles injury from last season.

There will be plenty of familiarity with the skill players for the senior quarterback as the Cougars return their top three leading receivers and starting running back, Squally Canada, from 2017. However, there will be one new face in Hawai’i graduate transfer Dylan Collie.

Collie recorded 636 receiving and four touchdowns on 56 receptions in his final season for the Rainbow Warriors. In fact, he hauled in two catches for 27 yards when Hawai’i visited Tucson in 2016.

Defensively speaking, BYU lost a few key pieces but overall returns a good amount of production. The front seven is extremely experienced. The defense’s top five leading tacklers from 2017 are found in the box after Zayne Anderson converted to linebacker from safety.

In terms of pressuring the opposing back field, Corbin Kaufusi and Sione Takitaki combined for 11 sacks last season and have returned for their senior seasons.

Despite Anderson’s conversion to linebacker, the secondary is still in solid shape. The group is headlines by junior safety Dayan Ghanwoloku. Cornerbacks Troy Warner and Michael Shelton are coming off a season where they started 12 and 13 games, respectively.

The Cougars provide plenty of experience and talent on each of the ball to make this a formidable test for Arizona.

Happy season everyone!