BYU finished 8-5 last season, including a loss to the Washington Huskies in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. On Friday, they'll be in Rentschler Field, facing the UConn Huskies in their season opener. Cougars coach Bob Mendenhall is well aware of UConn's recent run of mediocrity, but he's not selling first-year coach Bob Diaco or his team short.
A season ago, Diaco, then the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, had a lot to do with the Fighting Irish's 23-13 victory over the Cougars.
"That is a starting place," Mendenhall said of the Huskies' defense, via the New Haven Register. "I am sure he has assessed his own personnel, depth and how the matchups might look like, there might be a wrinkle or two as happens every year, but when you look at the success that Notre Dame has had and that Coach Diaco has had over his career, that would be the place to start. We project similarly based on where his staff connections have come from and what those systems might look like."
Mendenhall might be familiar with how the Huskies will play defensively but the other side of the ball will pretty much be a mystery until the two teams take the field on Friday.
"We certainly have watched UConn tape and did pay particular attention to the games that they were winning to find out exactly what the differences are, if it was strength of schedule, if it was late in the season, if it was home or away, you try to figure out as much as possible but it had a lot to do with how the team played," Mendenhall said. "I think the quarterback is very capable, he added some spark and added some consistency so I was impressed there. I like UConn's receiving corps and I think they have some big play potential there and a nice blend of size, speed and athleticism so they are capable and it showed in the last three games."
Frankly, this is what any coach would say ahead of a season opener, whether the spread was pick 'em or four touchdowns. BYU has an explosive offense and that, coupled with plenty of questions about UConn's defense -- along with last year's struggles -- leads you to believe that things could get out of hand if the Huskies don't play well.
Which brings us back to Diaco and his ability to motivate his players.