The success of a college football team is in large part determined by the success of that team’s opponents. In a sport where national championships are determined by perceived greatness in addition to on-the-field results, the skill, talent and success of the opponent a team plays can significantly enhance or detract from that team’s postseason resume.

In 2013, Utah’s three major college football programs will compete against more than 30 different opponents, all with different playing styles, strengths, weaknesses, and schedules of their own. The Utes will embark upon their third season as a member of the Pac-12, BYU’s independent schedule is much more full of marquee matchups than years previous, and Utah State is embarking on its first year in the Mountain West Conference.

Some of the teams that will visit Utah’s college towns this fall are quite familiar to fans. Who are these teams and how much of a threat do they pose to the Beehive state’s college football supremacy?

Today, we examine that.

BYU Cougars football 2013

If returning offensive coordinator Robert Anae and quarterback Taysom Hill have anything to say about it, the Cougars’ biggest weakness in 2012, their offense, will be much stronger than it was last season.

Anae has focused on improving the offensive line, which dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness last year. Hill, meanwhile, hopes to bring better decision-making and potency to the Cougar offense in a way Riley Nelson never could.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall has typically had a solid defense, and the Cougars' D in 2012 was one of the program's best. With senior linebacker Kyle Van Noy returning, the BYU defense should be good again.

Facing a tough schedule that includes trips to Wisconsin and Notre Dame and home games against Texas and Boise State, in addition to Utah, the Cougars must show more life on the offensive end in 2013.

Week one: Virginia

Date: Aug. 31, 2013

Location: Charlottesville, Va.

2012 record: 4-8

All-time series: 1-2

It's been a long time since BYU and Virginia last met. In that game, the Cougars forced overtime and won in LaVell Edwards' final season.

Virginia will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2012 year that included losses in eight of its final 10 games. The Cavaliers overhauled their coaching staff during the offseason and have new coordinators on offense, defense and special teams.

In addition to the coaching changes, Virginia will be breaking in a new starting quarterback. Michael Rocco, who started eight games, has transferred to Richmond. While junior Phillip Sims started four games last year, throwing for 1,263 yards and nine touchdowns, sophomore David Watford sits atop the Cavaliers' post-spring depth chart at quarterback.

Whoever is behind center will benefit from Virginia returning its top rusher (Kevin Parks: 160 carries, 734 yards, 5 touchdowns) and pass catcher (Darius Jennings: 48 receptions, 568 yards, 5 touchdowns). Both will be juniors this year.

Overall, Virginia has relatively few holes to fill in the starting lineup, as the team returns seven starters on offense and defense. On defense, the Cavaliers return all four starters in the secondary, which gave up more than 300 passing yards just twice last year.

Week two: Texas

Date: Sept. 7, 2013

Location: Provo

2012 record: 9-4

All-time series: 2-1

The Longhorns represent the first of several BYU opponents that likely will begin the season ranked in the top 25. Texas finished last season ranked 19th in the AP poll and No. 18 in the USA Today Coaches poll.

Like the new BYU offense under coordinator Robert Anae, Texas is expected to be no-huddle and up-tempo under new play-caller Major Applewhite. The Longhorns should be potent on offense as junior David Ash returns at quarterback. While he was benched four times last season, Ash still threw for 2,699 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Ash has plenty of experience around him as Texas will return a strong trio of running backs, including sophomore Jonathan Gray, and wide receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley. On the line, all five starters are back.

Though the Longhorns set a record by giving up a school-record 5,244 yards last year, Texas will also bring back plenty of experience on defense, as nine starters return. The Longhorns will have to find a replacement for safety Kenny Maccarro, a first-round NFL draft pick. Jordan Hicks will return after missing most of last year with a hip injury.

Week three: Utah

Date: Sept. 21, 2013

Location: Provo

2012 record: 5-7

All-time series: 31-53-4

With this being the final contest between these bitter rivals before a two-year hiatus, fans can hope for a better matchup than last year's slogfest.

For Cougars like Kyle Van Noy and Cody Hoffman, this represents their final chance to grab an elusive victory over the Utes.

BYU gains a bit of a tactical advantage because the Cougars have a bye the week before, while Utah hosts Oregon State. But as the past two decades show, this game typically comes down to the final seconds.

Utah looks to be in better shape offensively this year, following an underwhelming effort in 2012. Returning quarterback Travis Wilson, who will be a sophomore, gained valuable experience in the second half of last season. The Utes also have some depth at the skill positions, having developed talents such as Dres Anderson and Kelvin York. But Utah is replacing three starters on the offensive line.

On defense, the Utes will have to replace five starters, including draftees Star Lotulelei and Joe Kruger. Utah also will need a pair of new starters at the cornerback spots, though Eric Rowe and Brian Blechen are back at safety. With this game an early-season contest, the Utes could still be developing cohesiveness on this side of the ball.

Week four: Middle Tennessee

Date: Sept. 27, 2013

Location: Provo

2012 record: 8-4

All-time series: First meeting

On paper, this game represents the Cougars' best chance at a guaranteed early-season win.

Of course, the Blue Raiders' victory over Georgia Tech last year, in Atlanta no less, should serve as a reminder that this is not a given.

Quarterback Logan Kilgore returns as a redshirt senior for Middle Tennessee after throwing for 2,571 yards, 16 touchdowns and 6 interceptions last season. He will have to find a new top target, however, as leading receiver Anthony Amos is gone. The Blue Raiders return four along the offensive line.

Defensively, Middle Tennessee should be set in the middle, with leading tacklers Craig Allen and Roderic Blunt coming back at linebacker. But while the team returns three starters in the secondary, the Blue Raiders will be looking for better play as they were susceptible to long plays last season.

Week five: Utah State

Date: Oct. 4, 2013

Location: Logan

2012 record: 11-2

All-time series: 44-35-3

The last time these teams met in Logan, the Aggies flattened the Cougars in a 31-16 contest that wasn't that close. After two close losses to BYU in Provo the past two seasons, Utah State will be looking to exact some revenge. And the Aggies have a roster with enough talent to make it happen.

Though it will be difficult for Utah State to match its best season in school history, the Aggies will benefit from the return of junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Keeton's dual-threat abilities should be enough to counterbalance the losses of Kerwynn Williams and Matt Austin and keep the Aggies in most games.

And while the USU may looking for new players to step up in the skill positions, the Aggies should benefit from returning all five starters on the offensive line, including all-conference performers Tyler Larsen and Eric Schultz.

The Utah State defense also appears to be in solid shape after finishing 14th in the nation in total defense last year. Among its six returning starters, the Aggies will be paced by first-team all-conference linebackers Jake Doughty and Kyler Fackrell.

Week six: Georgia Tech

Date: Oct. 12, 2013

Location: Provo

2012 record: 7-7

All-time series: 2-1

Last year, the Cougars' best performance of the year arguably came against Georgia Tech in Atlanta when Jamaal Williams put on a show in BYU's 41-17 victory. But if the Yellow Jackets can carry over the momentum they had at the end of last season, winning four of six, this could be a much better game.

Of paramount importance for Georgia Tech will be finding a suitable replacement for quarterback Tavon Washington, who commanded the Yellow Jackets' option attack. Vad Lee shared some playing time with Washington last year, including the game against BYU, and Justin Thomas impressed during spring drills.

Whoever takes over as the team's signal caller will work with a strong stable of running backs that includes returning rushing leader Zach Laskey (697 yards in 2012).

The Yellow Jackets appear to be vulnerable on defense after giving up 40 or more points in six games last season. Of particular concern for Georgia Tech is the defensive line, where it must replace two senior starters.

A major advantage Georgia Tech will hope to take advantage of is its number of returning starts. ESPN reports that according to a survey by Colorado sports information director Dave Plati, the Yellow Jackets are fourth in the country in returning starts this year with 361.

Week seven: Houston

Date: Oct. 19, 2013

Location: Houston, Texas

2012 record: 5-7

All-time series: First meeting

These two Cougar squads, known for their pass-happy '80s teams, will finally meet on the gridiron at Reliant Stadium, home to the NFL's Houston Texans.

Don't expect these teams' quarterbacks to put up numbers to rival those of Ty Detmer or Andre Ware, however. Taysom Hill is expected to enter his first season as BYU's starting QB and David Piland returns for Houston after throwing for a respectable 2,924 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2012.

The Cougars from Texas received a big blow recently when last year's rushing leader, Charles Sims, decided to not return to the university for his senior season. Sims suffered through injuries last year, and when Houston played without him, the Cougars averaged 5.5 points and 55 yards total offense less than when the running back was in the game.

Houston returns all four of its defensive secondary starters; in addition, the team has a new defensive coordinator in David Gibbs, who is known for producing a high number of sacks from his units. Last season, Houston ranked 10th in the country with 36 sacks.

Week eight: Boise State

Date: Oct. 25, 2013

Location: Provo

2012 record: 11-2

All-time series: 0-3

BYU had a chance to upset of the ranked Broncos last year, despite a horrendous offensive outing for the Cougars. That was because of the work of Bronco Mendenhall and his defensive crew, including an unforgettable goal line stand.

With the Broncos steadily improving on offense last season as the year wore on, it is likely BYU won't be so lucky to hold the Boise State offense down this time around.

The Broncos lost top rusher D.J. Harper, but still have plenty of skill position standouts in junior receiver Matt Miller, sophomore running back Jay Ajayi and sophomore tight end Holden Huff. Add into the mix senior quarterback Jay Southwick and a veteran line, and the Boise State offense looks to return to its high-scoring ways.

Where Boise State may be vulnerable is on defense. Sam Ukwuachu, a freshman All-America defensive end, transferred to Baylor, and former starting safety Lee Hightower is heading to the University of Houston, according to the Idaho Statesman. With the eligibility departure of cornerback Jamar Taylor, the Broncos will have some holes to fill on defense.

Week nine: Wisconsin

Date: Nov. 9, 2013

Location: Madison, Wis.

2012 record: 8-6

All-time series: 1-0

BYU and Wisconsin may not be familiar with each other, but the Cougars know the Badgers' new coach — former Utah State head man Gary Andersen — quite well. How that familiarity will affect this game is anyone's guess.

Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, both former Ute assistants, may have their hands full this season simply because they have to find a replacement for scoring machine Montee Ball, now a Denver Bronco. Among those trying to replace Ball and his 77 career rushing touchdowns is tailback James White, who had a strong 2012 campaign with 806 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.

Wisconsin has other solid skill position players returning, including wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen.

The Badgers, however, are searching for a starting quarterback and the competition will continue in the fall when junior college transfer Tanner McEvoy arrives.

Where Wisconsin is likely to give BYU the most fits is on defense. Wisconsin will be solid in the front seven, led by senior linebacker Chris Borland. The Badgers also have an experienced line that is able to be aggressive in the pass rush, while safety Dezman Southward will help anchor the Badger secondary.

Week 10: Idaho State

Date: Nov. 16, 2013

Location: Provo

2012 record: 1-10

All-time series: 4-0

Following a pair of games that could likely be against Top 25 competition, this matchup with the Bengals will be a welcome change. Not necessarily from a competitive standpoint, but more to help BYU rest and recuperate for its push down the stretch.

In virtually all aspects, the Bengals will be overmatched in this contest. Idaho State also won't have its strong-armed passer of the past two seasons, Kevin Yost, returning. Yost completed 349-of-553 passes for 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last year. In contention to replace him will be Justin Arias and Riley Sessions.

Gone, too, for the Bengals is wide receiver Rodrick Rumble, who finished his career as Idaho State's leader in career receiving yards. The Bengals offense will have to find options to replace these top producers.

The defensive situation at Idaho State is worse, and should give the Cougar offense reason to salivate. Last year, the Bengals gave up an average of 53.8 points per game. That included four teams scoring 70 or more points. No matter the personnel returning, those numbers are anything but encouraging for Idaho State.

Week 11: Notre Dame

Date: Nov. 23, 2013

Location: South Bend, Ind.

2012 record: 12-1

All-time series: 2-5

Looking back, it seems strange that BYU nearly upset a team last year that finished the season playing for a shot at the national title. But in October 2012, that's exactly what happened when the Cougars came agonizingly close to a signature win before falling to Notre Dame 17-14.

There's a strong possibility that BYU's chance to secure a win over the Fighting Irish may have been better last season than this year. A big reason is because the Notre Dame defense will be stout once again, even with the departure of All-American linebacker Manti Te'o.

Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt, both hyped to have NFL-type talent, will anchor the defensive line for Notre Dame, and the linebackers will be strong even without Te'o. Depth is greatest among the secondary, where both corners return along with safety Matthias Farley, making passing difficult against the Irish.

While the Notre Dame offense struggled in 2012, many of its top options return this season, including quarterback Everett Golson. With a bevy of young talent back in the fold and a good core of the offensive line returning, the Irish offensive attack could see a big increase in production this season.

Week 12: Nevada

Date: Nov. 30, 2013

Location: Reno, Nev.

2012 record: 7-6

All-time series: 4-2-2

For a BYU team that will have faced some of the nation's top programs in three of the four weeks prior to this regular-season finale, this game could prove troublesome. Nevada has proven tough to outscore with its prolific offense, that ranked 18th last year, averaging 37.8 points per game.

At the crux of the Nevada offense is junior quarterback Cody Fajardo, who performed admirably in replacing Colin Kaepernick. Last season, Fajardo accounted for nearly 4,000 all-purpose yards, with 2,786 passing yards and 1,121 rushing yards. He also had 32 touchdowns, 20 passing and 12 rushing.

Nevada is young along the offensive line, with three freshmen or sophomores listed as starters on its post-spring depth chart. Nevada will also have to figure out who will replace the production of Stefphon Jefferson, who rushed for 1,883 rushing yards and 24 TDs in 2012. Among the hopefuls are sophomore Don Jackson and junior Kendall Brock.

Nevada is susceptible defensively, even with five returning starters. The Wolf Pack can be scored upon, as opponents put up an average of 33.8 points against them last season; the fewest points an opponent scored against them in 2012 was 21, and seven scored 40-plus points. It is likely the Cougars' best bet for a victory in Reno will be to outgun its host in what could easily become a shootout.

Utah Utes football 2013

Rice Eccles Stadium is a place where the Utes are used to dominating, and they will spend the first half of their season in home territory. Five out their first six games will be played in Salt Lake City and that will benefit Utah immensely.

The offseason addition of offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson should help Utah create an offensive identity. The Utes went through a disastrous quarterback situation last year when Jordan Wynn went out with another shoulder injury and was forced to retire. If the Utes can stick with one quarterback, most likely Travis Wilson, their offense should improve dramatically. However they will have to find production in the run game with the absence of John White.

Here is a look at the opponents Utah will face in 2013.

Week one: Utah State

Date: Aug. 29, 2013

Location: Salt Lake City

2012 record: 11-2

All-time series: Utah 76-30-4

The Utah State Aggies will have a veteran force next season with 18 returning starters, and head coach Matt Wells credits his team with great physicality. Despite the surprising offseason coaching change when Gary Andersen left for Wisconsin, Wells is convinced he can pick up where Andersen left off.

The Aggies are coming off an impressive season and one of the best Logan has ever seen. In 2013, Utah State will join the Mountain West Conference, which will be a step up as far as quality of conference, however the Aggies will face many of the same teams they saw in the WAC.

Last year, Utah State shocked the Utes by delivering a serious blow when it defeated Utah 27-20 in front of 25,000 Aggie fans. The Utes will have a bone to pick with Utah State this year as they host the Aggies in their home opener at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Week two: Weber State

Sept. 7, 2013: vs. Weber State Wildcats

Location: Salt Lake City

2012 record: 2-9

All-time series: Utah leads 1-0

In the offseason, the Wildcats made some major changes on all ends. Head coach Jody Sears is heading up new coordinators on both sides as former Montana head coach Robin Pflugrad takes over the offense and former assistant Eric Fisher will pull together the defense.

Wildcat starting quarterback Mike Hoke is departing from Weber State, and deciding on his replacement strained coaches throughout spring play. Senior Jordan Adamczyk backed up Hoke for the past two years, but the Wildcats also got a strong showing from junior college transfer Alfonso Medina. With two options and some depth, Sears said he loves where the Wildcats are as far as quarterback position goes.

Utah did not face Weber State in the 2012 season, but overall the Wildcats struggled in many aspects of the game, and two-thirds of their season went by before getting a win. Historically, Weber State has not been able to make a dent in Utah's seasons, but the Wildcats will attempt to muster a win on the road come September.

Week three: Oregon State

Date: Sept. 14, 2013

Location: Salt Lake City

2012 record: 9-4, 6-3 (Pac-12)

All-time series: Oregon State 10-6-1

Following spring ball, Oregon State still has a lot of decisions to make. The Beavers' quarterback position battle began last year when starter Sean Mannion underwent knee surgery in October. He missed a few weeks, and Cody Vaz stepped up into the role. When Mannion returned, he just wasn't the same, and thus the two have competed for the starting position ever since.

A problem could possibly occur for the Beavers on the defensive line where three of four starters will not return this season. Mike Riley signed several junior college defensive linemen to hopefully avoid this situation. In order to be successful, Oregon State needs to keep the strong defense it played last season.

The Beavers, who were ranked No. 8 at the time, soundly beat Utah 21-7 last season in Corvallis, Ore. and became bowl eligible that night. With the victory, Oregon State was off to its first 6-0 start to the season since 1907. The difference in the game was the Beavers defense. The Utes finished the game with a total of 307 yards of offense, but key turnovers that resulted in scoring opportunities for the Beavers ultimately gave the game away.

Week four: BYU

Date: Sept. 21, 2013

Location: Provo

2012 record: 8-5

All-time series: Utah 53-31-4

The Cougars' offense is steadily improving and will most likely be much more competitive this coming season. Offensive coordinator Robert Anae's focus lies within the offensive line, and quarterback Taysom Hill is an improvement from recent years as he will bring a stronger and more accurate arm to the air attack. The new BYU offense is expected to be up-tempo and aggressive in its play calling.

A true advantage for the BYU defense is Kyle Van Noy. The All-America candidate finished last season with 13 sacks and is sure to give Utah quarterback Travis Wilson some troubles. However, BYU's defense lost several starters so that leaves some holes for coach Bronco Mendenhall to fill before the season begins.

The rivalry game is never short of excitement, but this year will have even more importance as it is the last season BYU and Utah will play before a two year hiatus. Last year's rivalry game may have been one of the wildest college football games in history. Utah was penalized for celebrating fans rushing the field before time expired, and BYU was given a second opportunity to kick a game-tying field goal. After a season full of kicking woes for the Cougars, the kick hit the left upright and Utah won 24-21. Look for BYU to come out firing, looking for redemption from last season.

Week five: UCLA

Date: Oct. 3, 2013

Location: Salt Lake City

2012 record: 9-5, 6-3 (Pac-12)

All-time series: UCLA 9-2

UCLA is looking at a more difficult football schedule for the 2013 season, however many are saying the Bruins could be even better than last year. The Bruins are hoping for a double-digit win season and another Pac-12 South title.

In his first year starting for UCLA, quarterback Brett Hundley took his team to a 9-5 record and is improving daily.

"I feel so much better and so much more developed along with this team, this offense, every aspect of this team," Hundley said. "I feel like we are much further than we were last spring."

Head coach Jim Mora said no one on his team is satisfied with last year and have a hunger about them to improve in 2013.

When the Utes and UCLA met in 2012, Hundley punished the Utes by passing for 168 yards and a touchdown, plus he rushed for 68 yards and another score. Utah's offense struggled in quarterback Travis Wilson's first career start. Wilson did lead Utah on a 90-yard drive resulting in a one-yard touchdown pass by Jon Hays to Dres Anderson in the final minutes of the game. Besides that final Utes play, Utah's sputtering offense was basically shut out by the Bruins.

Week six: Stanford

Date: Oct. 12, 2013

Location: Salt Lake City

2012 record: 12-2, 8-1 (Pac-12)

All-time series: Stanford 3-2

Stanford isn't known for throwing the ball, but that was one focus during the offseason. Quarterback Kevin Hogan didn't record more than 160 passing yards in his final three starts last season, and Stanford needs more production in the air from him. Hogan also needs a go-to receiver, which he might find in Ty Montgomery who was affected by an injury last season.

Stepfan Taylor, Stanford's elite running back for the past four seasons, will not be suiting up with the team in 2013. He rushed for 4,300 yards and 30 touchdowns in his stint with Stanford, meaning he left a lot of ground for the rest of the running backs to cover in his absence. If Stanford can find an adequate replacement for Taylor, it could have another strong season.

The Utes have not played Stanford since 1996, when the Utes won 17-10. Stanford had an incredible season in 2012, though, ending the season on an eight-game winning streak. Stanford found itself a home atop the Pac-12 when it defeated UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game, 27-24. Hogan went 16-22 for 155 yards in the game as he led his team to victory.

Week seven: Arizona

Date: Oct. 19, 2013

Location: Tucson, Arizona

2012 record: 8-5, 4-5 (Pac-12)

All-time series: Utah 20-16-2

The Wildcats' first year under head coach Rich Rodriguez was a success and, with several returning players, Arizona is predicted to be even more competitive this season.

A problem could arise for the Wildcats at the quarterback position, though. Arizona has five different options at quarterback, and not one really stands out as of yet. Louisiana Tech transfer Nick Isham has the most in-game experience, but that doesn't necessarily make him the best option. Rodriguez has some serious evaluating to do this fall.

Arizona had absolutely disastrous defensive statistics in 2012, and it will have to improve on even just the basics of tackling in order to really compete in the Pac-12 this season. Giving up an average of nearly 500 yards per game to opponents just won't get the job done even if its offense remains as potent as it was last year.

The Wildcats even gave up 449 total yards to a struggling Utah offense last year despite beating the Utes 34-24. Although the Utes' offense is seeing much improvement, Utah will want to avoid a shootout when it visits Tucson in 2013.

Week eight: USC

Date: Oct. 26, 2013

Location: Los Angeles, California

2012 record: 7-6, 5-4 (Pac-12)

All-time series: USC 8-3

USC needs to replace a very important part of its team this season, quarterback Matt Barkley. The replacements include Max Wittek, who filled in nicely for Barkley last year when he went down with a shoulder injury, Cody Kessler and Max Browne. Barkley averaged 291 yards per game in 2012, and there will be a huge void in the potent USC offense if his replacement doesn't step up.

Another huge concern for USC is the health of its players. Twenty players missed the spring game with injury, the result of a physical spring camp. The Trojans were an offense-centric team in 2012 and are looking to pick up their physicality on defense.

When Utah met up with USC last season, it was much closer than most people expected, 38-28, but the Trojan offense was just too much for the Utes. The Trojans gave up two touchdowns to Utah at the very start of the game, but then Barkley and Co. rattled off 28 straight points to take command at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Utah's defense has to stand tough in this one because the USC offense is not easy to keep up with.

Week nine: Arizona State

Date: Nov. 9, 2013

Location: Salt Lake City

2012 Record: 8-5, 5-4 (Pac-12)

All-time series: ASU 18-6

A large part of Arizona State's success last season was the development of quarterback Taylor Kelly. He led the Sun Devils to the second most potent scoring offense in the Pac-12. Kelly is looking take what he learned last year and improve on the foundation he started building.

The main question for ASU in 2013 will be the receivers. The Sun Devils' top two receivers will not return and they will have to find production from the remaining receivers. Evaluating this position will be difficult, but essential for ASU.

When the Utes played ASU in 2012, Kelly threw for a career-high 326 yards and three touchdowns. Arizona routed Utah 37-7 in the Utes' Pac-12 Conference opener. John White struggled throughout the night, only ending up with 18 yards on 14 carries. Meanwhile the defense allowed ASU to go up 21-0 in the first quarter and the Utes could not muster enough offense to recover. Utah will have to get more offensive production from its squad in order to keep up with the Sun Devils this time around.

Week 10: Oregon

Date:Nov. 16, 2013

Location: Eugene, Oregon

2012 Record: 12-1, 8-1 (Pac-12)

All-time series: Oregon 18-8

Oregon is coming off the Chip Kelly era, during which the Ducks had a historic Pac-12 run by winning 33-3 conference games in the last four years. In 2011, Oregon earned a trip to the BCS National Championship and finished the season ranked No. 2. However, that era ended last season and now the Ducks are putting their trust in former assistant coach Mark Helfrich.

Helfrich has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to keep Oregon as an elite college football team, and if he wants the Ducks to remain a competitive team in the Pac-12 and on a national level, he must figure out the defensive line. Dion Jordan and Issac Remington earned all-conference honors in 2012, and the Ducks will be without both for their 2013 campaign. Oregon will have to fill these roles in order to keep a strong defensive presence on the field.

Oregon did not play Utah last year, however it only lost one game throughout the entire season and that game was against Pac-12 champion Stanford. This will be the first meeting between the Utes and Ducks since Utah joined the Pac-12.

Week 11: Washington State

Date: Nov. 23, 2013

Location: Pullman, Washington

2012 Record: 3-9, 1-8 (Pac-12)

All-time series: Utah 7-5

Last year, Washington State tied with Colorado for the worst record in the Pac-12, 1-8 in conference play.

The Cougars struggled in their rush game. Seven times last year, Washington State's rushing yards totaled less than 20, and four of those times the Cougars actually ended up with negative numbers in that column. The offensive line also struggled in 2012, allowing nearly five sacks per game, which ranked 120th in the nation.

In 2012, Utah got the best of the Cougars by completely blowing them out 49-6 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. This was one of the largest margins of defeat for Washington State last year as turnovers and poor offensive play put way too much pressure on its defense.

Week 12: Colorado

Date: Nov. 30, 2013

Location: Salt Lake City

2012 Record: 1-11, 1-8 (Pac-12)

All-time series: Colorado 31-25-3

It's very hard to win a football game without some sort of defensive presence, and Colorado lacked that presence in nearly every game in 2012. Ranked as one of the worst defenses in college football, the Buffaloes allowed an average of 226 rushing yards per game.

New defensive coordinator Kent Baer may prove to be just what Colorado needs, though. He did a good job when he rebuilt San Jose State's defense and will look to do the same in Colorado. Baer will have to rebuild the front seven and spend some extra time with the secondary, which allowed 39 touchdown receptions in 2012.

Last season, Utah got the best of Colorado, which could not stop the Utes' offense. However, Utah allowed Colorado to score 35 points, which was one of the biggest offensive games of the year for the Buffaloes. It should be an easier win for Utah, but the Utes will have to tighten up on defense to keep winning the Rumble in the Rockies.

Utah State Aggies football 2013

USU will take a walk through mostly familiar territory this fall. When the WAC all-but-collapsed after Fresno State, Nevada and Hawai’i accepted invitations to the Mountain West Conference in 2010, Utah State was relegated to playing the likes of UTSA, Texas State and the teams from the WAC the MWC didn’t want.

When USU finally managed to get an MWC invite of its own, the Aggies found their relationships with former WAC schools restored. And, regional rivalries with Wyoming and Colorado State, long abandoned due to the distorted conference affiliation landscape, took their rightful place on USU’s conference slate — a long awaited treat for the faithful of Aggie blue and fighting white.

Here’s the week-by-week breakdown for the teams that USU will face this fall.

Week one: Utah

Date: Aug. 29, 2013

Location: Salt Lake City

2012 record: 5-7

All-time series: 30-76-4

There is no FCS warm-up game in 2013. The Aggies, as in year’s past, will waste no time getting right to the meat of their non-conference schedule. The major difference between this week one matchup and the Auburn and Oklahoma games of 2010 and 2011 is that the Utes have a score to settle.

Last year’s 27-20 overtime win in Logan landed the Aggies square in Utah’s cross hairs to begin this season. The Utes are doubtless hungry to restore their dominance over their brother to the north.

The Utes will be potent offensively. The experience Travis Wilson gained over the second half of the 2012 season will make him much less fragile than Jordan Wynn. The Utes have three solid running backs in Kelvin York, Karl Williams and Lucky Radley with five more nipping at their heels. Their receiving core is also very experienced with Dres Anderson, Kenneth Scott and Jake Murphy. The Aggie D will have its work cut out.

If there’s a weakness in Utah’s game, it’s the defense. The Utes started eight different linebackers in 2012, and things haven’t improved much. There are also a lot of unanswered questions on the defensive line the Utes need to address.

Look for this game to be a shootout.

Week two: Air Force

Date: Sept. 7, 2013

Location: Colorado Springs

2012 record: 6-7

All-time series: 0-1

When USU takes the field against the Academy in September, it will be the first time the two have played since 1969. The Aggies lost that game, also in Colorado Springs, 38-13.

The Air Force Academy under Troy Calhous has a well-earned reputation for being an innovative rushing team in addition to one of the more dangerous threats year in and year out in the Mountain West. Though it has struggled to get into the top tier of the Mountain West after BYU and Utah jumped ship, it is always a force to be reckoned with.

The Aggies rushing defense will be critical in this game. Air Force is deceptive in its formations and play calling, so the ability of the Linebackers to quickly react to whatever the offense throws at them will be that much more important. Jake Doughty and the Vigil brothers (Nick and Zach) will carry the most responsibility.

Air Force, however, is losing eight offensive starters and six defensive starters from a team that went 6-7 in 2013. Chuckie Keeton will also be itching to prove that there was a good reason behind his choice to come to Logan rather than Colorado Springs.

This will definitely be a good game on the ground.

Week three: Weber State

Date: Sept. 14, 2013

Location: Logan, Utah

2012 record: 2-9

All-time series: 1-0

Weber State was simply a mess in 2012. Following the preseason hiring, resignation and departure of former Aggie head coach John L. Smith, the Wildcats barely treaded water in 2012.

This year, the Wildcats are simply seeking stability. They must replace departed senior quarterback Mike Hoke while adjusting to new offensive and defensive coordinators.

Weber State plays a hurry-up, spread-style offense, something former Montana head coach and new offensive coordinator Robin Pflugrad is seeking to maintain with slight modifications. Jordan Adamczyk, Hoke’s 2011 and 2012 backup and this year’s starting quarterback, should do well in the system. Also, Bo Bolen, a recently returned LDS missionary, is looking to take the bulk of the carries after this spring, despite a shoulder operation he underwent in January.

Weber State is a FCS school on the road to recovery. The Aggies will be favored for good reason.

Week four: USC

Date: Sept. 21, 2013

Location: Los Angeles, Calif.

2012 record: 7-6

All-time series: 0-4

The biggest question mark that came out of USC’s spring camp this year was quarterback Matt Barkley’s replacement. In the running are Max Wittek, the man who replaced him last year following Barkley’s shoulder injury, Cody Kessler, a third year sophomore, and Max Browne, a Skyline High School product.

The Trojans, again, have made several staff changes, bringing the total to seven staff changes in two years. Perhaps the most notable of these changes was the removal of Monte Kiffin — head coach Lane Kiffin's father — from the defensive coordinator position, replacing him with Clancy Pendergast.

None of the staff changes will matter, though, if the Trojans can’t stay healthy through the season. Twenty players missed the spring game with injury, largely a result of a very physical spring camp.

Kiffin told the media he would run a physical camp in order to inspire his team to stop the run, saying, “At the end of the day, we were not a physical football team the entire year. You can’t be at USC and give up more yards rushing than you run for.” In 2012, the Trojans were near the bottom of the Pac-12 in run defense and total defense.

USC is by far the school with the largest profile on the Aggie schedule, and unlike in years past, USU will only have one week to prepare — that is unless you consider Weber State a gimme, in which case the Aggies will have two weeks.

Regardless, Trojan head coach Lane Kiffin is squarely on the hot seat this year. A loss against the Aggies would spell almost certain doom for his job but it would do wonders for USU’s national profile. We’ll see if the Aggies can finally get over that hump this year.

Week five: San Jose State

Date: Sept. 27, 2013

Location: San Jose, Calif.

2012 record: 11-2

All-time series: 14-20-1

Aggie fans knew their football team was in for a magical season following the 49-27 offensive drubbing it handed to the Spartans last year. The Spartans, Aggies and Louisiana Tech Bulldogs were the class of the depleted WAC last year, and SJSU is also making the jump to the MWC.

The Spartans are also replacing their head coach following a memorable 2012 season. Mike MacIntyre is now the head man for Colorado, but like USU, a wealth of starters are returning, including David Fales and Noel Grigsby. The offensive line will have four seniors, and their two best linebackers, Keith Smith and Vince Buhagiar, are returning.

This team, with Fales at the helm, will be pass heavy and will likely put more pressure on USU's defensive backs than any other to this point in the year, except perhaps USC. If the Aggies shut the pass down, the Spartans will be in trouble. Still, this team will be itching to prove last season was no fluke and to avenge last year’s disappointing homecoming loss to USU.

Week six: BYU

Date: Oct. 4, 2013

Location: Logan

2012 record: 8-5

All-time series: 34-45-3

Following the early season schedule, the Aggies will return to Logan on LDS General Conference weekend to square off against its other major in-state foe. Every Aggie fan remembers the last time the Cougars visited Logan; Jake Heaps fell apart, Dervyn Speight, Diondre Borel and Kerwynn Williams had a field day, and the Aggies put BYU away before halftime.

Since then the Aggies are winless against BYU and are itching for another chance.

If returning offensive coordinator Robert Anae and quarterback Taysom Hill have anything to say about it, the Cougars’ biggest weakness in 2012, their offense, will be much stronger than it was in 2012. Anae is focusing on the offensive line, and Hill will bring depth and potency to the Cougar offense in a way Riley Nelson never could.

Furthermore, the Cougars will play Middle Tennessee — who joins Conference USA on July 1 — the week before making the trip to Logan, so BYU will have more time to prepare for the Aggies than vice versa.

Make no mistake, this game will be much more difficult to win than the 2010 matchup, but Utah State can win this game if the Aggies win the battle on the lines. The biggest question mark will be the Aggies' pass rush. If USU can get through to Hill, something it couldn’t manage to do in 2012, the Aggies are much more likely to be successful.

Week seven: Boise State

Date: Oct. 12, 2013

Location: Logan

2012 record: 11-2

All-time series: 4-13

Aggie fans were all too happy to leave Boise behind when the Broncos departed for the MWC. Now, they’re grateful to be back in the same league with Boise State.

The Broncos are who the Broncos are — an extremely dangerous team that has built a reputation for its ability to bust the BCS in any given season. Though the Broncos took a step back last year, they are without a doubt back on track.

Quarterback Joe Southwick is the undisputed starter for the Broncos. There are some questions at running back, however. Jay Ajayi, D.J. Harper’s backup in 2012, will likely get the bulk of the carries, but if not, the Broncos have JUCO transfer Derrick Thomas and redshirt freshman Charles Bertoli, both capable rushers in their own right.

The biggest questions for the Broncos are at cornerback and tight end. Four cornerbacks are competing for starting time, but only one of them was in Boise before August 2012. Furthermore, Gabe Linehan, a senior at tight end, was limited during spring camp as he tried to recover from a hamstring injury.

Depth is also an issue for the Broncos. No one is quite sure who will back up Southwick if he goes down, and if any of the corners, linebackers or offensive lineman get hurt, the Broncos could be in trouble.

Week eight: New Mexico

Date: Oct 19, 2013

Location: Albuquerque

2012 record: 4-9

All-time series: 8-11

New Mexico was a rushing behemoth in 2012. It averaged more than 300 yards per contest last year, largely due to the progress its offensive line made over the course of the season. The Lobos appear to have a lot of strong pieces on the ground.

New Mexico is a wreck defensively, however, especially against the pass. The Lobos were last in the conference in pass defense and pass efficiency defense. They do have a stronger defensive line, but this is not unlike any other defense the Aggies faced in 2012.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Lobos couldn’t pass at all last season. They only had five touchdown passes as a team over the course of the season. Head coach Bob Davie put true freshman quarterback Cole Gautsche in for probably the same reason Travis Wilson got so many reps on the hill down the stretch, to gain experience. Just as the Utes had John White, the Lobos had Kasey Carrier, and he was basically the entire offense.

Week nine: Hawai’i

Date: Nov. 2, 2013

Location: Logan

2012 record: 3-9

All-time series: 6-6

One of the few universities in the MWC that was in the old WAC with the Aggies before its 2010 departure, Hawai’i is merely a shell of what it was when it represented the WAC in the 2008 Sugar Bowl.

Warrior Nation had high hopes when Norm Chow left the University of Utah to lead the team following the retirement of Greg McMackin. Those hopes fell flat on their face in Chow’s first season. If you want proof, watch a replay of BYU vs. Hawaii from last season. Taysom Hill and Jamal Williams shredded the Warrior defense in nearly obscene fashion.

Hawaii went from having no real quarterback to having a lot, though the only one to take seriously is Taylor Graham, though Jeremy Higgins, younger brother of former Weber St. standout Cameron Higgins, is waiting in the wings. Should Graham get hurt, it will be interesting to see who backs him up.

Week 10: UNLV

Date: Nov 9, 2012

Location: Las Vegas

2012 record: 2-11

All-time series: 13-7

Aggie fans remember the 2012 UNLV-USU football game in Logan — it was the whiteout game, and it was Aggie domination through and through.

UNLV is a team in perpetual struggle. In many ways, it is reminiscent of the Aggies before Gary Andersen came to town. The good news is it will have virtually everyone back that played last year. Quarterback Nick Sherry and all of his receivers are returning, as is basically the entire defense. Overall only two starters from last year are gone.

The Rebels recruited depth for this year in the form of junior college transfers. If the first string doesn’t get it done, someone will have to. This rough-and-tumble team regularly got knocked left and right last year, so if its going to succeed, it will need to show a lot more mental toughness.

Regardless, head coach Bobby Hauck has been in Vegas long enough for his system and players to be in place. If they don’t do better this year — and it’s not very likely UNLV will get 10 wins — Hauck might be on the hot seat.

Week 11: Colorado State

Date: Nov. 23, 2013

Location: Logan

2012 record: 4-8

All-time series: 31-36

Before continuing, watch Jake Doughty level CSU’s kicker. OK. We good? Awesome.

After 2011’s heartbreaking loss, the Aggies left no doubt in 2012. They were faster, quicker, smarter, stronger and better. The Rams struggled with any sort of rushing attack, and their offensive line hasn’t been stellar, either.

Like UNLV, the Rams return a load of players from last year. In all, 19 starters will return for Steve Fairchild. The biggest difference is that CSU managed to get some respectability by winning its final three games of the season, despite the fact it was nowhere near a bowl berth and the teams they beat were not very good.

Week 12: Wyoming

Date: Nov. 30, 2013

Location: Logan

2012 record: 4-8

All-time series: 35-24-4

Few things went right for the Cowboys in 2012, as injuries played a key part in Wyoming's struggles.

One of the bright spots this season for the Cowboys, though, is the return of junior quarterback Brett Smith. Over the final five games of last year, he threw 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. Overall, Smith completed 205-of-330 passes for 2,832 yards and 27 touchdowns, with just six interceptions. This all came while missing time due to injury.

Wyoming will need to find some talent to complement their emerging gun slinger, and keep those players healthy. On offense, the Cowboys have experienced veterans Robert Herron (wide receiver) and Brandon Miller (running back), while the defense will be bolstered by a secondary that returns five players with starting experience.

Last year, the Cowboys had seven games determined by a touchdown or less and lost three. If Wyoming can learn from these close calls, the Cowboys could enjoy a much more successful 2013 campaign.