Plenty of intrigue in rare non-conference tilt with BYU

BY foxsports • July 26, 2013

This is the ninth in a 12-week Friday series looking at the Wisconsin football team’s 2013 opponents. 
As a West Coast nonconference opponent, BYU's football program may be unfamiliar to most Wisconsin fans. Fortunately for the Badgers, the man tasked with knowing the most about BYU already has plenty of intimate knowledge of the Cougars.
That man would be first-year Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, who has spent nearly his entire coaching career in Utah. The past four seasons, Andersen coached at Utah State, competing for recruits directly against BYU. During that span, Andersen also went 1-3 against the Cougars in games. Last season, BYU was one of two teams to beat Utah State -- Wisconsin was the other.
And there is even more recent history between Andersen and BYU. One of Andersen's sons, Chasen, was released from his scholarship at BYU and transferred to Wisconsin to play for his father as a linebacker. He'll take a grayshirt season and join the team in January.
Needless to say, there is significant intrigue for BYU's Nov. 9 game at Camp Randall Stadium. It provides Wisconsin with a rare opportunity to step out of conference play late in the season against a quality opponent.
BYU plays as an independent football program and has put together one of the toughest schedules in program history. The Cougars will play Virginia, Texas, Utah, Utah State, Georgia Tech, Houston, Boise State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame, among others. 
Last season, BYU finished 8-5 and won the Poinsettia Bowl against San Diego State, 23-6. So the Cougars are used to recent success and likely won't be intimidated in Camp Randall Stadium after playing such a demanding schedule.
Personnel: The success of BYU's offense will hinge on sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill. Last season, he played in six games with two starts before suffering a knee injury. During that time, Hill completed 42 of 71 passes (59.2 percent) for 425 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 336 yards with four touchdowns and finished as BYU's second-leading rusher despite missing half the season. 
Hill will benefit from wide receiver Cody Hoffman's decision to stay for his senior season. Hoffman is on the Biletnikoff watch list after snagging 100 catches for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Four times, he caught at least 10 passes and eight times he tallied at least 100 yards in a game. 
Leading rusher Jamaal Williams, a sophomore, also returns following an impressive freshman campaign. He gained 775 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. He also added 27 receptions for 315 yards and a score. 
Defensive back Daniel Sorensen leads a BYU defense that allowed just 14.0 points per game last season -- third in the FBS. Sorensen registered 68 tackles with three interceptions. Linebackers Spencer Hadley and Kyle Van Noy also return. Hadley tallied 55 tackles, including nine for a loss. Van Noy, meanwhile, finished with 53 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and six forced fumbles. 
Fun fact No. 1: Wisconsin and BYU have played just once, back in 1980, when BYU won 28-3. BYU went on to finish the season 12-1, including a 46-45 victory in the Holiday Bowl against SMU. The game would become known as the "Miracle Bowl" because BYU trailed 45-25 with four minutes remaining before staging a remarkable comeback. Wisconsin finished the 1980 season 4-7. 
Fun fact No. 2: Last season, Wisconsin ranked 13th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 236.4 yards per game. The Badgers will try to use their running game just as effectively in 2013, but that could prove especially difficult against the Cougars. BYU finished last season ranked second nationally in rushing defense (86.9 yards per game). BYU allowed just five rushing touchdowns all season, second only to Notre Dame's four. As a means of comparison, Wisconsin rushed for eight touchdowns alone during its Big Ten championship game victory against Nebraska. Only six teams in the country allowed single-digit rushing touchdowns for the season in 2012. 
Just missed: BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen have crossed paths as opposing coaches over the years. But the two were nearly coaches on the same team. Mendenhall served as a linebackers coach and then defensive coordinator at Northern Arizona from 1993-94 before leaving for Oregon State. Andersen arrived at Northern Arizona in 1995 as a defensive line coach and worked there for two seasons. 
Prediction: Wisconsin 14, BYU 10

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