- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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We continue our series taking a closer look at each Pac-12 team's nonconference schedule.
Utah State, Aug. 29
Coach: Matt Wells, first year
2012 record: 11-2, 6-0 WAC
Returning starters: eight offense, seven defense
Defensive headliner: Defensive end Connor Williams started all 13 games last season and earned all-league honorable mention, notching 32 tackles and seven for a loss. He also led the Aggies with six sacks.
The skinny: The Utah State game last year was when it all started to unravel for the Utes. Week 2, Jordan Wynn went down (unfortunately, for the final time), the offensive line looked atrocious and the Aggies won 27-20 in overtime, ending a 12-game losing streak to the Utes. As noted yesterday, the Aggies were a legit non-BCS program under Gary Andersen, so we'll see if Wells can keep it going.
Weber State, Sept. 7
Coach: Jody Sears (2-9), second year
2012 record: 2-9, 2-6 Big Sky
Returning starters: seven offense, seven defense
Offensive headliner: Running back Bo Bolen was all-conference as a freshman and sophomore, averaging nearly 151 all-purpose yards in his first two seasons.
Defensive headliner: Linebacker Anthony Morales returns after earning all-league honorable mention last season. A two-time team captain, the senior led the conference with an average of 12 tackles per game.
The skinny: The Wildcats are replacing Mike Hoke, a two-year starter at quarterback. The competition is still on between senior Jordan Adamczyk and JC transfer Alfonso Medina. Whoever wins the job will be working with new offensive coordinator Robin Pflugrad (formerly of ASU, Washington State and Oregon). The last time the teams met was in 2008, when the No. 17 Utes won 37-21 behind a pair of touchdowns from Brian Johnson.
at BYU, Sept. 21
Coach: Bronco Mendenhall (74-29), ninth year
2012 record: 8-5, Independent
Returning starters: eight offense, six defense
Offensive headliner: BYU's top receiver the last three years, Cody Hoffman, is back for a fourth season after catching 100 balls for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's on pace to become the school's all-time leading receiver in catches, yards and touchdowns.
Defensive headliner: Outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy is one of the best in the country at his position, finishing tied for second in the nation last year in sacks and fourth nationally in tackles for a loss.
The skinny: Van Noy is a game-changer, and his return is a significant boost to a BYU defense that has to replace three starters along the defensive line. There is some mixing and matching to be done on the offensive line, but they'll be blocking for very good runners in Jamaal Williams and Michael Alisa. There is plenty of talent to do some damage against a schedule that includes Boise State, Texas, Wisconsin, Nevada and Notre Dame.
Thoughts: Week 1 will be critical. We need to see how the defense comes together with the new-look line and the Aggies will certainly provide a challenge there. Again, this isn't a low-level team and after winning last year, you can be sure they have developed a taste for it. Weber State isn't much of a threat and will likely provide a good opportunity to work out any Week 1 kinks that showed against Utah State. Obviously, the Holy War is the marquee game on the nonconference schedule -- especially since it goes on hiatus and bragging rights will linger. This rivalry is as heated as any in the country, and after last year's wild ending, tensions should be at a fever pitch. It took aligned stars for a good Utah State team to beat the Utes in overtime last year and with some more stability at quarterback and on the offensive line (keep an eye on LT Jeremiah Poutasi, who could be the league's next great lineman), the Utes should be better on offense. No one needs to be told how big BYU is. One game is an obvious win, the other two are "should" wins. Coming out of nonconference play at 3-0 wouldn't surprise me. But then again, neither would 2-1. 1-2 might.