PROVO — The 2015 football season is upon us and BYU fans can't wait for it to start. The Cougars are embarking on one of the most difficult schedules in school history, and it begins in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers are in a state of transition after Bo Pelini was fired at the end of 2014. The Cornhuskers also sent two second-round picks to the NFL: running back Ameer Abdullah and linebacker Randy Gregory.
Here are the key stats heading into Saturday:
1. Of the 28 Cougar rushing touchdowns in 2014, only 12 were by current roster players
Even though the majority of the Cougars' rushing touchdowns from a season ago have graduated or are redshirting, Taysom Hill led the team in rushing touchdowns with eight. And he did that in only four and a half games. Adam Hine had two rushing touchdowns, Nate Carter had one and lead-back Algernon Brown didn't have a single rushing touchdown in 2014. The Cougars will need to have an explosive rushing attack if they are to open up the passing game for Hill.
2. The Cougars suffered 22 injuries to starters or significant contributors in 2014
The injury bug hit the Cougars hard in 2014, and it has already hit them during fall camp. Linebacker Colby Jorgensen suffered a fractured neck during camp that could end his football career, and tight end Stephen Richards suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Cougars should be fine for now, but they can ill afford any more major injuries.
3. Nebraska's 17th ranked rushing offense versus BYU's 20th ranked rushing defense
Losing Abdullah is a big loss to the Cornhusker rushing attack. But it shouldn't derail them being one of the top rushing attacks in the country. Nebraska returns an excellent offensive line and junior running back Terrell Newby. The Cougars return one of the best run defenses in the country. Expect them to continue to dominate opposing rushing attacks with head coach and defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall leading the way.
4. Mike Riley's 41 years of coaching experience
It is Riley's first year at the helm in Lincoln, but that doesn't mean he's a step behind other coaches. Of those 41 years, 24 of them were as head coach. Riley spent 14 seasons as the head coach at Oregon State, with three years as an NFL head coach for the San Diego Chargers as well. Riley brings experience and leadership to a team that desperately needed a change. Riley also has a career bowl game winning percentage of .750, which is fifth best in FBS.
5. BYU ranked 119th in penalties in 2014
The Cougars committed 110 penalties, which was good for 6th worst in FBS. The most called penalty on the Cougars was the personal foul, good for 15 yards. The Cougars appeared undisciplined in 2014 in regards to playing smart, clean football. BYU can't afford to give up free yards to a Nebraska team that could have a tough time moving the ball against the stout front seven of the Cougars' defense. Expect Mendenhall's leadership to limit those penalties as well as extreme discipline in individual assignments. Nathan Harker is a sports writing intern currently enrolled at Brigham Young University majoring in broadcast journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @nharker3207.