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Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/LA Tech Game

BYU defensive lineman Zac Dawe makes a play against the Troy Trojans. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – For the second time in as many weeks, No. 22 BYU will play host to a first-time opponent in Provo to an empty LaVell Edwards Stadium. The good thing is that a game is expected to happen. In the world of COVID-19, any game that is played is a significant accomplishment.

BYU has found themselves in the national college football conversation this season with their strong start this fall. But LA Tech comes into Provo with a 2-0 record as well along with an established program identity that is known for competing well against anyone they face. The Bulldogs have won six consecutive bowl games, including a victory in last year’s Independence Bowl over Miami.

LA Tech poses one of the toughest tests remaining on BYU’s light COVID-impacted 2020 schedule. Who comes away victorious on Friday night?

Here are three storylines to watch that could determine who comes away with a victory.

#1 QB Battle: Zach Wilson vs. Luke Anthony

Zach Wilson has kept the game simple and everything around him has slowed down as he’s off to one of the fastest for any quarterback in college football this season, completing 78 percent of his passes.

On the other sideline, LA Tech’s Luke Anthony, a grad transfer from Abilene Christian has emerged as the Bulldogs starting quarterback. Anthony led LA Tech’s comeback against Southern Miss in their season opener.

There’s a lot of similarities between Wilson and Anthony in their styles of play. The biggest difference is that Wilson has had two-plus years of experience in Jeff Grimes/Aaron Roderick’s offense, compared to Anthony who arrived in the summer.

#2 Turnovers

Louisiana Tech has the nation’s longest takeaway streak with 19 consecutive games forcing at least one turnover for their opponent. BYU on the other hand has only had one takeaway this season. The big 48-7 win for BYU over Troy didn’t include any turnovers from the Trojans.

If an underdog is going to hang around against a sizable favorite, turnovers will play a big role. BYU opened last week’s game against Troy with a muffed punt that set the Trojans up in the red zone, but they couldn’t capitalize on any points after turning the ball over on downs.

#3 BYU defensive line against LA Tech offensive line

The BYU defense has been generated pressure on the quarterback a lot more this season. When the three-man rush, it’s a thing of beauty. BYU has nine sacks through two games this season. By comparison to last year, the Cougars had only 12 sacks during the regular season in 2019.

In the first two games, BYU had a decisive advantage in size in the trenches. That’s not the case this week, as LA Tech from a size standpoint alone, can compare with BYU, unlike Navy and Troy.

LA Tech’s starting offensive linemen from right to left are 332, 303, 290, 287, and 353 pounds respectively. By comparison, BYU’s top three linemen in terms of snaps played this season in Zac Dawe, Khyiris Tonga, and Bracken El-Bakri line up at 271, 321, and 286.

Only one of LA Tech’s starting offensive lineman was a starter on last year’s team and that is center Kody Russey. The other four haven’t faced as stiff of a test as the one BYU’s defensive line will provide Friday night. But it should be a step up in competition for both sides of the ball which should make it an intriguing matchup to see who gets the upper hand.

No. 22 BYU vs. LA Tech

Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium (No fans will be in attendance)

Kickoff: 7 p.m., Friday, October 2nd

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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