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Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/Houston Game

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (Courtesy of BYU Photo)

HOUSTON, Texas – No. 14 BYU travels to Texas to take on the Houston Cougars Friday evening. The game will be played in front of 25 percent capacity at TDECU Stadium in Houston. It’s the first time during this 2020 season that BYU will play in front of fans.

Both BYU and Houston enter the game undefeated. BYU is 4-0, while Houston is only 1-0 after seeing the entire month of September pass by with five different postponements and cancelations.

Here are three storylines going into Friday’s BYU-Houston game that could determine the victor.

#1 BYU/Houston Key to Watch: Not buying into the hype

BYU is coming off a lackluster performance in a win over UTSA. Despite the closer than expected call against the Roadrunners, BYU moved up in the national rankings. Setting the stage for BYU to make a stronger case for a New Year’s Six bowl bid this December. But they have to avoid the hype, and head coach Kalani Sitake is making sure he sends that message to his players.

“I don’t care about hype,” Sitake said this week. “I just want to play our best, and it doesn’t really matter about the rankings. Criticism and praise don’t matter. Those are all distractions … the only answer is that we’ve got to work.”

National talking heads are starting to take notice of BYU. If the Cougars in blue don’t come into Friday with the same energy they had in their first three games, it could lead to a far different outcome than BYU is looking to produce.

#2 Which defense prevents big plays from happening?

Both BYU and Houston feel optimistic about their ability to make big plays on the offensive side. Leaving a big task in front of each defense to try and prevent big plays from happening. BYU QB Zach Wilson has been one of the top signal-callers in college football this season and his go-to target is wide receiver Gunner Romney.

Romney is fourth in the country in receiving yards this season at 453 yards and he’s 11th nationally in yards per reception at 22.65. When BYU is looking to go downfield, they are targeting Romney.

On the ground, Tyler Allgeier has emerged as BYU’s top running back. The former linebacker has shown the inside power everyone knew he had and now he’s showing off much-improved top-end speed. Allgeier is averaging 7.38 yards per carry this season. Good for 10th nationally.

BYU’s defense will look to contain Houston wide receiver, Marquez Stevenson. Stevenson had eight catches for 118 yards in the Coogs first game of the season, including a 41-yard reception. Last week against UTSA, BYU gave up six passing plays of more than 20 yards.

#3 Zach Wilson looks to continue hot streak

The star junior quarterback was a bright spot during BYU’s underwhelming win against UTSA. Wilson passed for 292 yards and completed 73 percent of his passes.

Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen was impressed with Wilson and noted, “he just doesn’t make mistakes.” Wilson was under pressure against UTSA and found ways to evade the rush and avoid being sacked. He hasn’t thrown an interception since week one against Navy and that was due to his wide receiver slipping on his route.

Houston’s secondary will be the best secondary Wilson goes up against to date this season. Ole Miss transfer Deontay Anderson is one of the top safeties in the American Conference, but he left last week’s game against Tulane after playing only a handful of snaps. Holgorsen said earlier this week that he has “15 to 20 players” this week who face nicks and bruises, and he’s not sure who will play on Friday.

BYU will look to avoid having Wilson run and if he gets the time necessary from his offensive line that could have center James Empey back this week, he has the potential to throw darts all over the field on Friday night.

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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