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Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/WKU Game

BYU defensive lineman Bracken El-Bakri makes a play in win over Texas State. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – No. 11 BYU hosts Western Kentucky (WKU) in the first-ever meeting between them on Saturday, October 31st, at 8:15 p.m. (MT). The game will be played at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo in front of an expected crowd of 6,000 fans.

BYU comes into the game with an undefeated 6-0 record. One of only three college football teams right now has started the wild and crazy 2020 season with six consecutive wins. The others are No. 1 Clemson and fellow Independent, Liberty.

Western Kentucky enters the game with a surprising 2-4 record. The Hilltoppers entered this season as a potential Conference-USA title contender after a 9-4 in head coach Todd Helton’s first season.

This game was added to BYU’s 2020 schedule this past August after numerous scheduling changes due to the novel Coronavirus pandemic. BYU will not make a return trip to WKU; this will serve as a “guarantee game” for the Hilltoppers.

Here are three storylines going into Saturday’s late-night BYU-WKU game that could determine the victor.

#1 BYU/WKU Key To Watch: Quarterback Play

Is there anything in college football more important than having a great quarterback? BYU fans are witnessing a revival of the Cougar offensive attack with junior Zach Wilson calling the shots. Wilson got in a modest two and a half quarters of work last week in Texas State win. If BYU continues playing with the efficiency on offense they’ve shown to this point, they should roll once again with Wilson carving up the Hilltoppers.

For WKU, Maryland grad transfer Tyrrell Pigrome a.k.a. “Piggy,” was viewed as a plug-and-play type of quarterback that would fit perfectly into a Hilltopper team returning a ton of experience. The WKU offense has struggled this season, and it led Helton to start backup QB Kevaris Thomas the past two games.

Thomas is injured, which will likely lead to Pigrome returning to the starting role. Pigrome has talent, but he’s inaccurate. He’s completed only 57 percent of his passes this season and has one of the lowest QB ratings this year at 45.5.

#2 Can BYU put it away early?

Against Texas State last week, BYU scored on its first six offensive possessions. Putting the game out of reach at the midway point. With a massive game looming against Boise State, does BYU try to put this game against WKU out of reach early to give the Cougars key players extra rest before a trip to the Blue Turf?

That would be an ideal scenario for BYU as the Cougars are still a banged-up group despite all of the success they’ve experienced. Wide receiver Gunner Romney and center James Empey are still questionable, and breakout defensive stars Tyler Batty and Keenan Pili were out during the game against Texas State.

Along with giving key personnel rest, a blowout win would continue to help BYU’s resume in hopes of maybe, just maybe, making a case for the College Football Playoff. Or at least an at-large spot in the New Year’s Six.

#3 Avoid Penalties

BYU started the 2020 season with only three penalties through the first two games of the season. Now the Cougars are averaging 4.5 penalties per game, which is good for 19th in the country. A significant improvement from last year where they were averaging six penalties.

On the other sideline, WKU is one of the least penalized teams in the country, averaging only three per game, good for third nationally. In games where you’re a large favorite like BYU is heading into Saturday night, avoid the penalties to put yourself in down and distances that are not favorable. BYU has shown they can overcome that with how explosive their offense is, but the point remains, play clean football and use it as a tune-up for Boise State the following week.

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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