Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/SDSU Game

Dec 11, 2020, 1:13 PM
BYU - SDSU - Isaiah Kaufusi...
BYU vs. San Diego State Aztecs at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – No. 18 BYU looks to bounceback from its heartbreaking loss last week at Coastal Carolina by hosting old Mountain West rival San Diego State (SDSU). Kickoff between BYU and SDSU is set for Saturday, December 12th at 8 p.m. (MT)

The game will be played at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, marking BYU’s first home game in December. No fans will be allowed to attend. Only families of the players and coaches from both teams will be in attendance.

BYU/SDSU Storylines

This is the 38th meeting all-time between BYU and San Diego State. Last season, the Aztecs took down BYU and suffocated the Cougar offense led by Zach Wilson to only three points. Will BYU be able to get revenge?

#1 Will BYU be inspired to play?

Life comes at you fast when you’re an Independent program not named Notre Dame. BYU went from national darling on a path towards a New Year’s Six bowl to now, what? Coming up one yard short against Coastal Carolina was a gutwrenching loss for the Cougars. How will they respond against San Diego State?

There’s motivation to redeem themselves from the abysmal performance they suffered last year on Montezuma Mesa. Still, the hangover from Myrtle Beach could carry over into this game if BYU allows it.

San Diego State comes into the game with nothing to lose and everything to gain with a chance to knock BYU completely out of the Top 25 rankings.

#2 BYU offense vs. SDSU defense

The No. 7 total offense in the country taking on the No. 3 total defense should make for a fun battle. Last season, BYU coaches drew compared San Diego State’s defense to that of Washington a season ago. This year, under head coach Brady Hoke, the same 3-3-5 defense is being run, and according to BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, the Aztecs are “doing more” in their scheme this season.

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is still considered a candidate for the Heisman Trophy. If he wants any shot of being a finalist for the ceremony, he will need a big game statistically and put up points. It would send a message that the Coastal Carolina game was an outlier and not a true representation for the Cougar offense in 2020.

BYU’s offensive line takes on an Aztec defensive line that has produced 12 sacks this season, led by Jonah Tavai with 3.5 in only seven games.

If BYU’s offense puts up points, it will be a long night for the Aztecs as their offense only averages 26.1 points per game and is 83rd nationally in scoring.

#3 Win the third phase of the game

Special teams can easily be forgotten, but it could play a key role in a game that possibly ends up being close. The Aztecs are 14th nationally in kickoff return yards averaging 26.93 yards per return. SDSU also features the 29th best punt return team.

SDSU punt returner BJ Busbee has taken a punt for a touchdown this season. The same goes for Jordan Byrd in the kick return game. Byrd is averaging 32.73 yards per return. BYU hasn’t turned to punter Ryan Rehkow often this season, but if they do, the punt team will need to be sound in their coverage. Kickoff specialist Jake Oldroyd has been an ace at booming kicks into the back of the endzone this season.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for 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 and the KSL Sports app.

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Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/SDSU Game