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Game-By-Game Predictions For 2021 BYU Football Season

BYU Football players carry out flags onto the field at LaVell Edwards prior to game against Troy Trojans. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – The 2021 BYU football season is upon us. This week, BYU will kick things off against the Arizona Wildcats at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

This is an intriguing year for the Cougars as they look to follow up a remarkable 11-1 record from a season ago. And prove that the success wasn’t simply due to the weak schedule that it was a shift in BYU getting back to its winning ways on a national scale.

Predictions for BYU football in 2021

The schedule is definitely tougher this season. Anyone you talk to around the BYU program this year acknowledges that. Seven Power Five programs appear on the slate, with three of those seven –all from the Pac-12 Conference– right out of the gates in the opening weeks of the season.

With game week here, it’s time to make some game-by-game predictions.

Sept. 4, 2021: vs. Arizona Wildcats (in Las Vegas)

Whenever BYU has a new offensive coordinator with Kalani Sitake as the head coach, count on the Cougars opening the season with Arizona. It’s the third time during Sitake’s tenure with BYU. The Cougars are 2-0 in the previous matchups.

This Arizona team is building from the ground up. They might be one of the bottom feeders in Power Five football this year. But, BYU will have a sea of royal blue behind them in the 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium. It could go down as the largest gathering of BYU football fans outside the state of Utah in program history.

Arizona has a solid secondary that could pose some challenges for quarterback Jaren Hall. But BYU will wear down the Wildcats in the trenches.

Prediction: BYU 31, Arizona 17

Sept. 11, 2021: vs. Utah Utes

BYU is looking to avoid their 10th consecutive loss to Utah. During this losing streak that dates back to 2010, BYU has lost in every way imaginable to the Utes. So what will it take for them to take down Utah? One, they need to establish the run. BYU has a stable of talented running backs in Tyler Allgeier, Lopini Katoa, Hinckley Ropati, and Jackson McChesney, ready to go.

Also, don’t give up points to Utah’s defense. Two years ago, against another nationally-ranked Utes team, BYU gave up two pick-sixes. During this nine-game losing streak, six of the nine losses have featured Utah’s defense scoring at least once.

A lot of Utah’s success this season rides on which QB Charlie Brewer will be. Is he the one that was brilliant early in his Baylor career, or the one that struggled mightily in a new system a season ago?

BYU has built up their roster to have more success against the Utes, but until they actually break through against Kyle Whittingham, you have to go with the Utes in this game.

Prediction: Utah 21, BYU 19

Sept. 18, 2021: vs. Arizona State Sun Devils

Arizona State is talented enough to be considered the best team in the Pac-12 Conference this year. But the Sun Devils are mired in controversy right now. The NCAA is looking into alleged violations that took place during the pandemic-caused recruiting dead period in 2020. As a result, three assistant coaches are on administrative leave at the moment. But it seems the Sun Devils are willing to sacrifice it all for the chance to win a Pac-12 title this year.

Everyone knows about QB Jayden Daniels. He didn’t make the big leap last year that many expected, but he only played in four games during ASU’s abbreviated season. He has a host of talented skill players led by Rachaad White at RB and Utah transfer Bryant Thompson at WR. Also, keep an eye out for linebacker Merlin Robertson. Once a BYU recruit, he’s one of the top linebackers in the Pac-12.

ASU might be the best team BYU faces at the season’s end, but this being their first road test with the limited coaching staff, I’m calling for BYU to pull off the upset.

Prediction: BYU 34, Arizona State 30

Sept. 25, 2021: vs. USF Bulls

Revenge will be on the mind when BYU hosts USF for the first time in program history. The Bulls shocked everyone upsetting BYU in 2019. This time around, BYU shouldn’t have as many problems with USF. USF is led by former Clemson wide receivers coach Jeff Scott. In 2020, his first season, USF was winless against FBS teams. Expect more struggles for the Bulls in 2021.

They have an intriguing QB in North Carolina transfer Cade Fortin, but he won’t be enough. BYU rolls to an easy win in this one.

Prediction: BYU 38, USF 14

Oct. 1, 2021: at Utah State Aggies

The Battle for the Old Wagon Wheel returns after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Gary Andersen is gone (now working at Weber State), Blake Anderson is in from Arkansas State. Like Jedd Fisch at Arizona, Anderson inherits an Aggie program that starts from the bottom and builds its way back up.

The Aggies should be much improved this season on defense with seniors Justin Rich and Cash Gilliam back at linebacker. The secondary also looks to be a strength as well. But offensively, there are a lot of questions. Utah State will likely turn to Arkansas State transfer Logan Bonner at QB.

A few years ago, people argued that USU was the second-best team in the state, behind Utah. However, things have changed in a hurry.

Prediction: BYU 33, USU 20

Oct. 9, 2021: vs. Boise State Broncos

The storylines are pretty easy to find in this game. BYU crushed Boise last year, giving the Broncos a historic loss on the Blue Turf. Many Boise supporters, including the College Football Playoff Committee, felt that the win wasn’t as impressive as the score would indicate because BSU was down to third-string QB Cade Fennegan (now at BYU).

New Boise head coach Andy Avalos brings in a much-needed jolt of energy and excitement that Bryan Harsin lacked the last few years on the Blue. I don’t know if he can maintain the high level of success his predecessors (dating back to Dirk Koetter) have had at Boise.

I’m curious to see if BYU will face QB Hank Bachmeier for the first time in his career. The previous two years, he’s been out due to injury. BYU football has the better personnel this season again, and it’s in Provo. I’ll give BYU the edge for the third year in a row in this growing rivalry.

Prediction: BYU 28, Boise State 26

Oct. 16, 2021: at Baylor Bears

The first true road game out of Utah comes in mid-October. And it comes against a Baylor program that you would think doesn’t have much intel on BYU. But they might have the most of any of the opponents BYU faces this year.

The Bears hired away offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes into the same role and offensive line coach Eric Mateos. Grimes plans to incorporate the wide zone, play-action offense BYU used during his three years with the Cougars.

The only problem for Grimes is that he doesn’t have a guy like Zach Wilson leading the attack. Baylor gave the starting QB nod to Gerry Bohanaon in camp this month. He’s played in 12 games during his time with the Bears.

BYU football should be better than Baylor, and the Big 12 expansion backdrop adds another juicy storyline to this game. But I could see a streaking BYU come into this game, probably an early kickoff and lose against a staff that will be motivated to take down the Cougs.

Prediction: Baylor 24, BYU 21

Oct. 23, 2021: at Washington State Cougars

When Washington State hired Nick Rolovich after Mike Leach departed for Mississippi State, it felt like a perfect fit for the Palouse. So far, it’s been anything but. Rolovich created some unnecessary drama by not getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The state of Washington is mandating all higher education employees to get the vaccine. Rolovich said he would comply with the mandate.

The best thing for Rolovich is to win some ball games, to get the negative spotlight off of him. His run-and-shoot offense will be led by either Tennessee transfer Jarrett Guarantano or Jayden de Laura. BYU is familiar with de Laura; they recruited him a little bit out of high school.

This is BYU’s first trip to Pullman in program history, and it will be a nice bounceback victory for the Cougs in blue.

Prediction: BYU 41, Washington State 34

Oct. 30, 2021: vs. Virginia Cavaliers 

Bronco Mendenhall makes his first trip to LaVell Edwards Stadium since departing for the Virginia job. He never wanted to face BYU as Virginia’s head coach, but the Cougars had no interest in allowing the Hoos to get out of the game.

Now the game is happening on a Halloween weekend special. Both teams are going to be motivated in this one regardless of the records.

Mendenhall’s best Virginia teams had top-notch QB play with current NFL players Kurt Benkert and Bryce Perkins. Brennan Armstrong is the signal-caller calling the shots in Robert Anae’s offense once again this year. Last season, Armstrong passed for 2,117 yards with an 18-11 TD-INT ratio.

Expect the 3-4 defense from Mendenhall to be a tough out as well.

This will be a great game that should come down to the wire. BYU wins a close one.

Prediction: BYU 28, Virginia 21

Nov. 6, 2021: vs. Idaho State Bengals

If BYU’s in a pinch and needs an FCS team on the schedule, Idaho State is always happy to step in and fill the void. This is the fourth meeting between the two schools since BYU became an Independent in 2011. BYU has scored at least 42 points in the previous three meetings the past 10 years. Expect more of the same.

Prediction: BYU 56, Idaho State 6

Nov. 20, 2021: at Georgia Southern Eagles

BYU takes on another option offense from the Sun Belt Conference. Last year, it didn’t work so well against an undefeated Coastal Carolina team. But BYU tore it up against Navy’s traditional triple-option attack in last season’s opener. Georgia Southern falls somewhere in between.

Head Coach Chad Lunsford has won 25 games in the last three years in Statesboro, which includes two bowl wins. Their best non-conference win in that stretch under Lunsford is probably Louisiana Tech in last year’s New Orleans Bowl.

Replacing a four-year veteran at QB Shai Werts will be a tall order for the Eagles against a BYU football team that I project to be pretty good this season.

Prediction: BYU 35, Georgia Southern 21

Nov. 27, 2021: at USC Trojans

This is a nice feather in BYU’s scheduling cap to make the month of November interesting. Having a crack at USC on Thanksgiving weekend in Los Angeles is a lot of fun. This game could be even more interesting if the Trojans have College Football Playoff aspirations on the line.

This is USC’s best chance since Sam Darnold left to win the Pac-12 Conference. Their league schedule is favorable for once, and they have a lot of their key games in the Coliseum. A place where head coach Clay Helton has had a lot of success. Since he became the head man of the Trojans, Helton is 26-5 in the Coliseum, compared to just 16-13 on the road.

The BYU football program was one of those 13 losses for Helton’s Trojans in 2019. If Kedon Slovis is as good as many believe he can be, USC should win the Pac-12 and have a chance at the Playoff going into the final weekend of the season against BYU.

This USC team is a better one than the group BYU faced in 2019. In large part, because of the personnel, USC has on defense. The nation’s number one recruit in Korey Foreman and Drake Jackson form some of the top pass rushers in all college football.

Prediction: USC 37, BYU 20

Final projected record: 9-3

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 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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