BYU/USF Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction
PROVO, Utah – Another game day has arrived and this week it’s No. 15 BYU vs USF.
When the programs first met two years ago, BYU suffered a shocking defeat to the Bulls. A loss that put Kalani Sitake on the hot seat with a 2-4 record at the midway point of that season.
Since that problematic start two years ago, Sitake’s program has reeled off 19 wins in their last 22 games. BYU has found a winning culture since the last minute with USF. Now revenge will be on the mind when the Cougars host the Bulls tonight at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN2 and KSL NewsRadio.
For USF, the Bulls have gone in a different direction, winning only one game against an FBS team since that surprising victory over BYU. The Bulls come into Provo with a 1-2 record on the season, with their lone win coming against Florida A&M.
No. 15 BYU vs USF
Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. (MT)
Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)
Now it’s time for the 3-2-1 Game Day preview plus a score prediction.
Three Game Day Thoughts
1. BYU should win regardless of who is at quarterback
When Jaren Hall went down last week against Arizona State, the redshirt sophomore quarterback left the game early for the locker room. At the postgame press conference, he made a surprise appearance to tell everyone he just had the wind knocked out of him. And that he would be okay for the USF game next week.
Since last Saturday’s postgame comments, coaches have kept it close to the vest of what Hall’s status is for tonight’s game. If BYU limits Hall or has to turn to Baylor Romney or freshman Jacob Conover, the Cougars should be able to navigate this matchup against USF with a win. The Bulls’ defense has given up 523.7 yards per game and is 125th nationally in total defense.
Last week, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick showed the type of trust he has in Baylor Romney by calling a bootleg pass for him after four hours of no passes to seal the victory over ASU. Roderick and BYU coaches said they believed they had three quarterbacks who could win games for them throughout the off-season.
If Hall cannot play, it’s a missed opportunity for him and the offense to put up big numbers on the scoreboard. Something they have yet to do this season against three Power Five opponents. We will find out tonight what direction BYU goes with Hall’s availability.
2. Run, run, and run the football some more
The best friend to a quarterback room facing some questions is an explosive ground attack. BYU will need to run the ball early and often with Tyler Allgeier. USF uses a unique 3-3-5 defensive scheme has had a demanding schedule to this point of the season, but they haven’t had success stopping the run. The Bulls are 125th nationally in rush defense at 262.7 yards per game.
BYU should look to feed Allgeier a lot in this football game. However, this could also be a game where BYU digs into their depth and shows off RB3 Jackson McChesney and fourth-string ball carrier Hinckley Ropati.
3. Don’t give the underdog any hope early in the game
For home games, the BYU football team stays at the Hyatt Place near Freedom Blvd. During their stay last night, they likely had the chance to catch a glimpse of UNLV putting a scare into No. 22 Fresno State. UNLV came into that game as a 30-point underdog but found themselves with a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Fresno State eventually won the game 38-30, but it was a challenging game throughout for the nationally-ranked Bulldogs.
The last thing BYU wants is for USF to get hope and build momentum early in the football game. Because once a sizable underdog starts to gain hope, it can change the whole outlook of a game and make it far more difficult than anyone expected.
It would be in BYU’s best interests if they jump out to a quick lead and pounce on USF early. Especially if they want to continue a climb up the national rankings.
BYU vs. USF Questions
1. What impact does the injury to Keenan Pili have on the defense?
MIKE linebacker Keenan Pili suffering an ACL tear is a significant setback for BYU’s defense. But it’s not one that the Cougars can’t overcome. Coming into this game against USF, BYU is 29th nationally in scoring defense allowing only 16.7 points per game.
Ben Bywater is stepping into the MIKE spot, a young freshman who has thrived at the Rover spot this season. Bywater, a former Rugby standout at Olympus High, is ready for the spotlight in the MIKE linebacker role in the heart of BYU’s defense.
But as Kalani Sitake pointed out in his weekly press conference, the loss of Pili won’t be replaced by just one player. BYU is all about having hybrid athletes that can play a variety of roles. Does Ilaisa Tuiaki tap into some cross-training that BYU has utilized with their athletes to bring some new faces at linebacker?
2. How many fans will be in attendance?
The last two home games have produced some memorable atmospheres for BYU fans. However, both of those games were against nationally-ranked opponents. So what will the turnout at LES look like tonight for a late-night kick against an opponent that isn’t very good on paper?
The first two games produced a sellout and then attendance of over 61,000. You have to go back to 2013 to find the last time BYU averaged more than 60,000 fans per home contest in a season. So if BYU fans show up for this one, there’s a good chance this could be a massive year for attendance marks that the Cougars haven’t witnessed in a while.
BYU is the better team in this matchup, regardless of who they roll out at quarterback. USF lost one of their top wide receivers to a season-ending injury last week, which doesn’t help their cause. Also, freshman quarterback Timmy McClain is not a complete unknown coming into this game. BYU coaches have film on him and will have a scheme that limits him and this Bulls offense from finding the endzone often.
I expect BYU to build an early lead and to maintain the lead throughout. Look for this to be a huge night for Tyler Allgeier and the BYU defense.
BYU 31, USF 10
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.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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