COUGAR TRACKS

BYU-Baylor Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

Oct 16, 2021, 1:41 AM | Updated: 1:49 am
Baylor - McLane Stadium...
WACO, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 23: The Baylor Bears marching band performs before a game between the Texas Longhorns and the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

WACO, Texas – The third meeting all-time between BYU and Baylor has the potential to be one of the best games on the Week 7 college football schedule. There’s a lot of excitement and buildup for this game, and the atmosphere at McLane Stadium should be off the charts.

BYU and Baylor have split the previous two meetings that took place in 1983 and 1984. First, Baylor took down Steve Young and the Cougars here in Waco in ’83, Robbie Bosco got revenge in Provo during BYU’s National Championship season in 1984.

This series was initially scheduled in 2016 with no idea that these two programs would eventually become conference mates. Baylor will make a return trip to BYU in 2022 before the Cougars enter the Big 12 one year later in 2023.

Both teams come into this game with 5-1 records. BYU is looking to bounce back after a surprising loss to Boise State last week. Baylor had an explosive offensive outing against a stingy West Virginia defense a week ago.

No. 19 BYU vs. Baylor

Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. (MT)

TV: ESPN

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 under Kalani Sitake plays great as an underdog

BYU enters today’s game as a touchdown underdog to Baylor. That feels a little bit higher than expected. But that’s okay with BYU. Dating back to 2019, BYU has won six of their last seven games as an underdog. The lone loss in that stretch was a home setback to Washington.

The wins include four victories over Power Five opponents, two of them coming against Utah and Arizona State this year.

Sitake’s BYU teams always get up for the big stages when presented in front of them. This is an excellent stage, so look for BYU to play a lot better than what they showed against Boise State a week ago.

2. Jaren Hall is “completely healthy”

Earlier this week, BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said in passing that his starting QB, Jaren Hall, is “completely healthy now, ready to roll.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by KSL Sports (@kslsports)

Hall returned last week for his first start since September 18 from a ribs injury that sidelined him for two games against USF and Utah State. Hall, at times, looked to avoid running with the football despite throwing for a career-high in passing yards.

If he’s completely healthy, as Roderick suggested earlier this week, you would have to think Hall will make a game-changing play or two on the ground. When he runs and gets out in the open field, it’s easy to draw comparisons to former BYU star Taysom Hill with how athletic he is when making plays.

3. The Big 12 Conference is a perfect fit for BYU

Stopping by the Big 12 headquarters on Friday and checking out Baylor’s campus and the city of Waco, the vibe of the Big 12 Conference fits BYU sports. BYU has a strong presence with its fan base here in the state of Texas. It’s one of the reasons why today’s game will be a sellout.

The hospitality down in this part of the country, along with the Christian values, just come off as a great fit culturally for BYU in the future in this league. And it should have people excited for the day when BYU and Baylor are squaring off with conference championships on the line.

Two BYU vs. Baylor Questions

1. Will BYU’s defense be able to get off the field on third down?

BYU currently ranks 103rd nationally in first downs allowed by a defense. The Cougars have given up 131 first downs to their opponents this season. That’s an average of nearly 22 first downs per game.

The last three weeks have seen BYU’s defense give up long, time-consuming drives to their opposition. If BYU gets Baylor’s explosive offense in a third and long situation, they have to find a way to get off the field.

Baylor is the best offense BYU will face to date this season, and the Cougars won’t have the comfort of having The ROC behind them when things get tough.

Linebacker Chaz Ah You has settled into his new role moving from safety into the box; look for him to be a key contributor in this game defensively. Also, cornerback Kaleb Hayes has been a two-time Defensive Player of the Week for the past couple of weeks. He will likely have the tall order of going up against Baylor’s big-play threat receiver in Tyquan Thornton. Hayes has been tested a lot but has found ways to come up with deflections and pass breakups to avoid the big plays over the top on BYU’s defense.

2. Who will be the unlikely hero?

To pull off an upset on the road, you need players to outperform what they’ve typically produced each week to this point of the season. So who will be those guys for BYU today against Baylor?

I look for Puka Nacua to have a big game. The former Washington transfer is going up against a Baylor defense that is 16th nationally in passing yards allowed. They are good. But they haven’t faced a receiving unit like BYU’s. Nacua is atop many opposing teams scouting reports, but he loves the big stage and the opportunities for one-on-one battles. His older brother, Samson, has hauled in two touchdowns so far; Puka has yet to get one. Look for that to change today.

Another name that I’m curious to watch for is Jackson McChesney. This week, will he get some run after Lopini Katoa had two fumbles in the loss against Boise State?

One Score Prediction

This is a fantastic matchup with a ton of storylines. These are the type of games that make our jobs in the media easy to cover, as the stories write themselves. But the biggest story of them all is BYU going into the heart of Big 12 country and coming away with an upset victory.

I’m predicting they will pull it off.

BYU has the best offense Baylor will have seen so far this season. I fully expect the Cougars and Bears will get their fair share of explosive plays in this one. But BYU will be that “bully” Baylor head coach Dave Aranda referred to them earlier in the week. BYU wins at the line of scrimmage, allowing for their skill players to find success. I’m calling for the upset.

BYU 28, Baylor 23

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.

  • BYU Cougars Scoreboard

  • BYU Cougars Team Leaders

  • BYU Cougars Standings

Cougar Tracks

BYU Football - Jackson McChesney...
Mitch Harper

Three Observations From No. 13 BYU’s Comeback Win At USC

BYU comes away with a big win to take down the Trojans. Here are three observations from the 13th ranked Cougars' victory.
5 hours ago
BYU Football - USC...
Mitch Harper

BYU Football Proves They Are The Best Out West Once Again In 2021

BYU closed out the regular season with their 10th regular-season victory, putting them among the best out west.
5 hours ago
BYU Football - Kalani Sitake...
Mitch Harper

BYU Vs. USC: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

It's gameday! No. 13 BYU takes on the USC Trojans in the historic LA Memorial Coliseum.
1 day ago
BYU Basketball - Te'Jon Lucas...
Mitch Harper

Three Observations From BYU’s Physical Win Over Texas Southern

Guard Te'Jon Lucas is among the observations from BYU's win against Texas Southern.
4 days ago
BYU - USC - Football...
Mitch Harper

Looking Back On BYU Football’s History Against USC

Saturday's matchup in the Coliseum will be the latest in a series that has produced some memorable moments.
4 days ago
BYU Football - Puka Nacua...
Mitch Harper

BYU/Georgia Southern: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

No. 14 BYU is back in action. It's their fourth trip to the Peach State, first meeting against the Eagles of Georgia Southern.
8 days ago
BYU-Baylor Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction