Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU-Virginia

Oct 28, 2021, 10:08 AM | Updated: 10:57 am
BYU Football - Tyler Allgeier...
PROVO, UT - OCTOBER 9: Tyler Allgeier #25 of the BYU Cougars adjusts his head phones during warm ups before their game against the Boise State Broncos October 9, 2021 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – The Cougars broke the losing streak last week against Washington State and now await their toughest game remaining on the schedule this season.

Former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall and his Virginia Cavaliers come to Provo for a long-awaited reunion. Emotions will be high this weekend as one of BYU’s greatest head coaches faces off with the guy leading them to new heights.

BYU vs. Virginia

#25 BYU enters this game 6-2 after the win against the Cougars last week. They lost James Empey and Gunner Romney in that game, and both players are doubtful for Saturday’s contest. The Cougars have a shot at their 5th win over a Power 5 opponent this season.

Virginia also enters the game at 6-2 after a win last week against Georgia Tech. The two losses came against North Carolina and Wake Forest. Virginia has a high-powered offense led by quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who is 1st in the nation in passing yards and 5th in passing touchdowns.

It will be a battle on Saturday night in Provo. Here are three storylines that could determine the winner of BYU vs. Virginia.

Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner

1) Bronco’s Return to Provo

At his introductory press conference in 2015, Bronco Mendenhall stated he never wanted to play BYU as the head coach at Virginia. Well, here we are. Whether he likes it or not, the Cavaliers are travelling west to Provo and Mendenhall makes his return to BYU as the former head coach.

How will the reception be at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday night? Mendenhall spent 11 seasons at the helm of BYU Football, leading the team to a 99-43 record, five 10+ win seasons and a bowl game in every season under his leadership. He’s the second-best head coach in BYU history (#1 is untouchable, the dang stadium commemorates his legacy).

So will fans welcome back an all-time coach who led an incredibly successful decade for the Cougars? I’d expect so. Six years has allowed for the harsher feelings towards Mendenhall after his departure to dissipate and transform into gratitude. Kalani Sitake has this program ascending in the world of college football, but there were growing pains. Mendenhall’s consistency should be appreciated by fans.

Emotions will be high on Saturday night. Although a handful of players for BYU were recruited by Bronco Mendenhall, none actually played for the former head coach. Both sides want to get a win for their guy. Can Mendenhall get past his former team? Can Kalani win head-to-head against his predecessor? Should be a fun game on a late night in Provo.

2) Which Offense Can Impose Their Will?

Virginia has one of the best offenses in college football. The Wahoo’s are second in the country in passing offense, they average 37.6 points per game and convert 48% of their third downs.

Quarterback Brennan Armstrong is underrated in the world of college football. He is PFF’s fourth-highest graded quarterback, with an offense grade of 91.9. Armstrong does everything for the offense, averaging over 400 passing yards a game and accounting for 28 touchdowns this season.

Virginia can put up points, but they’ll face a defense that has held Power 5 opponents to just 21.4 points per game. The “bend-don’t-break” philosophy has worked so far, but BYU has allowed a 44% conversion rate on third down. If Virginia can keep the ball moving, it could be a long night for the Cougars.

BYU doesn’t have the same type of offense as Virginia, but they have a winning strategy. BYU is at it’s best when they’re running the ball well and controlling the clock. Averaging 163 rushing yards per game, the Cougars want to control the line of scrimmage and impose their will over four quarters.

Tyler Allgeier is one of the nation’s best running backs and got back to his dominant ways last week with 191 rushing yards. Jaren Hall is playing efficiently and not making too many mistakes. Hall has a 86.7 offense grade from PFF, 17th among quarterbacks, and is completing almost 65% of his passes. BYU has won by playing clean football; they have a turnover margin of .88 which is tied for 15th in the nation.

BYU’s best offense on Saturday will be defense. Keeping Armstrong and the offense off the field will be the key to a victory. The Cougars will look to establish the run, sustain long drives and consistently come away with points on their possessions. If the game plan works, it will be a tough test for the Cavaliers.

3) Special Season on the Line for BYU

BYU enters this game 6-2 on the season with just four games remaining before their bowl game. With two of those games coming against Idaho State and Georgia Southern, it’s reasonable to expect the Cougars to reach that 8 win mark during the regular season.

The opportunity at back-to-back 10 win seasons comes down to winning at least one of the regular season contests against Virginia and USC. The Trojans are 3-4 on the season and may be entering the final game of the season against BYU with bowl eligibility on the line. Who knows how motivated USC will be for a non-conference matchup to end an up-and-down season with more change on the horizon.

This Virginia team will be one of the best teams BYU will face this season. Other than the Utah game, the emotions of this game standout above the rest. A win on Saturday night will set-up the Cougars for a potential four-game winning streak and a 9-2 record headed into that Thanksgiving weekend match-up in LA. You can’t look too far ahead if you’re BYU, but the season more or less comes down to this game.

BYU vs. Virginia takes place in Provo, UT at LaVell Edwards Stadium on October 30th. Pre-game coverage begins at 6 p.m. (MDT) on KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM. Kickoff is at 8:15 p.m. (MDT). Don’t miss Cougar Sports Saturday with Mitch Harper and Matt Baiamonte from 12-3 p.m. (MDT).

Dallen Graff is a KSL Sports Contributor. He is the Producer of Cougar Sports Saturday (SUBSCRIBE) on KSL NewsRadio. Follow him on Twitter.

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Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU-Virginia