COUGAR TRACKS

BYU/Georgia Southern: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

Nov 20, 2021, 1:18 AM | Updated: 1:18 am
BYU Football - Puka Nacua...
PROVO, UT - NOVEMBER 06: Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Puka Nacua (12) during a game between the Idaho State Bengals and BYU Cougars on November 06, 2021, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – The first meeting for BYU vs Georgia Southern is on Saturday, November 20, 2021.

BYU is back in action after a much-needed bye week that saw the Cougars play ten consecutive weeks, with six of those games coming against Power Five opposition. They roll into Statesboro, Georgia, with an 8-2 record and ranked No. 14 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings.

BYU is still holding onto an outside shot of qualifying for an at-large spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.

Georgia Southern enters the matchup with a 3-7 record. The Eagles have dealt with adversity this season after firing former head coach Chad Lunsford. GS ended their national coaching search by hiring former USC headman Clay Helton. Helton is already involved with the Eagle program, but he will not be coaching on Saturday against BYU.

This is the first of a two-game home-and-home series. Georgia Southern is scheduled to make a return visit to Provo on October 12, 2024. However, that game is in limbo as BYU is set to join the Big 12 Conference in 2023.

No. 14 BYU at Georgia Southern

Kickoff: 2 p.m. (MT)

TV: ESPN+

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Extended pregame starts at 10 a.m.)

Now it’s time for the 3-2-1 Game Day preview for today’s matchup between BYU and Georgia Southern.

Three Gameday Thoughts

1. Georgia Southern fans are in for a surprise

Social media is not real life. If it were, you’d think the Eagle fans were the ones who gobbled up all 25,000 of the tickets in Paulson Stadium. But, instead, they are probably in for a road contingent they’ve never witnessed in person before.

BYU fans pride themselves on the “Every Game is a Home Game” mantra. It feels as though it has ramped up this year due to all the recent success Kalani Sitake’s program has experienced, paired with the current Big 12 invitation. As a result, BYU fans are more excited than ever before.

I’m not sure how many fans in attendance on Saturday afternoon will be BYU faithful, but it wouldn’t shock me if 10,000 Cougar fans invade Statesboro. Baylor felt pretty excited about their sellout for homecoming; little did they know it was 40% BYU fans in the crowd.

BYU made up nearly one-third of the crowd at Washington State and don’t forget the Arizona game in Las Vegas, that was four or five BYU fans to every one Wildcat fan.

2. Only one more year of random November games as an Independent

You’ll never see me complain about college football. When it’s the dog days of May, I’d be chomping at the bit for a random BYU/Georgia Southern game. With that said, is anyone going to miss these random road trips an Independent BYU has to make in November?

Whether it’s Las Cruces, Amherst, San Jose, or Statesboro, these types of games highlight the difficulties of Independence. While many Power Five teams in the CFP rankings are in the thick of conference title races, BYU has fallen off the grid for three weeks.

The saving grace this time around for BYU is that there is only one more year of this before going into the Big 12 Conference in 2023.

3. Let it fly

Georgia Southern’s pass defense is brutal. The Eagles come into the game 126th nationally in passing yards allowed, giving up 292.7 yards per game. Maybe you could chalk it up to the fact that they face a run-heavy triple-option in practice every day. Regardless, this is an opportunity for BYU QB Jaren Hall to put up some big numbers through the air and find the number one target Puka Nacua early and often.

Two BYU vs. Georgia Southern Questions

1. Will BYU’s offense continue the high-level efficiency they’ve displayed the previous two games?

After scoring 66 points on Virginia, then 59 against Idaho State, can BYU’s high-powered offense keep it rolling out of the bye week? Those two games have catapulted BYU up the national leaderboards. BYU is currently 21st nationally in total offense at 451.3 yards per game, and the team passing efficiency is 13th in the country.

I’m sure offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick would like to see the scoring offense higher. It currently sits 74th nationally at 24.3 points per contest, but he’d also be the first to highlight the challenging defenses BYU faced through the first eight weeks.

With wide receiver Neil Pau’u out for this game, WR Puka Nacua is the clear-cut number one target along with Gunner Romney, who was back at practice this week. Samson Nacua and Keanu Hill will also see an increased number of reps with Pau’u out.

Then you can’t forget Doak Walker Award semifinalist Tyler Allgeier who is 420 yards away from tying the single-season record for most rushing yards by a BYU player.

2. Can the BYU defense prevent GS from putting together a long, methodical scoring drive?

Remember in the USF game back in September when BYU was up big and then the Bulls worked their way into the game a little bit by making the unusual decision to run, run, and run some more after being down by a considerable margin?

Well, in that game, BYU’s defense gave up some long time-consuming drives that kept the Cougar offense off of the field and gave USF a chance to be within striking distance late in the game. So how much has BYU’s defense progressed since then? I think quite a bit, considering the Cougars are now only 72nd nationally in first down defense. But that’s still below average.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake has drawn comparisons to Coastal Carolina with GS. The Chanticleers last year had a field day staying on the field, keeping BYU’s offense led by Zach Wilson off the field. Will the Eagles be able to follow a similar recipe?

BYU’s defense led by the linebackers Payton Wilgar and Ben Bywater will have to play downhill and be assignment sound to find a way to get the Cougars off the field when the Eagles are in 3rd down situations.

One Score Prediction

BYU will win this game. But it might be the type of margin that people witnessed against Idaho State. The last time BYU lost a game as a 20-point favorite was in 2014 at home against Utah State. However, history won’t repeat itself in Statesboro as BYU wins by three touchdowns led by the offense.

BYU 37, Georgia Southern 14

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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