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Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/USF Game

Aug 31, 2022, 9:12 PM
BYU Football, Christopher Brooks...
BYU football running back Christopher Brooks completed day one of fall camp on August 4, 2022. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
(Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

TAMPA, Florida – Saturday, September 3, will mark the third BYU/USF meeting on the gridiron. It’s the first time these teams are opening a season against one another.

Heading into Saturday’s matchup, BYU enters the game ranked No. 25 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll. The first time since 2009 that the Cougars are ranked entering a season.

Meanwhile, USF, under third-year head coach Jeff Scott is simply looking for a “breakthrough moment” for his program. The Bulls have won three games in the past two seasons, and only one of those victories has come against an FBS team.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake is entering his seventh season as head coach of the Cougars. Sitake’s team has produced double-digit win seasons in the previous two years.

BYU/USF Storylines

The kickoff for Saturday’s game is 2 p.m. (MT) on ESPNU and KSL NewsRadio. BYU’s last season opener on ESPNU was also an east coast game in 2013 against Virginia. That ended up being a 19-16 loss. BYU will look to avoid a similar fate on Saturday afternoon in Tampa.

Here are three storylines that could determine the winner of BYU/USF.

#1 Status of BYU WRs Gunner Romney, Puka Nacua

Both Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua missed extended time in fall camp. BYU’s staff took an approach to give proven players extra rest in camp. But Romney and Nacua’s absences were consistent compared to other players who would miss a day here and there. 

Romney told the KSL Sports Zone that he was “hopeful” he would play on Saturday and that it was a health issue he was navigating.

There hasn’t been any comment on the status of Puka Nacua. BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said Tuesday he was still waiting on one or two players to hear if they would be available or not but didn’t give specific names.

BYU has the depth at wide receiver behind Romney and Nacua to still put up yards through the air if both miss the game. The following players in line would be fourth-year sophomore Keanu Hill and redshirt freshmen Chase Roberts and Kody Epps.

In last season’s BYU/USF game, Romney and Nacua combined for nine receptions for 221 yards and one touchdown.

#2 The elements

Humidity won’t faze the USF Bulls, but could it cause issues for BYU? That’s a question going into this game.

BYU opted not to ramp up the heat in their Indoor Practice Facility to simulate extreme humid conditions, focusing more on proper hydration.

But the possibility of afternoon thunderstorms could end up being an even bigger issue.

BYU and USF coaches have discussed potential strategies if there is a lightning delay that slows down the action. The last time that happened for BYU was in 2019 against Utah, a game that BYU lost 30-12.

#3 Impact of Transfer Portal players

BYU and USF have some new faces that are expected to be significant contributors this fall for each team.

For BYU, the Cougars are looking for Cal grad transfer Chris Brooks to fill the shoes left behind by Tyler Allgeier, who is now with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

Brooks picked BYU without visiting the campus because he loved the offense through watching numerous cutups of BYU games due to how frequently they played Pac-12 teams. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound ball carrier appears to have chosen wisely because he has fit in exceptionally well in BYU’s wide zone attack.

Along with Chris Brooks, five-star Oregon offensive tackle Kingsley Suamataia is a strong candidate to get the first snap at right tackle on Saturday afternoon. 

Suamataia received praise for his “freakish athleticism” from Aaron Roderick.

At USF, the Bulls are led by Baylor QB transfer Gerry Bohanon. The moment Bohanon picked USF out of the Transfer Portal, you knew he was going to win the job. That caused QB Timmy McClain to leave and transfer up I-4 to UCF.

Bohanon gives Jeff Scott his first signal-caller, that is a proven commodity, who’s won games, and has belief that he can play at a high level on this stage. But at the same time, he did get beat out by Baylor QB Blake Shapen, causing him to transfer in the first place.

Bohanon knows BYU’s personnel, having faced them last year while at Baylor. He hasn’t seen linebacker Keenan Pili before, who was out for that game with an ACL injury.

How new USF OC Travis Trickett utilized Bohanon in game one will be something to monitor.

No. 25 BYU vs. USF

Date: Saturday, September 3, 2022

Kick: 2 p.m. (MT)

Location: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Florida)

TV: ESPNU

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

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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Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/USF Game