COUGAR TRACKS

BYU Vs. Baylor: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

Sep 10, 2022, 1:54 AM
BYU vs Baylor, Jaren Hall...
BYU vs Baylor renews again in Provo for the first time since 1984 tonight as the future Big 12 foes square off as Top 25 teams. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU vs Baylor has all the makings to be a classic.

It’s a Big 12 sneak peek, and it’s a look at two Top 25 teams looking to score a big win in a late-night spot. Last season, Baylor crushed BYU in Waco, 38-24. It was only the third meeting all-time between the two faith-based schools.

The last time Baylor made a trip to Provo was in 1984, BYU’s National Championship season. That game saw BYU defeat the Bears 47-13. So it’s probably a safe bet to think no one will run away with tonight’s game as the Cougars did in ’84.

No. 21 BYU vs. No. 9 Baylor

Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. (MT)

TV: ESPN

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Extended Pregame begins at 6 p.m.)

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

Three Gameday Thoughts

1. BYU can still beat Baylor without Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney

Reports surfaced Friday that Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney would be out for the game. BYU will likely have to dig into their depth at receiver with guys like Brayden Cosper, Keanu Hill, Chase Roberts, and Keanu Hill to carry the load.

But ultimately, this matchup is all about physicality. Establishing the run is going to be critical for BYU. The Cougars, last year against Baylor, averaged 2.2 yards per carry. That was with Tyler Allgeier in the backfield.

The early return on Cal grad transfer Chris Brooks proved impressive last week as he rushed for 135 yards in the 50-21 win over USF. Also, Lopini Katoa has seen a resurgence. Last year, Katoa, a veteran leader on the team, had the mental stresses of his mother having a brain tumor removed. This year, he’s physically and mentally healthy, and he put together an excellent performance last week in Tampa, rushing for 55 yards on 10 carries.

2. BYU’s offensive line can back up the hype tonight

Watching BYU’s offensive line operate against USF, the talent is evident from the opening snap. But can that dominance that BYU’s offensive front showed against USF appear against Baylor?

They received a lot of hype in the offseason for a game like tonight.

Four of the five starters are experienced and have played a lot of snaps together. While the fifth starter, Oregon transfer Kingsley Suamataia, is one of the most athletic offensive linemen BYU has ever had in the program.

Former East High star and one-time BYU commit, Siaki “Apu” Ika will be a handful in the interior of Baylor’s defensive line. Also, watch for sixth-year senior Cole Maxwell off the edge.

3. BYU is a great night game team

During the LaVell Edwards era, the idea of night games was always nerve-wracking for BYU. Back in those days, BYU always played home games at noon. It was a rare day when BYU played a game under the lights. However, a lot has changed since LaVell was roaming the sidelines.

Nowadays, BYU is used to playing night games. BYU has won their last 11 games played at night. The night is when BYU thrives. Last year, their three losses were all played in the daytime.

A 9:15 p.m. central time kickoff has been a big storyline around Texas for the Baylor program. While BYU is used to the long days at a team hotel, Baylor hasn’t dealt with this. They’ll need to get familiar as it will become the norm when BYU joins the Big 12.

Two BYU vs Baylor Questions

1. Will BYU’s defense force takeaways? 

In a toss-up matchup like this, turnovers are a massive piece of determining the winner. Both BYU and Baylor run similar offenses with the wide zone attack, thanks to Baylor offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes who was in the same role at BYU.

BYU’s defense was a no-show last year in Waco, leading head coach Kalani Sitake to call out the lack of physicality from his team. So what tricks do they pull out of the playbook this time around? Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen has elite accuracy. If BYU’s defense isn’t able to make things difficult for Shapen, it could be a long night.

Coming with a turnover or two will be critical to a win for BYU.

2. Is Jaren Hall ready to burst onto the national stage?

National pundits around college football have been sleeping on BYU quarterback Jaren Hall since he took over as QB1 for the Cougars. That’s probably in large part due to BYU’s late games. But even the east coast media can’t turn away from the stage Hall is about to enter for BYU/Baylor.

It’s a high-profile game that poses an opportunity for people to put some respect on Jaren Hall’s name finally. Is the fifth-year quarterback ready? The thought would be, yes. Hall absorbs endless amounts of film study and doesn’t appear fazed by anything. Even he said this week he doesn’t think about the outside noise. But it’s hard to deny that a big game for him against a Dave Aranda-led Baylor defense could do a world of good for not only BYU but Jaren Hall and his NFL draft stock.

One Score Prediction for BYU vs Baylor

Tonight is the game that BYU players have been circling all off-season. Typically that designation would go to rival Utah. But the Utes instead wanted to play Florida. So Baylor takes center stage for BYU as the big revenge opportunity.

That won’t be enough to beat a Baylor team that likely won’t beat itself. Expect a physical football game in the trenches that will leave all the football geeks everywhere marveling at the high level of play from the big guys up front.

I give BYU the slight edge in this one because of QB Jaren Hall. Don’t be surprised if Blake Shapen ends up being one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12 this season; he will be a handful for BYU’s defense. But Hall is the best player in this game. Having the best player at the most important position at home leads me to pick BYU in a close one.

BYU 26, Baylor 24

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 vs Utah State, Wagon Wheel...
Mitch Harper

BYU Vs. Utah State: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

Preview and prediction on the BYU side for tonight's Wagon Wheel matchup.
2 days ago
BYU vs Oregon, Autzen Stadium...
Mitch Harper

BYU Vs. Oregon: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

It's game day! No. 12 BYU versus No. 25 Oregon.
14 days ago
BYU, Big 12 Conference, Kevin Worthen, Tom Holmoe...
Mitch Harper

One Year Later: BYU’s Big 12 Invitation Represents Endless Potential

Over the past year, the significance of BYU's move to the Big 12 has only become more historic.
23 days ago
BYU vs USF, Jaren Hall...
Mitch Harper

BYU Vs. USF: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

After nine months of waiting, BYU football is back.
28 days ago
BYU Football, Kalani Sitake...
Mitch Harper

Game-by-Game Predictions For 2022 BYU Football Season

Making predictions of each of BYU's 12 regular season games on the 2022 schedule.
1 month ago
Jaren Hall, BYU, USF...
Mitch Harper

Revenge Game? BYU QB Jaren Hall Preparing To Face USF Again

Fifth-year quarterback Jaren Hall leads BYU back to the place where he had his first career start, Tampa, Florida, home to the USF Bulls.
1 month ago
BYU Vs. Baylor: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction