COUGAR TRACKS

BYU Vs. Liberty: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

Oct 22, 2022, 12:47 AM
Kalani Sitake, BYU Football, Liberty...
BYU vs Liberty could include a heave dosage of Kalani Sitake on the defensive staff for the Cougars. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

PROVO, UtahΒ – For only the second time, BYU vs Liberty will take place on the gridiron.

It’s that annual independence game where you ask, “BYU is playing where?” The Cougs are in Lynchburg, Va., to complete a home-and-home with the Independent Flames. BYU won the first meeting in 2019, with Baylor Romney stepping in at QB to deliver a 31-24 victory.

BYU comes into the game on a two-game losing streak after falling to Notre Dame and Arkansas. Overall on the season, Kalani Sitake’s squad is 4-3.

On the other sideline, Liberty already secured bowl eligibility with a 6-1 record. But they come into the BYU game on the heels of a lackluster win against FCS Gardner-Webb, 21-20.

BYU at Liberty

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

TV: ESPNU

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Extended Pregame begins at 11 a.m.)

Now it’s time for the 3-2-1 game preview for today’s matchup between BYU and Liberty.

Three Game Day Thoughts

1. BYU’s season is on the line in Lynchburg

After a disastrous defensive performance against Arkansas last week, BYU’s season is on the line in Lynchburg today. If Liberty pulls off the upset, BYU will drop to 4-4 on the season. So you might as well fold up shop and start getting ready for the Big 12 era at that point.

Ten wins are still on the table for this BYU if they can run the table in the regular season and win a bowl game. But they will need a complete 180 on defense to give any hope that winning out could be a possibility.

2. Liberty is 114th nationally in 3rd down conversions

Remember that ranking coming into today’s game. BYU’s defense has been under fire this week for their abysmal play on third down the past two weeks. The Cougar defense will line up against a Liberty offense that is down two key receivers and has questions at quarterback.

It feels like there is potential for Liberty to be a one-dimensional offense in this game, which should bode well for BYU. But it’s probably not safe to assume anything with this BYU team.

3. Changes in BYU’s defense

No one has gone on the record to say which coach has what role this week. But it’s expected that Kalani Sitake will be heavily involved with the defensive side of the ball this week.

What impact does his presence make on the defense? It has been a short week for BYU, as they traveled to Lynchburg on Thursday. How much of a turnaround can be expected from a group that has not been sound in many areas defensively since the week two win over Baylor?

One thing that needs to happen is the hockey substitutions have to go by the wayside. When BYU was winning a National Championship in 1984, do you think Kurt Gouveia, Leon White, or Kyle Morrell were coming off the field? Or how about in 2006, with Cameron Jensen, Bryan Kehl, or Jan Jorgensen? Let me answer that for you; they weren’t leaving the field unless they needed a quick breather. Keep the best players on the field at all times unless they need a quick break.

Those players include Max Tooley, Keenan Pili, Kaleb Hayes, Micah Harper, Tyler Batty, and Gabe Jeudy-Lally.

Two BYU vs Liberty Questions

1. How effective is Charlie Brewer at QB for Liberty?

Former Baylor, Utah QB Charlie Brewer has a revenge opportunity against BYU today. Brewer was the QB that BYU faced ending their nine-game losing streak against Utah. He’s working his way back from a hand injury he suffered in week one this season.

Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze said he was “hopeful” that Brewer would be able to play against BYU. Freeze went on to say the former Utah signal-caller wasn’t able to make all the throws that he wanted to see from him to try and win a game against a team like BYU.

If he does give it a go, how effective will he be? That’s going to be a big question. If Brewer doesn’t play, Liberty will likely turn to Jonathan Bennett, who entered the year as the third-string QB for the Flames.

2. What can we expect from the BYU offensive line?

First off, who gets the start at center? Joe Tukuafu stepping in as the starter for Connor Pay was a surprise last week. However, after a game that saw two miscues on center exchanges and a high snap out of the shotgun, it will be intriguing to see the direction Aaron Roderick and Darrell Funk go at that spot today.

The second piece with the offensive line is that they are going up against a Liberty defense that is number one nationally in sacks with 28. They create pressure. Liberty hasn’t faced a great schedule, but they did put together a three-sack performance against nationally-ranked Wake Forest earlier this year.

Jaren Hall has been sacked nine times this season. He took a hard late hit last week on his injured shoulder. Avoiding any further hits to Hall will be critical for BYU’s defensive line.

BYU’s offensive line will have to keep No. 90 Dennis Osagiede and No. 11 Durrell Johnson, in check. Osagiede leads Liberty with six sacks; Johnson has five from the Flames “BANDIT” spot within their defensive scheme.

One score prediction for BYU vs Liberty

BYU/Liberty is a big game for both teams. For BYU, win this one, and you get the season back on track. Lose? It might be time to just turn the page to the daunting challenge of life in the Big 12. For Liberty, this is their Super Bowl.

It’s a big game with jobs potentially on the line in this one.

I’m going bold and calling for BYU’s defensive changes to cause a big turnaround from last week’s disaster against Arkansas. Would all of BYU’s defensive woes suddenly be fixed long-term? Not at all. But for this one day, I’ll call for BYU to rally and step up on defense.

They will have drives where they bend and give up a lot of clock to the Flames. But I’ll call for them to make the necessary plays to not “break.”

Also, Liberty’s offense appears to be one-dimensional coming into the matchup. BYU has shown that they can suffocate offenses outside the Power Five ranks in stretches. Look at USF and the second halves against Wyoming and Utah State.

BYU gets the win and holds Liberty to under 20 points. It would be a solid step toward getting their season back on track.

BYU 26, Liberty 17

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:Β @Mitch_Harper.

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