BYU vs. West Virginia: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction
Nov 3, 2023, 10:30 PM | Updated: Nov 4, 2023, 8:27 am
(Mitch Harper, KSL Sports)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For only the second time ever, we will get to see a BYU vs West Virginia matchup.
It’s the first time as Big 12 foes. These two programs last met in 2016, during Kalani Sitake’s first season as head coach. West Virginia won that game on a neutral site, FedEx Field, 35-32.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) November 3, 2023
Saturday night will be BYU’s first-ever trip to Morgantown, West Virginia. BYU arrived in town on Thursday night to acclimate to the two-time zone adjustment.
Both teams come into this matchup looking to punch their ticket to the postseason with a sixth victory. BYU and West Virginia are both 5-3. The Cougars are 2-3 in Big 12 play, while West Virginia is 3-2.
BYU vs West Virginia
Location: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium
Kickoff: 5 p.m. (MT)
Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM) — Extended pregame begins at Noon.
It’s time for the 3-2-1 game preview for BYU’s week ten matchup against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Three Game Day Thoughts
1. Bowl eligibility is on the line
This is a big game for BYU and West Virginia. Both teams need one more victory to ensure bowl eligibility. The game might be more significant for BYU because the Mountaineers’ schedule is pretty light down the stretch with games against Baylor and Cincinnati.
For BYU, West Virginia might be one of the better opportunities to get a win in the final four. And the prognosticators don’t like BYU’s chances against WVU. That speaks to how challenging BYU’s final month of the season will be.
2. November means something again for BYU
Outside of the COVID season in 2020, November hasn’t meant much to BYU as an Independent. Instead of lining up for pride, there’s still a lot to play for in the final month of the season.
There’s a chance to move up the ladder in the bowl pecking order for the Big 12. Plus, they have the opportunity to play spoiler for teams that are in the mix to reach the Big 12 Championship game in Arlington. West Virginia, with only two losses in the league, is in the thick of that championship game race. BYU could derail some championship dreams for teams. That’s a fun dynamic that was sorely lacking during the Independent era.
3. Third time to show resilience
BYU has been a resilient football team this year. In the first two losses of the season, BYU bounced back the following week to put together a victory.
What helped those efforts was being at home. That’s not the case here, as BYU enters a venue they’ve never played in. Also, BYU enters this week’s game as a double-digit underdog for the second consecutive week. The last time BYU was an underdog by more than 10 points in two straight games was in 2004. So it would appear the odds are against BYU, but they have shown an ability to be resilient under challenging circumstances.
Two BYU vs West Virginia Questions
1. How will Jake Retzlaff perform in his first career start at quarterback?
KSL Sports confirmed that backup quarterback Jake Retzlaff will get his first career start on Saturday night against West Virginia.
Kedon Slovis has struggled in recent weeks, but this change at quarterback is due to the health of Slovis. Not his performance.
Slovis is dealing with a shoulder injury.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) November 3, 2023
So what can we expect from Retzlaff at quarterback?
One thing about Retzlaff is that he can improvise. If he needs to, Retzlaff can step out of the pocket and run. But ideally, he sits in the pocket and can pass the rock. He’s a gritty competitor who found a way to reach Division I ball despite being overlooked due to the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging his high school career in California.
Retzlaff finds a way to make plays when you see the struggles that BYU’s offensive line has experienced this season; having a quarterback with some escapability could be an interesting wrinkle to Aaron Roderick’s offense.
Retzlaff isn’t going to be mistaken for Jaren Hall or Zach Wilson when he runs the ball. But he has the ability if needed.
That could be a nice jolt to a BYU ground rushing attack that is the worst in the Big 12 heading into the matchup.
To counter the struggles on the ground, BYU would be well-served to adopt a short passing attack.
2. Can BYU’s defense get off the field on third down?
It was a question that consistently was asked last year and the answer was a resounding no. BYU’s struggles on third down this year have continued as the Cougars are 107th nationally and 12th in third down defense.
Through the first eight games, BYU is allowing a 44% conversion rate to opponents on third down.
If that happens against a run-heavy attack from West Virginia, BYU’s offense will barely have any possessions.
The positive for BYU’s defense is that they create takeaways. They are third nationally in turnovers gained this season. But when the opportunities are there for a three-and-out, BYU’s defense, led by Tyler Batty, Eddie Heckard, Jakob Robinson, and AJ Vongphachanh, has to capitalize.
One Score Prediction for BYU vs West Virginia
Saturday’s matchup has the makings to be an entertaining ball game. I expect BYU will have a better showing than folks would expect with a backup quarterback. But injuries are mounting up for BYU.
Like many squads in the Big 12, West Virginia has not shown to be a consistent team each week, as evidenced by their head-scratching loss at Houston last month.
But the Mountaineers have an excellent offensive line to pair up with a rushing attack that has more options than just QB Garrett Greene and RB CJ Donaldson Jr. That’s going to be the difference, along with BYU’s offense still struggling to establish an identity.
BYU hangs around, but West Virginia gets a wire-to-wire victory.
West Virginia 26, BYU 16
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 Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.
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