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Cougar Sports Roundtable: Projecting BYU’s Remaining Games, College Football 25 Video Game

Feb 19, 2024, 1:33 PM

The Cougar Sports Roundtable is a weekly BYU football, basketball, and athletics feature on KSL Sports with KSL NewsRadio’s Cougar Sports Saturday & Cougar Nation team of BYU Insider Mitch HarperMatt Baiamonte, and Nate Slack. You can listen to them on Saturdays from Noon to 3 p.m. on 102.7 FM, 1160 AM, or On-Demand on the Cougar Sports Saturday podcast.

PROVO, Utah – It’s time for another week of the Cougar Sports Roundtable.

This week’s three questions center around how BYU basketball will perform in its final six games of the regular season. We then share our expectations for the BYU offense in 2024.

Last but not least, who will be the highest-rated BYU football player in the EA Sports College Football 25 video game?

What will be the record for BYU basketball in the final six games of the regular season?

Matt Baiamonte: I don’t see them winning more than two of their last six games.

This team is struggling on the road. Their best road win of the season is beating UCF down in Orlando. The Knights are currently sitting at 4-8 in conference play, placing them 12th out of 14 teams.

Two of their three home games remaining are against teams that currently qualify for an opening-round bye (top six teams). The other home against is against Oklahoma State, who just beat BYU by 10 points.

The road games are daunting as well, with trips looming against Iowa State and Kansas.

Here’s the good news: if BYU basketball can win two more games and finish 8-10, that’s probably good enough to get into the NCAA Tournament.

Nate Slack: As much as I hate to say it, I’m going to go with 2-4.

BYU has the pieces to finish 3-3 or 4-2, but they’ve shown some big weaknesses in the last couple of weeks. The most glaring issue has been on defense, but they’ve also been struggling to put things together offensively. They scored 90 points last week against UCF, but 40 of that came from the free-throw line. They missed 13 layups in a 20-point loss at Oklahoma.

I hate the “live by the three, die by the three” label BYU basketball gets, but it’s hard to see them making any noise in March if they continue to shoot 16-58 (28%) from deep like they did last week.

Mitch Harper: I’m going to say 3-3. The three wins will be Kansas State, TCU, and Oklahoma State. I could see a scenario where they pull out a win against Baylor on Tuesday night, but I’ll call that a loss for now.

Last Saturday’s loss at Oklahoma State was a bad matchup. BYU matches up better with Baylor as both teams want to fire off a lot of threes and defense is optional for both.

The defensive struggles have been surprising the past week. So, I understand predicting 2-4 to close out the regular season. But I’ve been impressed with this team’s ability to respond to moments of adversity. This league is a buzzsaw; you’re going to have a head-scratching loss or two.

To think the league’s last-place team had a McDonald’s All-American, the Big 12 isn’t a joke. Anyone can get you. BYU is the same way.

I will say that I think it’s time for Mark Pope to try to look at Aly Khalifa and Fousseyni Traore on the floor together. What better time than now to reinvent yourself if you’re BYU basketball and throw a new look that catches a team off guard?

Last week, we discussed our expectations for the BYU football defense. What are your expectations for the offense in 2024?

Harper: My expectations are low right now. There are questions at every position group.

The wide receiver unit is the most proven, but is there an All-Big 12 player in that group? Darius Lassiter and Chase Roberts could be those guys. But then it goes back to, who’s throwing them the ball?

I feel like we’re in the midst of a shift in college football from high-powered passing attacks to physical offenses with strong ground attacks. Michigan won the National Championship with that blueprint. That might need to be the blueprint for BYU in the short term. But is sophomore LJ Martin ready to be a featured ball carrier that gets 25 carries a game?

Again, there are questions everywhere you look. Spring is going to be critical for this offense to find its identity.

One thing is for sure: when offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick turns to the passing attack, he doesn’t want to settle for dink and dunk. He wants to stretch the field and get chunk yardage. Whichever quarterback shows that ability consistently in the spring has a great chance of being QB1 on August 31 against Southern Illinois.

Slack: I think it’s all going to depend on how the quarterback battle plays out.

It’s probably safe to assume the offensive line play will improve with a new coach (TJ Woods) despite losing Kingsley Suamataia.

LJ Martin, Hinckley Ropati, and Miles Davis bring experience to the running back group, though I wish there was a definitive starter. The tight end room is probably as talented as it has been with a pair of four-star freshmen in Jackson Bowers and Ryner Swanson. With a full year now in the system, the wide receivers will be solid.

Even though BYU brought in a few freshman quarterbacks and a pair of transfers, I still expect Jake Retzlaff to start. He showed some flashes last year but also left a lot to be desired. If he can do a better job taking care of the ball, BYU could be a seven or eight-win team. With what I’m expecting from the defense, the BYU offense may only have to score 20 points per game to make a bowl. The bad news is they couldn’t do that last year.

Baiamonte: I have low expectations for the offense. There are a lot of new pieces at critical position groups (quarterback, offensive line). It’s not fair to assume this group is going to jump from the bottom of the country back to being a top-25 offense.

However, if this group can rank somewhere between 50 and 75 in total offense, that should be good enough to get BYU back to a bowl game.

This year needs to be a stepping stone in the right direction. Getting to a bowl game with a difficult conference schedule should be considered a good season.

Who do you think will be the highest-rated BYU football player in the EA Sports College Football 25 video game?

Baiamonte: I cannot wait for this game to be released. It was my favorite video game as a kid. My wife doesn’t think I’m a gamer (little does she know).

One of my favorite parts of playing the game on day one was going through each position group to see which BYU players got snubbed with a poor ranking.

I’ll be doing the same thing when this game releases in the summer. A few players who won’t be snubbed and should be in contention for the highest player ranking are Ben Bywater, Jakob Robinson, and Chase Roberts.

However, they won’t be ranked higher than Tyler Batty. I think he’ll be the highest-rated player on the team.

Slack: Man am I excited for this game to come out. This summer is going to be awesome. I’ll break it down by unit since I expect it to be close. The highest-rated player on offense will be Connor Pay. I wish it would be a skills guy, but that’s OK. He’ll help keep the pocket clean while I go deep every play.

On defense, it will be Tyler Batty. Let’s all hope they have his correct facemask. That’s one other thing I’ll be looking for–which player has the best drip?

Matt will like this one. I think the high-rated player on the team will be Will Ferrin. The kicking situation was scary coming out of spring ball last year, but Ferrin was nails. I think he’ll get a nice rating in the long-awaited College Football 25 video game.

Harper: Guys, I can’t wait to fire up an Online Dynasty with y’all. College football is so much better with this game returning. I remember the last time this EA Sports game was called college football and not NCAA Football. It was “College Football USA 97” back then.

I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since the last game was released. My oldest son at the time was 10 days old when that game was released. He’s heading into his final year in elementary school next fall.

This video game series was a big piece of my childhood. I’m looking forward to sharing the next era with my kids. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

As far as the question goes, I’ll say offensive lineman Connor Pay gets the nod. He’s got the combination of a higher recruiting ranking coming out of high school plus years of starter experience.

Imagine what the reaction is going to be like on social media when BYU players get a glimpse at their ratings. I can’t wait for the summer.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and hosts the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X: @Mitch_Harper.

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Cougar Sports Roundtable: Projecting BYU’s Remaining Games, College Football 25 Video Game