BYU Football Opponent Preview: Southern Illinois Has Questions At QB

Jun 28, 2024, 1:29 PM

PROVO, Utah – BYU football will open the 2024 season against the Southern Illinois Salukis on Saturday, August 31.

The Salukis hail from Carbondale, Illinois, and play in the Missouri Valley Conference, which is part of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Last season, Southern Illinois reached the second round of the FCS NCAA Tournament, falling to No. 4 Idaho.

They finished with an 8-5 record and a seventh-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference.

The 2024 BYU and Southern Illinois matchup marks the first meeting between the two schools.

BYU scheduled Southern Illinois in 2022 and will reportedly pay the Salukis $425,000 to play in Provo.

Kickoff between BYU and Southern Illinois is set for 6 p.m. (MT) on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ and KSL NewsRadio, with radio coverage on KSL beginning at Noon on August 31.

Southern Illinois is led by head coach Nick Hill, who played quarterback for SIU and is a former NFL quarterback with the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.

Here are three things to know about the 2024 edition of the Salukis.

Who starts at quarterback for Southern Illinois in 2024?

Southern Illinois will look to replace Nic Baker at quarterback this fall. Baker started in 40 games as the Salukis’ quarterback dating back to the spring season of 2020-21.

SIU has four quarterbacks, including last year’s backup quarterback, 6-foot-3, 215-pound Hunter Simmons. Simmons is entering his fourth year at SIU.

The Salukis also added a transfer in Murray State QB DJ Williams.

Williams was the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year in 2021 for the Racers. He picked SIU over interest from East Tennessee State and Tennessee State.

The QB depth is rounded out by freshmen Jake Curry and ET Harris.

Salukis defense was among the best in FCS last year

Southern Illinois was ranked 4th in scoring defense in the FCS last season. The Salukis allowed only 16.2 points and 282.3 yards per game.

But they must retool their defense in 2024, as four of their top five tacklers are gone. The top returning tackler is Ubayd Steed, who will slide into the nickel spot left behind by leading tackler PJ Jules.

Southern Illinois also brings back linebacker Colin Bohanek, who had 2.5 sacks and 46 tackles last season. He was one of SIU’s highest-graded defensive players by Pro Football Focus.

To replenish the depth on the defensive side, Southern Illinois signed four former FBS transfers.

History against FBS opponents

Southern Illinois has won its last two games against FBS opponents. The Salukis defeated Northwestern two years ago from the Big Ten 31-24 in Evanston.

Last year, Southern Illinois took down Northern Illinois 14-11 in DeKalb.

Since Nick Hill became SIU’s head coach in 2016, the Salukis have gone 3-5 against FBS competition. One possession decided two losses, including a 23-31 setback at Kansas State in 2021.

In SIU’s history, the Salukis have won six games against FBS-level teams. Hill has been involved in five of those victories (two as a player, three as a coach).

BYU is 18-0 all-time against FCS opponents.

BYU vs. Southern Illinois

Date: Saturday, August 31, 2024

Kickoff: 6 p.m. (MT)

TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN+

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for 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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BYU Football Opponent Preview: Southern Illinois Has Questions At QB