Opponent: Brigham Young University
Kickoff: October 16th
Location: McLane Stadium
Head Coach: Kalani Sitake (entering 6th year)
Last Year’s Record: 11-1
Notable Outcomes: Beat Houston 43-26; lost to Coastal Carolina 22-17; beat UCF 49-23
Key Losses: Zach Wilson, QB; Brady Christensen, LT; Dax Milne, WR
Strength: Linebackers. BYU returns Payton Wilgar, Keenan Pili, and Max Tooley, all of whom will almost certainly start for the Cougars. That is a good core to return off of the number 10 total defense in the nation last year (granted, BYU’s schedule last year was MUCH easier than this year’s lineup).
Weakness: Offensive line. Part of why BYU had so much success last season was an imposing offensive line and an elite quarterback. Well, the Cougars lost three of their starting offensive lineman along with their quarterback, Zach Wilson, who entered the draft. The Cougars have been known for quarterbacks, however, and have plenty of strong candidates competing for the starting position (one of which is named Baylor Romney, what a name right?). So while the quarterback position could end up being an issue, I think the line is more likely to be a problem given it is more difficult to replace that core that was so integral to the team’s success. That is further compounded by BYU losing their offensive line coach, Eric Mateos, and their offensive coordinator, Jeff Grimes, to Baylor.
Way Too Early Prediction: This is a really tough game to call. BYU had an incredible year in the ever tumultuous 2020 season. However, part of that was boosted by a very easy schedule that saw the Cougars play exactly zero power five teams. That changes this year as BYU plays seven power five squads. Combine that with BYU having to replace a lot of talent from last year and there’s the looming potential that BYU crashes this year. That’s especially true given the Cougars lost two of their vaunted offensive coaches to the Bears. However, I’ll be very interested to see how that dynamic plays out in this game in particular. Will the BYU defense be able to predict Grimes’s offensive calls given their unique understanding of him and his style? Will the fact that Baylor is trying to install this new system make it particularly vulnerable to a team that is familiar with it? We’ll have to wait and see, but this is a critical chance for Baylor to make a midseason statement against a strong nonconference foe. I’ll give Baylor the homefield advantage in an entertaining, close game.