Kickoff: September 10th, 9:15 PM CT
Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium (Provo, UT)
Conference: Independent (soon to be Big 12)
Head Coach: Kalani Sitake (entering seventh year)
Last Year’s Record: 10-3
Notable Outcomes: Lost to Baylor 38-24; beat Utah 26-17; lost to UAB 31-28
Key Losses: Tyler Allgeier, RB; Neil Pau’u, WR; Samson Nacua, WR
Key Returners: Jaren Hall, QB; Puka Nacua, WR; Ben Bywater, LB
Strength: Defensive depth. This might seem like a weird choice for a strength, especially given BYU’s offensive strength last season and comparative defensive weaknesses, but the Cougars return 16 of their 17 defenders that played at least 250 snaps last season. That’s absurd. If Sitake and his coaching staff are able to get any improvement out of basically everyone returning, and combine that with what should be another strong offense, this team could be something special.
Weakness: Running back. This is where the Cougars’ season will be made or broken, I believe. They lose outstanding running back Tyler Allgeier, who rushed for 1,606 yards last season. Their next leading rusher was their quarterback, Jaren Hall, who rushed for 307 yards. After that, the closest running back was Lopini Katoa, who only amassed 242 yards on the season. The Cougars will need a running back to step up this season if they want the offense to keep churning (we Baylor fans know keenly just how important a good running back is to a wide zone look).
Way Too Early Prediction: The Bears got the better of BYU in Waco last season, with former BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes guiding the Baylor offense to 534 total yards and 38 points. The question for this game, then, will be if Baylor can continue that offensive pace against what should be an improved BYU defense… on the road no less. BYU was more or less the defacto Pac-12 champion last year with wins over Utah, USC, Arizona, Arizona State, and Washington State and an impressive 10-3 record. And they could be even better this year. This will certainly be a tough test for the Bears, but I think Baylor has the returning talent off of their own actual conference championship team to squeak out a key, early season victory.