Early-season advanced stats are meaningless; long live early-season advanced stats! After Baylor predictably trounced FCS opponent Albany last week, Baylor’s ranking in the predictive stats SP+, FPI, and FEI significantly rose.
Our next opponent, BYU, will pose a much tougher test. Below, I detail BYU’s stats from last season, note their key offseason departures, and present their stats so far for this season. For additional BYU coverage, be sure to check out the BYU game hub, which includes Baylor’s updated depth chart, Mark and Matt’s first look, and more!
BYU in 2021
Last season, BYU had a highly productive offense, scoring 33.1 points per game (29th in the country) and earning a touchdown on 41% of drives against FBS opponents (7th in the country). They utilized a relatively balanced attack with passing attempts on 45% of their plays, and their 264 passing yards per game and 188 rushing yards per game were both within the top 40 of teams in the country.
Starting quarterback Jaren Hall was a good, if not great, quarterback. He was accurate, completing 64% of his passes, and a reliable deep threat, attempting 21% of his passes to targets more than 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and connecting on 41% of them. He also did an excellent job taking care of the ball, throwing only 5 interceptions all season.
Even if they don't have one of Romney/Nacua or both ... this is very difficult to defend. pic.twitter.com/KINYVOI4FD— Travis Roeder (@Travis_Roeder) September 7, 2022
Hall had a lot of options to throw to, including standout receiver Puka Nacua who registered 43 receptions for 805 yards and 6 touchdowns. Nacua’s 18.7 yards per reception put him at 18th in the country. Other starting receivers Neil Pau’u and Gunner Romney combined for 1,120 yards on 80 receptions for 9 touchdowns. Running back Tyler Allgeier was the fourth leading receiver with 28 receptions for 199 yards.
Speaking of Allgeier — the now Atlanta Falcon shouldered most of the burden for BYU’s rushing attack. He had a ridiculous 276 carries (2nd in the country) for 1,601 yards (3rd in the country) and 23 touchdowns (1st in the country). QB Hall also tacked on 307 yards on 62 attempts. Not the most active QB on the ground, but his 5.0 yards per carry were 9th in the country.
As you’d expect from an impressive offense, BYU fielded a great offensive line. Their opportunity rate of 55% was 11th in the country, power success rate of 81% was 10th in the country, and their 4% sack rate was 16th in the country. Translation — they frequently helped Allgeier pick up at least 4 yards, they frequently converted 3rd/4th down and short, and they rarely gave up sacks.
As good as BYU’s offense was, their defense was just as mediocre. The Cougars allowed 24.8 points per game (52nd in the country) and a touchdown on 30% of defensive possessions (83rd in the country). They were equally subpar in pass defense, allowing 231.9 yards per game (72nd in the country), as rush defense, allowing 156.9 yards per game (72nd in the country).
Up front, BYU struggled to generate much of a pass rush. Their 4.8% sack rate was 107th in the country, and it was similarly low on both standard downs and passing downs. The lack of pressure put a lot of pressure on BYU’s secondary, and they allowed a 65.5% completion percentage (109th in the country). There were some individual standouts: Tyler Batty led the team in sacks (4) and QB hurries (14), nickel Jakob Robinson and safety Malik Moore led the team with 3 interceptions each, and corner Kaleb Hayes was credited with 11 pass breakups.
BYU’s run defense was the opposite of their rushing offense. They allowed a 49.1% opportunity rate (87th in the country), 70.5% power success rate (81st in the country), and 14.7% stuff rate (109th in the country). In other words, BYU’s opponents frequently picked up 4 yards or more, they frequently converted and 3rd/4th down and short, and they were rarely stopped at the line of scrimmage.
BYU did do one thing very well on defense! Their 43.9 penalty yards per game were 20th in the country.
Key departures for BYU in 2022
This is going to be a short list. Tyler Allgeier is in the NFL, and he takes with him 65% of BYU’s rushing yards and 7% of receiving yards. Neil Pau’u and has 18% of receiving yards also went pro. Puka Nacua’s older brother, Samson Nacua, was the fifth leading receiving on the team; he’s now graduated. That’s basically everyone they lost on offense.
Among their top 15 tacklers, BYU lost back-up MIKE Drew Jensen (32 total tackles), and back-up DE Uriah Leiataua (26 total tackles). It’s a very experienced group.
UPDATED RETURNING PRODUCTION RANKINGS:— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) June 29, 2022
* BYU jumps to the top of the list
* Hawaii dives to the bottom
* Ohio State’s still top-25, which is almost unheard of for an elite team. pic.twitter.com/04SBo3Svlf
BYU performance in 2022 so far
This early into the season, there’s not a lot to say. BYU soundly defeated an out-matched USF team 50 to 21.
Jaren Hall was an efficient 25 of 32 for 261 yards; his 78% completion percentage was the second highest of his career but his 8.2 yards per attempt were below average. The running game was explosive with Nacua breaking off a 75 yard run to start the game and Cal transfer Christopher Brooks adding on 52 yard and 40 yard chunk plays.
Superb blocking here by the BYU offensive line.— Benjamin Criddle (@CriddleBenjamin) September 4, 2022
Christopher Brooks takes it to the house for a 52 yard touchdown.
Clark on the combo
Blake gobbling up the second level
Masen back side cut
Chris hits it like bullet pic.twitter.com/yh7ILTf0D2
Defensively, BYU looked better than last year. They gave up a 40% opportunity rate (would be top-5 in the country if maintained an entire season), didn’t allow any runs longer than 13 yards, and held USF QB Gerry Bohanon to an abysmal 7.2 QBR.
It was not all positive for BYU’s defense, though. They registered only one sack and a couple TFLs, achieved a horrible 3.8% stuff rate, and allowed USF to convert both of their 3rd/4th and short rushes for first downs.
How Baylor and BYU matchup
The predictive stats all tell a similar story: BYU has the scarier offense, Baylor has the more impressive defense, and Baylor should win on a neutral field. This game will not be played on a neutral field, though, and homefield advantage is enough to split the predictions between SP+, FEI, and FPI.
There are two battles that I’ll be paying close attention to: can Baylor replicate their success on the ground against the BYU defensive front, and can Baylor’s inexperienced secondary limit explosive plays? The latter will be influenced by the presence of Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney who are both listed as questionable. The defense’s job gets a lot easier if those talent receivers are on the sideline.
FEI Prediction: Baylor 32.8, BYU 28.4
SP+ Prediction: BYU 26, Baylor 25
FPI Prediction: Baylor 58%
Statistics courtesy of Football Outsiders, Sports Reference, Pro Football Focus, ESPN, and CollegeFootballData.com.