USF, fresh of a bounce-back win last week against UConn, looks to get to .500 for the first time this season on Saturday against BYU. The Cougars come in with an identical record to the Bulls, but have faced one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
BYU is coming off a bye week, which allowed them some extra time to prepare new starting quarterback Jaren Hall. Hall will be seeing his first extended action of the season in place of injured starter Zach Wilson, who injured his throwing hand late in BYU’s loss to Toledo.
Will USF be able to take advantage of the young quarterback? Are BYU’s issues related to their schedule or something deeper? Will USF be able to string together two consistent performances for the first time this season? Let’s take a closer look at the numbers to see if we can find some answers.
General Game Management
Marino Rule Plus
USF is coming off one of its best performances of the season by the Marino Rule Plus metrics. Offensively, USF was 60% on third downs and only allowed a 15.3% conversion rate defensively. And even though they lost the turnover margin by one, they still won the field position battle.
With a good week in the books, let’s see how USF stacks up to BYU with regards to the Marino Rule metrics.
The Marino Rule Plus numbers show why both teams have struggled to be consistent this season. While their numbers aren’t stellar, BYU still has the advantage on third down. The Cougars rank 76th on third down conversion rate offensively and 74th defensively. USF is 110th in third down conversion rate offensively and 95th defensively. USF is leading in both turnover margin and average starting field position. The Bulls rank 11th in turnover margin while BYU is 43rd.
Yards Per Play
By the yards per play (ypp) metric, BYU has the better offense and USF has the better defense. BYU’s offensive ypp ranks 77th in the country, while USF is ranked 93rd. The Bulls’ defense is the highest rated individual unit in the game, ranking 41st in the country. The BYU defense comes in quite a bit lower, at 83rd.
YPP can be somewhat dependent on your strength of schedule. Let’s compare USF and BYU’s FBS opponents.
On average, USF has played slightly better defenses this season than BYU. However, BYU has faced much better offensive units thus far this season than USF. Is the BYU defense better than their stats indicate on defense or is their poor defense contributing to their opponent’s good numbers? The answer to this question will go a long way in determining the winner of Saturday’s games.
BYU Offense- Next Man Up
True to their Lavell Edwards roots, the BYU offense has had its most success this season through the air. The Cougars rank 62nd in the country in yards per pass attempt. While that number is slightly above average, their run game numbers are a totally different story. BYU ranks 103rd in the country in yards per rushing attempt. To put that number in perspective, the struggling USF running game is averaging 4.18 yard per game, good for 79th nationally.
The Cougars will be relying on their passing game to move the ball. Unfortunately for the Cougars, they will be without their starting quarterback, Zach Wilson, for an undetermined amount of time. They will turn to freshman Jaren Hall, who got his first playing time of the season on the final drive of the Toledo game. Hall is said to be a good passer but is also a plus athlete. The Cougars have used Hall as the motion man on jet sweeps several times this season and he is also a member of the BYU baseball team.
How will BYU play with Hall at QB? Charlie Strong said on Monday that he doesn’t anticipate a big change to the offensive scheme. Let’s take a look at what BYU does offensively and what they might carry over to Hall’s first start.
BYU has a lot of talent on offense. They also run some creative schemes. To slow the Cougars down, USF is going to have to make the new starting QB uncomfortable.
A good running game is a young quarterback’s best friend. USF must make BYU one dimensional. If they can stifle the BYU ground game, like most teams have, they should be able to give the young QB some interesting looks in the passing game
BYU Defense-Passive Resistance
The BYU defense has struggled mightily this season. The Cougars rank 97th in yards per rush and 92nd in yards pass attempt. They are also 101st in scoring defense. Let’s take a closer look at what BYU is doing defensively.
BYU has played some good offenses this season. Every team they have played has been able to run the ball. While USF has struggled to run the ball, they are coming off their best rushing performance of the season. While the Bulls were going against a terrible defense, they did rush for the most yards and second highest yards per rush against that defense. Maybe the USF offensive line has turned the corner. Maybe not. Either way, Saturday will be quite informative.
BYU is traveling into town for homecoming. The Cougars are a proud program with a winning tradition. They will be on a mission to get their season back on track. They are going to come up to the Bulls’ house and ring the bell. Will USF answer? Will USF be able to take BYU’s best shot, shut the door on them, and win the game? Or will the Cougars convert the Bulls into their next victory? It’s hard to say, but it should be an exciting game. Have a fun and safe homecoming.