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The Big BYU Cougars Preview

Big opportunity for the Bulls to make a statement on national TV.

Morgan Tencza/The Daily Stampede

Opponent: No. 15 BYU Cougars

2021 Record: 3-0

Head Coach: Kalani Sitake (41-26 at BYU)

Date/Time/Location: Saturday, September 25, 10:15 p.m., LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,470), Provo, Utah

How To Watch/Listen: ESPN2, 1250AM, Bulls Unlimited

Series History: USF leads series 1-0. Last: Bulls won 27-23 in 2019 in Tampa.

USF is coming off their first win in 371 day after beating FAMU 38-17 last week, and they’re traveling across the country to face a BYU team with their eyes set on moving to 4-0, and avenging probably the worst loss they’ve had in a few years. The Cougars are 19-3 since that 2019 loss, while the Bulls are 3-15 since that day in 2019.

The Cougars return their starting quarterback from that game, Jaren Hall, who threw for 148 yards and accounted for two touchdowns in the game in his first career start after Mormon Manziel Zach Wilson—and future first round pick (kinda literally)—was hurt the week prior.

Hall has thrown for 561 yards, and seven touchdowns while he’s completed 60% of his passes in 2021. He has added another 166 yards on the ground. Hall has his fair share of targets to throw the ball to, and we’ll get to them, but the USF defense must contain the running back duo of Tyler Allgeier, and Lopini Katoa.

Allegeier rushed for 1,130 yards in 2020, and added 13 rushing touchdowns as well. Katoa is responsible for 22 touchdowns in his career, including five receiving touchdowns. While the two have been relatively quiet through three games (90 carries, 360 yards), they’re more than capable of controlling the game and putting up 200+ yards combined against a USF defense that is undersized, and has played the run poorly through three games (outside of the first half vs FAMU).

Much like the Florida game, the Bulls’ best chance to win is to force Hall to beat you through the air, and that will mean taking risks with blitzers, stacking the box, and leaving the secondary on islands. The Cougars have two receivers in Neil Pau’u, and Gunner Romney who can present challenges for the USF secondary. Pau’u is 6’4 and has 14 catches for 190 yards, and three touchdowns, while Romney has nine catches for 108 yards, and two scores. Nine different Cougars have at least two receptions, and six have at least four catches. Tight end Isaac Rex (6’6”, 247 LBS) has two touchdowns of his own.

Defensively, the Cougars will be without starting middle linebacker Keenan Pili who suffered a season-ending injury last week. He led the team in tackles with 31, and added 3.5 TFL, and 1.5 sacks through three games. His replacement, Ben Bywater, has 18 tackles of his own.

The Cougars have been very opportunistic when it comes to turnovers as they’ve forced seven turnovers already, including recovering all three fumbles they’ve forced. BYU has recovered all four fumbles of their own. So, some turnover luck for Cougars has occurred this year. BYU also forced a fumble on the opening kick off last week, and scored three plays later.

For the Bulls to have a chance to beat the No. 15 BYU Cougars, they’re going to need a bit of turnover luck themselves, while cashing in on every red zone opportunity they get. Think touchdowns over field goals inside the 20. Three of true freshman Timmy McClain’s turnovers have come in the red zone, and against good teams, that won’t cut it.

Running back Jaren Mangham, and Brian Battie need to be able to run the ball effectively to give USF a shot. If the game rests on McClain hitting deep shot after deep shot, the end result will be a USF loss.

BYU 45, USF 23