For the third time in four years, the USF Bulls will take on the BYU Cougars, and so we asked our friends over at Vanquish The Foe to give us the lowdown on the No. 25 in the country.
The Daily Stampede: Do you anticipate having WRs Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney for the game? If not, who should USF fans pay attention to in their absence?
Vanquish The Foe: Puka and Gunner were BYU’s top two receivers from a year ago and form a great duo. Both have been held out of practices during the media viewing portion. Coaches have been coy when talking about their status, but I would guess Puka plays and Gunner sits. Gunner is a great WR as he enters his fifth season, but Puka is BYU’s top option. If one or both of them sit, I expect BYU to rely more on their tight ends. Isaac Rex was a freshman All-American in 2020 and is a tough matchup at 6-foot-6. Dallin Holker splits out wide more and is a more than capable tight end. Being without both players would be a big blow for BYU, but QB Jaren Hall and a dominant offensive line will help offset any absences.
The Daily Stampede: Do you put any stock into BYU’s record in the state of Florida historically? Will the heat (and possible rain) really affect the Cougars as much as some think?
Vanquish The Foe: BYU’s bowl victory over UCF in 2020 was the first victory for BYU in the state of Florida ever. Travelling two time zones and playing in humidity is definitely a factory. BYU’s worst two performances last year came in the rain versus Boise State and UAB — both losses — so the weather is something to monitor.
The Daily Stampede: Aside from Romney and Nacua, are there any injury concerns heading into Saturday?
Vanquish The Foe: Tight end Isaac Rex suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the season finale at USC last year and his status going into the season was a question. However, BYU’s OC Aaron Roderick confirmed he will play. BYU came out of Fall Camp fairly unscathed outside of the aforementioned WRs.
The Daily Stampede: What are your expectations for the defense? How much did injuries play a factor in the poor defensive play last season?
Vanquish The Foe: BYU’s defense had their worst year in Kalani’s 6 years at BYU. BYU held their first three opponents last year — all Pac-12 teams — to 17 points or less in those victories. The injury bug really hit BYU and I expect BYU to be much better this season on defense when healthy, but the defensive line is still a question. If USF can run the ball and control the clock, they can keep BYU’s potent offense off the field. That’s how USF lost by one score to BYU last year and those are the teams that have given BYU issues.
The Daily Stampede: Prediction for the game?
Vanquish The Foe: Puka and Gunner’s status is definitely something to watch out for. However, BYU has one of the top offensive lines in the country, a potential NFL QB in Jaren Hall, and a productive RB in Cal transfer Chris Brooks that can offset their potential absences. USF has some good talent coming in and played BYU tough last year, but BYU has a ton coming back and should be focused in this one.
Prediction: BYU 34, USF 17