BYU hosts No. 22 Washington in another nationally televised game after taking down then-No. 24 USC in overtime last week at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
This time, ABC is bringing along its star-studded lineup with Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Todd McShay and Molly McGrath making the trip out to Provo, Utah for the broadcast.
The Cougars are looking to knock off its second-straight Pac-12 opponent, while the Huskies will face their biggest test yet, before heading back into conference play next week against USC.
Both teams are coming off wins as Washington bounced back from a heartbreaking loss to California two weeks ago by blowing out previously unbeaten Hawaii, 52-20, last week. Washington QB Jacob Eason threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.
For BYU, the Cougars are a confident bunch that looks to carry over that positive momentum after two consecutive overtime victories against storied programs. But, it won’t be easy Saturday against a Washington team that is stacked with playmakers.
Of all the offenses BYU has faced so far this season, the Huskies are the most dynamic, disciplined and balanced. Luckily for Cougar fans, Washington has already shown some flaws this year and does not appear to be as good as they were last year.
Here’s why I believe BYU can pull off another upset on Saturday and knock off another Pac-12 ranked opponent.
Date: Saturday, September 21
Time: 1:30 p.m. MT
Announcers: Steve Levy, Brian Griese Todd McShay, Molly McGrath
Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,470) — Provo, Utah
The Spread: Washington -6.5
Money Line: Washington -250, BYU +210
Zach Wilson > Tanner Mangum
Last year was brutal for Cougar fans as the offense managed just 194 yards on offense and seven first downs. In fact, BYU only had one drive that lasted more than seven plays and its only score came off a muffed punt.
However, that was with Tanner Mangum under center who was later replaced but dual-threat quarterback Zach Wilson two weeks later in the season. The sophomore hasn’t looked back and is a big reason why BYU is 2-1 this year thanks to his ability to extend plays. College football analysts were gushing over Wilson’s abilities as he picked apart USC’s defense last week as they compared him to former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Wilson is a big upgrade over Mangum as defenses had no worries about Mangum taking off and running. Now teams have to be accountable for Wilson with teams using a spy on him to help keep him in check, and yet, they still have trouble slowing him down. Instead of loading the box, defenses are backing off with Wilson under center which allows the Cougars to have that balance on offense as teams have a tougher time making BYU one dimensional.
Washington Head Coach Chris Petersen is aware of Wilson and noted in his press conference that the sophomore QB brings a new wrinkle to the offense.
“They’ve tweaked the system and aren’t so run-oriented,” Peterson said. “They still want to run the ball but it is different. I think the quarterback makes them better. He is a really good player, he is super athletic and gets the ball out quick and he has some moxie to him.”
Washington’s defense isn’t as great as it was a year ago and with BYU’s experience on the offensive line, Wilson should have a good amount of time to throw the ball to his receivers, of which he completed passes to 11 different receivers.
Washington Isn’t Last Year’s Team
It’s still too early to tell just how “good” this Washington team is as they’ve beaten Hawaii and Eastern Washington, but lost to California. The Huskies have had highly ranked recruiting classes the past several years, however, the Huskies do have to replace a plethora of starters, including four-year starting quarterback Jacob Browning and running back Myles Gaskin.
Yes, the Huskies have led the Pac-12 in both scoring defense and total defense the last four seasons, however, Washington has also had to replace a number of starters from last year’s team and are starting several freshman in the secondary. Overall, Washington lost eight players to the NFL and don’t seem to be as dominant as they were a year ago.
Washington’s Jacob Eason, a five-star quarterback who sat out last year after transferring from Georgia, has been inconsistent in his first three starts for the Huskies. The junior quarterback threw for over 600 yards and seven touchdowns and completed more than 70 percent of his passes in wins over Hawaii and Eastern Washington. Yet, against Cal, Eason went 18-of-30 for just 162 yards and an interception.
Add the fact that BYU’s coaches have really game planned for opposing teams by forcing quarterbacks into mistakes – just ask USC’s Kedon Slovis – it will be interesting to see what the Cougar defense comes up with Saturday in what should be a great battle between both sides.
Home Field Advantage
Home sweet home!
If history is any indication, Washington faces an uphill battle Saturday as the Huskies are just 1-3 all-time against BYU at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Washington is 4-1 at home, but has struggled on the road. In fact, Washington hasn’t won in Provo since 1997.
The Cougars must take advantage of playing at home like it did against USC. And after last week’s thrilling win, you can expect fans to be loud Saturday against another ranked opponent. This season has shown how important it is as BYU as the Cougars had all kinds of miscues on the road against Tennessee because they couldn’t hear because of how loud the crowd was.
That’s exactly what happened to USC on Saturday as the Trojans had numerous delays and penalties as well as burned timeouts because of crowd and the troubles it presented. However, playing at home means the crowd quiets down which allows the offense to be more in sync as BYU finished the game with zero turnovers, compared to USC’s three.
Let’s not forget either that it will be Washington’s first road game of the season after starting the year with three consecutive home games. With a number of freshman playing and how wacky things just happen on the road, it will be to the Cougars’ advantage Saturday afternoon.