BYU looks to bounce back after falling to No. 21 Washington last week and dropping to 2-2 on the season. After taking down Tennessee in overtime three weeks ago, the Cougars will look to stay unbeaten on the road as they go up against a really good Toledo (2-1) team.
After dropping its season-opening game to Kentucky 38-24, the Rockets have won two consecutive games with wins over Murray State and Colorado State. Toledo was on the verge of upsetting the Wildcats — who nearly beat No. 9 Florida two weeks ago — after jumping out to a 14-7 lead, however, the Rockets couldn’t hold on after starting quarterback Mitchell Guadagni was knocked out of the game in the third quarter.
Both programs meet for just the second time — with BYU holding onto a 1-0 series lead — after facing off in 2016. The contest turned into one of the best games of the season as the two teams combined for 108 points and over 1,200 yards of offense as the Cougars held on for a thrilling 55-53 victory at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The game also saw star running backs in Jamaal Williams and Kareem Hunt go head-to-head in what was one of the highest-scoring games of the season.
Date: Saturday, September 28
Time: 10 a.m. MT
Announcers: Michael Reghi, Dustin Fox
Location: Glass Bowl (26,248) — Toledo, Ohio
The Spread: BYU -2.5
Money Line: BYU -130, Toledo +110
Saturday’s game looks to be another high scoring contest as the Rockets host BYU at Glass Bowl Stadium. The Cougars are currently favored by 2.5 points, while the over-under sits at 60.5.
Like I mentioned in my season prediction article, I expected BYU to go 2-2 to start the season, however, like I noted, Toledo is a great team — having won more than eight games in seven of the past nine seasons — and if BYU comes in Saturday expecting to roll over the Rockets, Cougar players and fans could be in for a rude awakening.
On the bright side for Cougar fans, BYU has played the most ranked teams to start the season and sits in a pretty good spot at 2-2 after a number of people had them going 0-4 to start the year. However, playing a Top 10 schedule so far has taken a hit on the team as a number of players are dinged up, or out for the season. That is what makes Saturday’s game so intriguing as there is no question that the game is essentially the Super Bowl for the Rockets as they get to host a Power 5 team at home.
For BYU, it’s all about its run defense, or the lack thereof!
Through four games, BYU’s run defense has been one of the worst in the country as the Cougars have allowed an average of 215.5 yards per game, ranking 116th out of 130 FBS teams.
At the same time, stats can be pretty skewed just a few weeks into the season as most Power 5 teams play a bunch of cupcakes at the start of the year to pad their stats before heading into conference play. So Cougar fans shouldn’t worry too much as such is the case of being Independent and playing a front-loaded schedule in order to play college football’s “blue-blood” programs in Tennessee, USC and Washington.
At the same time, going up against a team that likes to run the ball as much as Toledo does, will show Cougar fans just where the team will likely stack in run defense department this year. In last week’s win over Colorado State, Toledo rushed for 436 yards and averaged a staggering 9.5 yards per carry. Sophomore running back Bryant Koback ran for a career-high 228 yards and three touchdowns on just 19 carries and QB Mitchell Guadagni ran for 119 yards and a touchdown as the Rockets racked up more than 500 yards of total offense for the second consecutive week.
The good news for BYU fans is that Toledo also gives up a lot of points (24.3) and yards per game (482.3) so a lot of points will likely be scored. Despite racking up 694 yards of total offense last week, Colorado State lost as the Rams settled for field goals instead of touchdowns. For the Cougar offense, which has struggled to move the ball for much of the season so far, facing the Rockets defense could be just what the doctor ordered as BYU looks to get back on track in both the win column, as well as into an offensive rhythm.
Prediction: BYU 34, Toledo 27
Because the game is at noon, the early start time for BYU means the Cougars are essentially playing at 10 a.m. On top of travelling across the country and coming off a blowout loss to Washington, I am expecting the Cougars to start slow, before turning things on in the second half to pull away for the victory.
It will also be the first time that BYU will be without star running back Ty’Son Williams who tore his ACL last week in the first half against Washington. Williams was having a phenomenal year as he tallied 264 yards and three touchdowns to go along with a career-best 5.4 yards per carry. How will BYU’s backups respond?
Lastly, after facing four consecutive Power 5 opponents, BYU won’t be fazed playing on the road in what should be another loud and crazy environment. Although key players are injured, there’s no reason that BYU should not dominate the trenches on both sides of the ball. However, because of the early start time, key players being injured and BYU looking like they ran out of steam last week on top of it being Toledo’s Super Bowl, the game will be a lot closer than most people think.