No. 18 BYU (1-0) returns to action Saturday night against Troy (1-0) at LaVell Edwards Stadium in what will be the home opener for the Cougars. Both programs are meeting for the first time, with the Cougars schedule to make a return visit to Alabama in 2026.
After opening the season on Labor Day with a stunning 55-3 victory over Navy on the road, the Cougars come into Saturday’ contest having not played for nearly three weeks due to players testing positive for COVID-19, as well as a bye week.
The 18th-ranked Cougars were supposed to play Army last Saturday in a Top 25 showdown on national television, however, due to players testing positive, the game was postponed.
On the opposite side, the Trojans also come into Saturday’s game unbeaten after cruising to a 47-14 road victory over Middle Tennessee. With wins over LSU (2017) and Nebraska (2018), Troy will be looking for another signature win on Saturday.
Date: Saturday, September 26
Time: 8:15 p.m. MDT
Announcers: Dave Flemming, Rod Gilmore, Stormy Buonantony
Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,725) — Provo, Utah
BYU’s high-powered offense is eager to take the field after having to wait nearly three weeks to play. Quarterback Zach Wilson looks to impress once again as the junior earned the Manning Quarterback of the Week Award for his performance against Navy. The dual-threat quarterback completed 13 of 18 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns as the Cougars racked up 580 yards of total offense.
With the long wait, will the Cougars be rusty? According to Wilson, that shouldn’t be a problem heading into the home opener. “I feel like those three weeks went by pretty quick,” he said. “We were really only off from practice last week and we still had our groups to go and throw with. I still got exactly what I get done in practice except the live reps of going against the defense. Once we get that in this week, I think the guys are going to be ready to go.”
It also helps that Wilson has an offensive line with plenty of experience. With 120 combined starts, the offensive line dominated Navy up front and allowed running backs Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa to rush for 212 yards and four touchdowns. The only negatives going into the game is that not only are fans not allowed to attend after a spike in COVID-19 cases in Utah county, but BYU offensive lineman Tristen Hoge will miss several games after being diagnosed with pneumonia.
Yes, Troy was playing Middle Tennessee, however, sophomore quarterback Gunnar Watson still looked good in his debut as the gunslinger completed 26 of 37 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns.
“We were excited to get off to a good start,” said Troy head coach Chip Lindsey said. “It was probably the most complete game we’ve played in all three phases since I’ve been here. … We’re excited for this opportunity to play a storied program like BYU.”
With an experienced offensive line and combined with its fast-paced offense, Troy will give the Cougar defense a vastly different test compared to Navy’s run-oriented option attack. While the Cougars looked good against the run, how will they fare against the pass? Last year, BYU ranked 71st in pass defense, allowing 236 yards per game.
Watson’s top receiver is Khalil Mcclain. The 6-foot-4 senior hauled in six catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns in the win last week. His length could cause BYU problems in the secondary and will be a fun matchup to watch on Saturday.
Prediction BYU 40, Troy 20
Troy won’t be intimidated on Saturday. The program gave Clemson, the 2016 National runner-up (30-24) its second toughest game of the season in a 30-24 road loss. The Trojans then followed it up with a stunning road win over then-No. 25 LSU (24-21), and beat Nebraska in Lincoln in 2018 (24-19).
While BYU is currently a 14-point favorite, the Cougars can’t sleep on the sleep on the Trojans. BYU tends to lose a game or two they shouldn’t every year, and Troy is one of the few teams left on the Cougars’ schedule that could do just that.
If Troy’s passing attack gets going, the game could definitely turn into the 2016 Toledo game in which BYU survived in a thriller, 55-53. Troy’s defense has never been anything special so it shouldn’t be hard for the Cougars to find the end zone. Last year, the Trojans ranked 117th, giving up nearly 35 points per game.
Ranked Team: BYU’s No. 18 ranking marks the best start since 2014 when the Cougars started the year 4-0 and a No. 18 ranking. Prior to the 2014 ranking, BYU’s highest ranking was No. 12 back in 2009.
Sub Belt Conference: The Sun Belt Conference isn’t just a bunch of cupcakes schools. So far this season, the conference has recorded three wins over P5 teams. Louisiana dominated No. 23 Iowa State (31-14), Arkansas State beat Kansas State (35-31) and Coastal Carolina cruised to a 38-23 victory over Kansas. Currently, the league has one ranked team in No. 19 Louisiana, with several other teams receiving votes.
Offensive Line: Pro Football Focus had a lot of praise for BYU’s linemen. The analytics website gave four players a grade of 90 or more. Clark Barrington earned the highest grade at 95.0, followed by Tristen Hoge (94.9), James Empey (92.1) and Brady Christensen (91.1). The offensive line, which came into the season with 115 combined starts, dominated the trenches as the Cougars racked up 301 rushing yards and 580 total yards.
Coach Pugh Returns: Former BYU coach Ryan Pugh will make his return to Provo on Saturday. The former BYU offensive line coach is now the offensive coordinator at Troy. He was brought over after Jeff Grimes was hired in 2018.