No. 18 Coastal Carolina will host No. 13 BYU Saturday afternoon in what will be the biggest game in program history. Many pundits across the country are calling the Top 20 showdown the biggest game of the day.
With limited seating and with ESPN’s College GameDay in town, ticket prices have risen astronomically, with some tickets in the six-figure range.
The highly anticipated showdown between the two undefeated squads is the first matchup between both programs. It also marks just the third regular season or conference championship game between 9-0 teams (or better) since 2000. BYU and Coastal Carolina are a combined 18-0 on the season and are just two of four teams in all of college football that have accumulated nine wins so far this season.
With so many implications, Saturday’s game is must-see TV matchup with both programs featuring high-powered offenses that are led by a pair of dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks, including BYU’s Zach Wilson, a likely Heisman Trophy finalist.
Date: Saturday, December 5
Time: 3:30 p.m. MT
Announcers: Bill Roth (play-by-play), Dustin Fox (analyst), Ryan McGee (Sideline)
Location: Brooks Stadium (21,000) — Conway, South Carolina
When the game was finalized Thursday morning, oddsmakers quickly made BYU a 10-point favorite. That line has stayed flat over the past 24 hours. The over/under was set at 58.5 and quickly moved to 61.5 where it has stayed.
Unless your the college football playoff committee, you probably already know that BYU has been dominating its opponents. The Cougars are averaging 45.3 points per game and nearly 550 yards of total offense, and have beating their opponents by 31.4 points per game — the most in that nation. The Cougars area also just one of just two teams (Clemson) that rank in the top 10 nationally in both total offense (No. 5 in FBS) and total defense (No. 7).
After beating North Alabama 66-14 two weeks ago, the Cougars will face an FBS opponent for the first time since taking down then-No 21 Boise State, 51-17, one month ago on the road. With a long layoff, the Cougars can’t afford to be rusty or start slow. With just 72 hours notice to play the game, on top of playing on the east coast — a time zone that hasn’t been well for the program — Saturday’s game is arguably the Cougars’ toughest test this season.
But it’s a good thing the Cougars are led by junior quarterback Zach Wilson. The dual-threat quarterback comes in focused, determined and with all the confidence in the world. After wearing a headband with the words “Any team, any time, any place,” the 6-foot-3, gunslinger looks to keep his Heisman performance going.
The junior ranks seventh nationally in passing yards (2,724) and is in the top three in the nation in completion percentage (74.3), touchdown passes (26), yards per attempt (11.5), and passing efficiency (205.3). Perhaps the best stat is that Wilson has thrown 26 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions.
His favorite targets continue to be wide receivers Dax Milne (49 catches, 906 yards) as well as deep threat Gunner Romney (34 catches, 708 yards). Tight end Isaac Rex has been Wilson’s favorite red-zone target with a team-high eight touchdown catches.
BYU’s passing attack will be a big test for Coastal Carolina. While the Chanticleer defense is allowing just 181 yards per game through the air (12th in the FBS), and just eight touchdown passes on the season, they have done so against a rather weak schedule. It will be interesting to see how the Chanticleer defense stacks up against a potent BYU offense. The team does have 11 interceptions on the season, led by star cornerback D’Jordan Strong who has five this year.
After being picked to finish dead last in the Sun Belt Conference this year, Coastal Carolina has proved the naysayers wrong and has become this year’s Cinderella team. The program is off to its best start, made Sun Belt history and is the highest ranked team ever from the conference (No. 14 in the AP poll and No. 18 in the College Football Playoff rankings).
Redshirt freshman quarterback Grayson McCall headlines a high-powered Coastal Carolina offensive attack that averages 38.7 points and 448.3 yards per game. Just like Wilson, McCall has been nothing short of amazing this year as he’s completing 67.2% of his passes for 1,747 yards and 20 touchdowns. Most importantly, the freshman isn’t turning the ball over as McCall has thrown just one interception all year. He also ranks in the top 10 nationally in passing efficiency (188.4) and yards per attempt (10.0).
While Houston gave BYU’s defense fits at times with its passing attack earlier this year, the Chanticleers appear to have a better offense and will certainly test the Cougar secondary. It should be noted that BYU was missing several starters on defense against Houston, including NFL-bound Khyiris Tonga, so it will be interesting to see both sides match up.
On the other side of the ball, Coastal Carolina’s defensive front faces its biggest test of the season. According to Pro Football Focus, BYU has the second best offensive line in all of college football. The Chanticleers, who come into Saturday’s game with 31 sacks (No. 6 in the nation) are very undersized compared to BYU’s mammoth line. If Coastal Carolina can’t get pressure against Wilson, it will be a long night for the Chanticleers.
Prediction: BYU 41, Coastal Carolina 24
There’s no question that BYU should take care of business against Coastal Carolina on Saturday. However, playing on the road, two times zones away and on short notice, I think the game will be closer than it would have been if BYU was playing at home or had more time to prepare. The Cougars have always struggled playing on the east coast, no matter the opponent, so I expect the team to start off slow before turning the game into a blowout.
For the Chanticleers, Saturday’s game is their Super Bowl and the team is going to give it everything they have. I expect some big plays as well as some trick plays for Coastal Carolina to help keep it close in the first half, but BYU’s dominance at the line of scrimmage — on both sides of the ball — will wear the Chanticleers down as the game goes on.
This is a huge game for both teams as they look to grab a spot in one of the New Year’s Six Bowls with a victory. Add the fact that College GameDay is in town only adds to the intrigue.
There’s no question that BYU has been disrespected by the playoff committee with its No. 13 ranking, especially considering that nearly ever other metric has the Cougars as a Top 8 team. National writers and analysts have stuck up for the team and players and coaches look forward to making another big statement with the college football world watching.
Unfortunately for Coastal Carolina, the dream season will likely come to an end on Saturday. For BYU, the Top 20 win should be enough to move the Cougars up a few spots in the rankings as the team gets closer to clinching a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game.