No. 14 BYU (4-0) travels to Houston (1-0) to take on the Cougars in a Friday night showdown on ESPN. Both teams are meeting for just the third time, with BYU leading the all-time series 2-0.
BYU took down Houston in a 47-46 thriller at NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans. The following year, the Cougars held on for a 33-25 victory at home at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams combined for 299 rushing yards in the victory.
The 14th-ranked Cougars come into Friday’s showdown on a four-game winning streak and look to improve to 5-0 for the first time since 2008. After dominating its first three opponents, BYU had a scare last Saturday against UTSA. After jumping out to a 21-6 lead at the end of the third quarter, the Cougars held on for a 27-20 victory. If BYU wants to beat Houston, its going to need a better effort and be more efficient on offense as 27 points may not be enough this week.
After several games were postponed due to COVID-19 problems from its opponents, Houston finally played its season-opening contest last week against Tulane. After falling behind initially, Houston put its foot on the gas to roll to a 49-31 victory at home. The only negative for Houston was that the Cougars committed five turnovers and won’t be able to do that against BYU if they want to win Friday night.
Date: Friday, October 16
Time: 7:30 p.m MDT
Announcers: Jason Benetti, Andre Ware, Kris Budden
Location: TDECU Stadium (40,000) — Houston, Texas
– BYU is 2-7 against the spread (ATS) in its last nine road games.
– The total has hit the over in five of BYU’s last six road games.
– Houston is 4-2 ATS in its last six games.
– The total has hit the over in four of Houston’s last five home games.
With another Friday night game — and in primetime — BYU has another opportunity to put on a show with the entire country watching.
By his standards, BYU quarterback Zach Wilson had arguably his worst game of the season last week, however, the junior still completed 22 of his 30 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns. He also added a touchdown run in the third quarter.
For the season, Wilson is completing 81.2% of his passes to go with 1,241 yards and eight touchdowns. The junior continues to get a lot of praise and is even being considered as a first-round draft pick by some analysts. Based on his current path so far, Wilson is on track for one of the most efficient passing seasons in college football history. Through four games, Wilson is averaging 12.3 yards per pass, the second most in the country behind Alabama’s Mac Jones. With Houston’s defense ranked 115th nationally in pass defense, Wilson could have another big game as he looks to cement himself in the conversation as a legitimate contender for the Heisman Trophy.
On defense, the Cougars look to bounce back on the big stage as the Cougars look to continue inching closer to a Top 10 ranking. After leading the nation in total defense, giving up just 214.3 yards of total offense per game, the Cougars allowed UTSA to rack up 359 yards of total offense, including 287 yards through the air. With Houston’s passing attack (319 yards per game), the Cougar defense will face arguably its toughest test so far this season. It doesn’t help that the Cougars lost backup tackle Lorenzo Fauatea to a season ending injury and star nose tackle Khyiris Tonga didn’t make the trip due to a non-covid-19 illness.
The good news for BYU fans is that starting center James Empey and starting kicker Jake Oldroyd are expected to be back after sitting out last week against UTSA. Right guard Tristen Hoge, who has missed three games with pneumonia, could also be available. The Cougars could also see the return of running back Sione Finau. The sophomore running back led the team in rushing yards last year despite suffering a season-ending injury in November.
Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen loves the Air Raid attack and will look to test BYU’s experienced secondary early. Houston quarterback Clayton Tune can certainly throw it as the junior completed 20 of 33 passes for 319 yards with two touchdowns last week. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound gunslinger wasn’t sharp though as he threw two interceptions. In total, Houston’s offense committed five turnovers in last week’s win. Impressively, they still won by 18 points.
Despite Houston having played just one game, BYU coach Kalani Sitake believes there was plenty to take away from Houston’s season-opening game.
“They are well coached, have plenty of veteran leadership and can score points in a hurry, Sitake said. A lot of coaches say you see a lot of improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, so we’re expecting a much better team in this game against us than what they did in the first game. And what they did in their first game was really, really impressive.”
The good news for BYU fans is that Tulane was able to get a lot of pressure in the backfield and despite the loss, had five takeaways in the game. So far this season, BYU has been great at getting after the quarterback with 13 sacks — good enough for 6th in the nation.
Prediction BYU 37, Houston 30
Friday’s game will likely be a close one.
We still don’t know much about BYU due to the level of competition they’ve played — due to no fault of their own. Houston has only played one game so far this season and did so against what is likely a poor Tulane (2-2) team. The only connection both of these teams have is in Tulane. BYU beat Navy 55-3, Navy beat Tulane 27-24, and Houston defeated Tulane 49-31.
So what does that tell us? Well, not much. Navy probably isn’t as good as they’ve been in the past and Houston and BYU seem to be respectable as they’ve taken care of business against inferior opponents.
Houston has an offense that looks like it can put up a lot of points on the board. BYU also has a potent offense as the Cougars are averaging 43.7 points per game and 556 yards of total offense.
BYU got a big wakeup call last week in a close game against UTSA. With several players expected to make their return and wanting to redeem themselves, as well as making a statement after a dismal performance last week, BYU will likely walk out with a close victory Friday night. Houston will make it close, but BYU will likely be too much down the stretch.
Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen noted earlier in the week that he could be down 15-20 players due to a variety of reasons.
“I’m just sitting here looking at my board and going yeah, we got about 15-20 guys out for a variety of reasons, but ain’t none of them long term,” he said. “The good news is nothing’s long term, but the bad news is I don’t know exactly who’s going to be available Friday night.”
If that is truly the case, expect BYU to win by double digits.
Fans — After four games and having played in front of no fans, BYU will finally break the streak as Houston will allow 25% capacity for Friday’s game.
Ranked — BYU is currently ranked No. 13 in the Coaches Poll and No. 14 in the AP Poll, the fifth-consecutive week the Cougars have been in the 2020 rankings. It is BYU’s highest ranking since the 2009 season, when the Cougars reached as high as No. 7 in the AP poll. The 2009 team finished the year ranked No. 12.
Best Start — BYU is 4-0 for the first time since 2014. This is the ninth 4-0 start in the history of the program. The Cougars have gone 5-0 five times (2008, 2001, 1984,
1981, 1979). It is the best start through four games under head coach Kalani Sitake.
Under Pressure — BYU has allowed just two sacks through four games, with one of them being an intentional grounding penalty. That ranks tied for seventh nationally in total sacks allowed and tied for first among teams that have played four games. On defense, the Cougars have 13 sacks, tied for sixth nationally. In 2019, BYU had 17 total sacks
through 13 games.
Efficient — Zach Wilson reached the 1,000 passing yard mark in a single season in fewer attempts than any other BYU quarterback with just 73. Ty Detmer did it in 94 in 1989 and Steve Sarkisian (1996) and Ryan Hancock (1992) each did it in 96 attempts.
Heisman — BYU and Houston share more than just a mascot in the Cougars. The two schools are the last two programs from non-Power 5 leagues to have a Heisman Trophy winner with Houston’s Andre Ware winning it in 1989, followed by BYU’s Ty Detmer taking home the honor in 1990. Ware will be the analyst on the ESPN broadcast this week. Detmer, a Texas native, served as BYU’s offensive coordinator during the 2016-17 seasons.