No. 21 BYU (1-0) hosts No. 9 Baylor in the home opener at LaVell Edwards Stadium. This is the last game between both programs as non-conference opponents as the Cougars join the Big 12 conference next year.
BYU and Baylor are facing off for just the fourth time, with the Bears holding a 2-1 edge in the series. The Bears came to Provo in 1983 and won 40-36 while BYU got revenge a year later with a dominating 47-13 road victory. After a 37-year break, the series resumed last year as the Bears outlasted the Cougars in a 38-24 victory in Waco.
In will be a return for several former BYU coaches as Baylor OC Jeff Grimes and OL coach Eric Mateos return to Provo. Grimes was at BYU for six years over two stints (OL 2004-06, OC 2018-20) and Mateos for two seasons (OL 19-20).
Date: Saturday, September 10
Time: 8:15 p.m. MT
Announcers: Mark Jones (play-by-play), Robert Griffin III (analyst),
Quint Kessenich (sideline)
Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,470) — Provo, Utah
Baylor 40, BYU 36 (Sept. 10, 1983)
No. 13 BYU 47, Baylor 13 (Sept. 8, 1984)
Baylor 38, No. 19 BYU 24 (Oct. 16, 2021)
The Spread: BYU -3
Money Line: BYU -154, USF +130
When betting lines first opened, BYU was a three-point favorite. That has held steady all week which is impressive considering Baylor — last years Big 12 and Sugar Bowl champs — are the higher ranked team coming in. The over/under has stayed relatively the same and currently stands at 53.5. In regards to the money line, oddsmakers are still favoring BYU at -154. The money line simply involves picking the winning team. With BYU at -154, those picking the Cougars would have to risk $154 to win $100. However, for those picking Baylor, one would win $130 for his/her $100 wager.
SP+, a predictive analytics tool created by ESPN’s Bill Connelly, has BYU beating Baylor 26-25. With a 53% chance of beating Baylor, this is higher than what ESPN’s Football Power Index is giving the Cougars. As of right now, the FPI gives BYU a 42.4% chance of beating the Bears. For an in-depth look at ESPN’s FPI predictions for BYU this year, and how accurate/bad it’s been over the years, click here.
BYU Football: Analyzing ESPN’s FPI Predictions Over The Years
BYU looked good in its season open as a the Cougars rolled to a 38-7 halftime lead and didn’t look back with a dominating 50-21 victory over USF. The Cougars averaged 8.3 yards per play, had 27 first downs, and totaled 573 yards. They held the Bulls to 12 first downs and 293 yards.
Jaren Hall didn’t miss a beat and picked up where he was last year as the junior completed 25 of 32 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns.
The big question coming in was the status of the running game as the Cougars lost star running back Tyler Allgeier to the NFL. That question has been answered so far as Lopini Katoa and Cal transfer Chris Brooks combined for 190 yards and a touchdown in the win. The Cougars will need more of that after rushing for just 67 yards in last year’s loss against the Bears.
Meanwhile, Baylor looked good in its season opener with a 69-10 victory over FCS Albany, in what was the most points the Bears have scored in a season opener since 2013. Eight different players scored touchdowns in the win as the Bears racked up 573 total yards of total offense. Baylor finished the game averaging 8.4 yards per play, and rushed for seven touchdowns – one shy of matching a school record set in 1969 against LSU.
Baylor is preparing for a loud and thunderous crowd at LaVell Edwards Stadium with former coaches Jeff Grimes and Eric Mateos reminding players about the challenge LES presents. The team has been blaring crowd noise at practice to help mimic the situation.
“They’re [BYU fans] going to be juiced up,” said Baylor wide receiver/kick returner Gavin Holmes. “But we can’t let the outside noise get into our circle. It’s definitely going to be a big test for us.”
Prediction: BYU 28, Baylor 27
The challenge just got tougher.
Recent reports note that BYU will be without its top two receivers with Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney expected to miss Saturday’s game. Both are dynamic players with the duo combining for 60% of BYU’s returning receiving yards. If neither of them can go, the Cougars will likely lean on their running game more behind what appears to be a stalwart offensive line.
Last year, Baylor dominated the line of scrimmage, however, that game was more towards the end of the season when injuries were piling up. It will be fun to watch to see how BYU’s A-team stacks up against the Bears.
On paper, both teams look evenly matched and very dangerous. This is evident by oddsmakers as well as national media members weighing in, with a good chunk believing the Cougars will win. Saturday’s game should be back and forth and likely come down to the wire, but the Cougars should pull it out playing at home to get their first Top 10 win since 2018 (24-21 win over then-No. 6 Wisconsin).
Predictions: National Media
Tom Fornelli (CBS): BYU 31, Baylor 28
Ralph D. Russo (AP): BYU 30, Baylor 28
John Coon (Athlon Sports): BYU 27, Baylor 24
Stewart Mandel (The Athletic): BYU 31, Baylor 26
Pete Fiutak (College Football News) BYU 26, Baylor 24
Brad Crawford (247Sports): BYU 38, Baylor 31
Bill Connelly (ESPN): BYU 26, Baylor 25
Bruce Feldman of (The Athletic): Baylor 24, BYU 20
Bill Bender (Sporting News): Baylor 30, BYU 26
Chris Hummer (247 Sports): Baylor 31, BYU 28
VS. RANKED FOES — BYU is 31-64-1 vs. ranked opponents in its history. The Cougars are 5-22-1 against teams in the top 10, with their last victory over a top 10 team coming in 2018 against Wisconsin on the road. BYU is 6-8 against ranked teams under Sitake, including a 4-3 mark at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
MILESTONE — LaVell Edwards won his 50th game (50-26-1) in his 77th try as the head coach of the program. Kalaini Sitake will try for his 50th (49-29) in game No. 79 against the Bears this week.
HOME OPENER — BYU is 3-3 under Sitake in home openers, but have also faced four Power 5 teams in those contests and also two ranked teams, going 1-1.