Pick Six Previews: BYU back in the national spotlight, and it’s just the beginning

Pick Six Previews: BYU back in the national spotlight, and it's just the beginning

Baylor Bears wide receiver Gavin Holmes (6) is tripped up by Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Jacob Boren (20) on a punt play as BYU and Baylor play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

PROVO — The center of the college football world on Saturday night was in Provo as the BYU Cougars notched their first home win over a Top 10 opponent since defeating No. 1 Miami in 1990.

The 26-20 double overtime win over defending Big 12 champs Baylor not only exacted revenge from last year’s matchup but also vaulted BYU into the national spotlight.

The sold-out LaVell Edwards Stadium crowd was loud from the opening kick, shook the television cameras on big plays, drew multiple false start penalties in crucial moments, and then eventually poured onto the field after the win.

I had called for a 24-20 BYU win, and originally had BYU ranked No. 15 nationally in my season preview magazine Pick Six Previews — the only magazine to do so. The Cougars have proven me right so far.

Baylor came in with a Top 10 offensive line and a Top 10 defensive line, but BYU physically matched up on both sides. The biggest improvement from last year was BYU’s ability to hold their ground in the defensive front seven.

Baylor had a lot of success running the ball in last year’s matchup, and coordinator Jeff Grimes was set on doing the same this year. He committed to the run game — 52 carries vs. 28 pass attempts — but BYU held them to just a 2.9 yards/carry average.

The strength in the trenches will go a long way Saturday against another ranked Power Five opponent.

No. 12 BYU heads to Autzen Stadium to take on perennial West Coast powerhouse No. 25 Oregon (1:30 p.m. MDT, FOX). Last season, BYU went a perfect 5-0 against the Pac-12, but this is the schools’ first matchup since the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl (BYU won 38-6).

Game Grader

(Opponent-adjusted statistical dominance via Pick Six Previews)

3-Year Average 2019-21: BYU 61.0 (16th of 66 Power Five) | Oregon 62.4 (12th)2021 Season: BYU 58.1 (24th) | Oregon 54.4 (28th)2022 Season: BYU 76.7 (10th) | Oregon 46.1 (44th)

BYU holds a Top 10 spot in 2022 Game Grader after beating USF by 29 points with a 300-yardage differential and outlasting another Top 10 opponent in Baylor.

Oregon scored the lowest Game Grade of all Power Five teams in the opener when they were thoroughly destroyed by the defending national champions Georgia. The Bulldogs scored on seven consecutive possessions, outgained Oregon by 260 yards, and finished it off with a 49-3 final score.

Oregon with the ball

After the coaching change from Mario Cristobal to Dan Lanning, and the coordinator hire of Kenny Dillingham, Oregon hit the transfer portal market and landed a three-year starting quarterback from the SEC. Bo Nix has had a roller-coaster career, which featured a win over No. 1 Alabama, but also a statistical regression last year where he finished 85th nationally in the all-encompassing QB Rating.

I was impressed with BYU’s front seven last week against one of the nation’s toughest fronts. The defensive line held their ground and allowed the talented linebackers to run free and make plays all over the field.

Ben Bywater had 11 tackles, a sack, and earned Lott Impact Trophy Player of the Week honors. Max Tooley added 13 tackles, including a vicious hit over the middle. BYU’s defense took a statistical hit last season when injuries struck the linebackers, but we are now seeing the high potential of this unit when healthy.

BYU with the ball

Faced with injuries to their top two receivers, the BYU offense still managed success through the air against a well-coached Baylor defense. Chase Roberts thrived in the “next man up” role by hauling in eight receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown.

But the most memorable play came from the arm of Roberts, as coordinator Aaron Roderick dialed up a double pass trick play where quarterback Jaren Hall threw to the left, Roberts caught the ball and threw it back to Hall while the offensive line snuck out and created a convoy to the end zone. BYU has called double pass trick plays over the past few years, and this one was perfectly timed and executed.

Look for Hall to have another big passing day against a Ducks defense that allowed 368 yards to Georgia’s Stetson Bennett. While Oregon does have a blue-chip front seven, I’d argue that Baylor’s is tougher.

Another note here is in the coaching category. Oregon’s staff is very young, and defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi is an ace recruiter but only has one year of coordinating experience on the resume. They are in just the second FBS game in a coaching transition season, while BYU’s staff is well-seasoned, creative, and battle-tested.

Game prediction

BYU’s schedule allows for no breaks, as they are back in the national spotlight against the No. 1 recruiting program on the West Coast. They will, again, be tested by some of the stronger offensive and defensive lines in the nation.

Despite the road trip, I see clear advantages for BYU at quarterback and in coaching experience and strategy. BYU enters with its highest ranking since the No. 8 spot after starting 9-0 in 2020. A win here against a national brand team will push BYU further into the Top 10.

No. 12 BYU (+3.5) 30 | No. 25 Oregon 24

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Brett Ciancia is the owner of Pick Six Previews, a college football preview magazine graded as the “Most Accurate Season Preview” since 2012 (via Stassen). Ciancia was named a Heisman Trophy voter in 2019 and was invited to the FWAA’s All-America Team selection committee in 2020.

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