BYU Football travels to Boise State for first ranked matchup of season

The No. 9 BYU Cougars travel to Boise after a shortened week of practice to take on the No. 21 Boise State Broncos for the Cougars’ first ranked matchup of the season on Friday at 7:45 p.m. MT.

The highly-anticipated matchup is one of three games remaining from the original 2020 schedule, along with Houston and North Alabama. BYU is 7-0 and Boise State is 2-0, making it a streak-buster for whichever team loses.

BYU will repeat its all white with royal blue uniforms on the “Smurf Turf” as the Cougars try to keep their New York Six and College Football Playoff hopes alive. According to ESPN, the Cougars have a 14% chance of making the playoff this season. 

ESPN’s Playoff Predictor shows the chances each of the nation’s top teams have of making the four-team College Football Playoff. BYU currently has the ninth-best chances at 14%, behind the Pac-12’s USC and Oregon. (ESPN)

The Cougars and the Broncos have played every season since Kalani Sitake assumed the head coaching responsibilities from Bronco Mendenhall in 2016. Sitake’s side lost its first three matchups against the Broncos from 2016-2018 but upset then-23rd-ranked Boise State in Provo last fall. 

Both teams’ offenses are as potent as they’ve ever been. The Cougars are 7-0 for the first time since 2001 and have averaged 527.7 offensive yards per game while holding opponents to just 281.3 yards through four quarters. Boise State is 2-0 and averaging 454.5 offensive yards through eight quarters of play, while the defense has allowed 343.3 yards and 21.5 points per game. Defensive performances may be the determining factor in this game for either side. 

When BYU has the ball

BYU will likely implement the run more often than we have seen in the past few weeks in an attempt to chew up the clock and keep Boise State’s dynamic offense off the field. Zach Wilson – who originally committed to Boise State before ultimately deciding on BYU – will be a big problem for Boise State’s defense if the Broncos don’t figure out a way to stop the Cougars early in the game. 

Boise State linebacker Riley Whimpey – who has a career 23 starts for the Broncos – leads the team in tackles and will cause serious problems for the Cougars as they march downfield.

The Bronco defense allowed Air Force to complete just four passes for 69 yards on Halloween, but allowed the Falcons to rush for 415 yards on 66 carries. While BYU will likely pass much more than Air Force did last week, we can expect the Cougars to come out with a strong run game against Boise State similar to the season opener against Navy. 

Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa will likely take the majority of the reps on the ground for BYU. Allgeier has recorded 587 yards and seven touchdowns on 91 rushing attempts and averages 6.5 yards per carry. He will need to have a big night for the Cougars if they want to continue their undefeated streak. 

BYU running back Tyler Allgeier runs against Western Kentucky on Oct. 31. Allgeier is the Cougars’ leading rusher on the season with 597 yards and seven touchdowns, and will certainly be leaned on in a big matchup at No. 21 Boise State. (Addie Blacker)

When Boise State has the ball

Boise State emphasized its deep threat capabilities last week against Air Force, opening the scoring in just 10 seconds with a 75-yard touchdown pass. BYU will need to have a clear-cut defensive strategy in order to halt an explosive Bronco offense. 

Boise State has two talented quarterbacks in sophomore Hank Bachmeier and USC transfer Jack Sears. Bachmeier did not play in the Air Force game for unknown reasons but may play a role in the matchup against the Cougars.

Both Bachmeier and Sears have thrown for at least 250 yards and three touchdowns in their starts this season. While Bachmeier is still listed as the starter on this week’s depth chart, the Cougars will need to prepare to face both quarterbacks on Friday night.

The BYU secondary will need to step up if senior defensive back Zayne Anderson is not fit to play on Friday night. He left last week’s game against Western Kentucky early and was seen using crutches late in the game. Boise State will likely target the gap that Anderson leaves if he is kept out of the lineup Friday night.

While George Holani has had most of the reps in the Boise State backfield, junior running back Andrew Van Buren has scored three of the Bronco’s six rushing touchdowns this season. Khyiris Tonga and the BYU defense will need to work hard in the trenches to stop the Boise State run game early, especially in the red zone.

Khalil Shakir has proven to be the clear favorite on the receiving end for the Broncos, recording 13 receptions for 213 yards and two scores. Be sure to keep a close eye on him when Boise State has the ball.

The Top 25 matchup between BYU and Boise State will be broadcast nationally on Fox Sports 1 on Friday, Nov. 6 at 7:45 p.m. MT.

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