BYU Football: Why fans shouldn’t be so worried about USF

PROVO, UT – SEPTEMBER 25 : Gunner Romney #18 of the BYU Cougars makes a diving catch ahead of TJ Robinson #2 of the South Florida Bulls during their game September 25, 2021 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

BYU Football has only won once in the state of Florida.

The general theme the last couple weeks about the USF game is that the Bulls are greatly improved and it will be a close game. While I haven’t heard the “lose” word used much around this game, there seems to be a pessimistic feeling in the air.

Following deep reflection on why this may be, the reason became very clear; BYU fans have gotten used to the unpredictability of BYU Football. The bottom line is BYU Football is one of the most unpredictable sports teams in the country. On any given day they can beat a ranked Wisconsin, throw a hail mary against Nebraska, or go 5-0 against the Pac 12. At the same time however, they can lose 7-6 to Northern Illinois, drop a game to UMass, or have a 4-7 season despite high expectations.

The point is, BYU fans are used to things not going how Vegas says they should.

Believe it or not, I don’t think that the game is going to be particularly close on Saturday.  If we think back to last season, when the Cougars are healthy, they can stick with anyone. Consider this, if BYU lost to Utah State, Utah, or Arizona State, those would have all been ranked higher than where they finished. Those were three very quality wins that occured when BYU was healthy.

No Excuses For Last Year…But

I agree that USF is better this year, and last year they made things interesting, but the game wasn’t as close as the scoreboard suggested.

The first reason it may not have been a blowout was that the game was the ultimate trap game. The Cougars were coming off a 3-0 start against the Pac 12 and had Utah State looming the next week. This year Baylor looms, but not enough to make this a trap game.

Second, the Cougars were up 35-13 with less than four minutes left in the third quarter. For the rest of the game, the Cougars played the ultimate drop eight defense forcing the Bulls to take a nine minute fourth quarter drive to make the score 35-27 late. BYU had complete control of this game. Sure, a bad fumble or an onside kick could have made things weird, but even then, I’m not sure the Bulls had the offense to get down the field again, score and make a two point conversion to force overtime.

Finally, Jaren Hall was not playing in this game. Don’t get me wrong, Baylor Romney was a great quarterback, but no matter how much Aaron Roderick may say that the offense doesn’t change, just watching the games and play calling difference between the two it’s pretty obvious that it does. Considering that BYU had three games and an entire Fall Camp with Jaren Hall taking the most snaps, it is understandable that the Cougars would be a bit more conservative, especially when up by two scores or more in the play calling and pace of the game.

Expectations

Again, USF is and should be much better this season, but let’s not pretend that they are about to go 9-3 in the regular season. An improved USF team probably has them winning six maybe seven games against the bottom half of the AAC and FCS foe Howard. Anything above that would be nothing short of a miracle considering where they came from.

BYU on the other hand is an underappreciated team ranked in the Top 25. When healthy, or even relatively healthy, the Cougars have gone 21-3 with their only losses coming to Top 15 teams Baylor and Coastal Carolina and a home loss against Boise State in a game that the Cougars literally fumbled away.

Unless the Cougars have a negative turnover differential of two or more, BYU is going to be bigger, stronger, and more skilled to take care of business.

Final Score Prediction: BYU 42 USF 24