BYU football: Are the Cougars set to bounce back versus Texas Tech?

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So TCU was what we thought it was. Not what many thought just prior to last Saturday’s 44-11 demolition of BYU football, mind you, but what was the general consensus prior to the 2023 football season which the Horned Frogs entered coming off of an appearance in the NCAA National Championship game.

At least that’s the hope as the Cougars prepare to take on Texas Tech (3-4, 2-2) at home this Saturday in what could well be considered a must-win when considering what’s ahead for Kalani Sitake’s team.

Sure, BYU has several apparent issues that very likely won’t be issued away any time soon, but still, to obliterate the Cougars in the manner TCU did isn’t accomplished by a middling Big-12 program, but rather a top team that is beginning to emerge after a shaky start to the 2023 season.

We’ll see how that bears out, but on to Texas Tech.

Not the Raiders of the past

Ever since the late Mike Leach became head coach in Lubbock, Texas Tech has been associated with a spread offense that throws the football on almost every down with little regard to establishing a run game. That’s absolutely not the case now as the Red Raiders enter Saturday’s game averaging 179.3 yards per game rushing against just 230.7 yards passing.

Led by Tahj Brooks, who has already rushed for 786 yards and five touchdowns this season on a 6.0 yards per carry average, the Red Raiders pose what could well be considered BYU’s toughest test on the ground so far this season.

You know, the type of ground game BYU was anticipating versus the Horned Frogs before backup quarterback Josh Hoover threw it 58 times while riddling the BYU secondary throughout. Given that Texas Tech has encountered some issues throwing the football (more on that later), and with BYU likely focused on fixing what ailed it versus TCU, count on a heavy dose of Brooks come Saturday.

The Cougars haven’t been great stopping the run, although that facet has improved from last season. Overall the Cougars allow 149.8 yards per game on the ground, and without the services of leading tackler Ben Bywater for the remainder of the season, that number could go up beginning on Saturday.

Indeed the onus will be on BYU’s front seven as much as it has been all season in limiting first and second-down rushes in order to put the Red Raiders in uncomfortable situations on third-down.

Who’s starting?

As mentioned, Texas Tech has injury issues at quarterback which is likely to result in a start for Jake Strong come Saturday. Strong was Tech’s third option at quarterback to start the season and struggled last week’s 38-21 loss to Kansas State, throwing for 173 yards on 16-28 passing which included three interceptions against just one touchdown pass.

There is a window for second-string quarterback Behren Morton to start, but it’s not looking likely given his limited practice time and designation as a game-time-decision after incurring an injury during last week’s loss to the Wildcats.

Regardless of who ends up starting, the Cougars have to do better in making the quarterback uncomfortable unlike they did last week versus Hoover and the Horned Frogs. First and foremost will be limiting the ground game, which is easier said than done, but also mixing up coverages effectively while posing they type of effective pass rush that really hasn’t been seen since BYU upset Arkansas.

Fixing its own offensive issues

BYU crapped out across the board last week versus TCU and needs to show improvements in every facet imaginable come Saturday beginning with an offensive that produced just 243 yards of total offense. The good news is that 91 of those yards came on the ground, and while a good chunk of that came in the latter stages of the blowout loss, there were signs of improvement.

I mean, the bar couldn’t be lower for BYU’s ground game, given its No. 129 rank nationally and paltry 67.5 yards per game average. But I’ll go out on a limb and state that the Cougars are set to show their best performance on the ground to date given Texas Tech’s mediocre run defense which allows 146.8 yards per game. Again, the bar has been set spectacularly low.

We also anticipate Kedon Slovis bouncing back. The senior transfer had undoubtedly his worst game as a Cougar last week — throwing for just 152 yards on 15-34 passing which included an interception thrown on just the third play from scrimmage which TCU returned for a touchdown.

BYU’s passing game hasn’t been great absent last week’s debacle, but look for Slovis to approach 300 yards passing considering Texas Tech has proven barely average in defending the pass. The Red Raiders enter Saturday’s game yielding 232.4 yards per game in the air, and while that isn’t necessarily horrible or even bad, we believe Slovis is a good quarterback who has worked through whatever issues he encountered last week in showing much improvement come Saturday.

Final thoughts

This game will absolutely set the tone of what BYU proves to be for the rest of the season. Considering games versus both Texas and Oklahoma are on tap, mixed with two tough road outings versus both West Virginia and Oklahoma State, this could very well be considered a must-win for the Cougars.

We believe the team will bounce back from last week’s debacle. The team culture remains strong and we like the abilities of the coaching staff to address the stark weaknesses shown last week versus the Horned Frogs.

Also, while Texas Tech is a formidable opponent, we believe it’s a tier down from what the Cougars encountered last week versus TCU. Simply-stated; Texas Tech is what many though TCU was last week.

Final score prediction: BYU 28 Texas Tech 27



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