Following a bye on the weekend of September 17, the West Virginia Mountaineers will return to action on September 24 against the BYU Cougars at FedEXField in Landover, MD. It will be the first meeting ever between the Mountaineers and Cougars as WVU hopes to enter with a 2-0 record following home games against Missouri and Youngstown State to begin the season.
BYU will enter this game having come off of games against Arizona, Utah and UCLA to begin the season. It will be quite the gauntlet to run for new head coach Kalani Sitake, who replaces Bronco Mendenhall who left for Virginia.
Let’s look at the third installment of our 2016 WVU Football Preview Series and see how the Cougars will stack up against the Mountaineers.
Game #3: Brigham Young Cougars
The Cougars are coming off of an impressive 9-4 2015 season. The team lost starting quarterback Taysom Hill in the season opener against Nebraska, but true freshman backup Tanner Mangum stepped in and threw for 3,377 yards, 23 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions in 13 games.
Hill was granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA and will likely be the quarterback that lines up against the Mountaineers on September 24, although there’s a good possibility that both will quarterbacks will play.
Cougar Offense: Dual-Threat QB
Last season, the Cougars resorted to a more pass-heavy offense with Mangum under center. It’ll be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Ty Detmer deploys his quarterbacks as Hill is more of a dual-threat quarterback. In 2013, Hill threw for 2,938 yards and rushed for another 1,344 yards. The WVU pass rush must be careful to not get too far up field and allow scrambling lanes for Hill. If he’s allowed to get outside of the pocket, it could be a long day for the Mountaineer defense.
BYU’s running game should also be much improved in 2016 with the return of running back Jamaal Williams. Williams rushed for 1,233 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013, but was suspended for the entire 2015 season for violating team rules.
Changes For BYU Defense
Ilaisa Tuiaki was the linebackers coach at Oregon State and BYU brought him in to be the defensive coordinator for 2016. He will be changing the Cougars defense from a 3-4 set to a 4-3 which could involve some growing pains.
Tuiaki won’t have the services of defensive end Bronson Kaufusi who was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Kaufusi recorded 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss for the Cougars last season.
Instead, BYU’s defense will be led by safety Kai Nacua who is one of three returning starters in the Cougar secondary. Harvey Langi, Fred Warner and Travis Tuiloma will do their best to lead the front-seven.
Prediction: Expect A Shootout
This should be an exciting game for any college football fan to watch. The Mountaineers shouldn’t have any problems putting up points on the BYU defense, but I’m not so sure the inexperienced WVU defense can slow down Taysom Hill either. Expect this one to be a back-and-forth affair with the team that makes the least amount of mistakes to come out on top.
I’ll take WVU in a tight one, 43-39.