NCAA Friday Night Football: BYU/Houston Preview

by Big Al Staff

Friday night on ESPN presents a college football doubleheader that features three teams from the American Athletic Conference. The second game takes place at 9:30 PM ET with independent BYU visiting the Houston Cougars of the AAC.

BYU is unbeaten after four games after defeating UTSA last Saturday by a 27-20 score. That was the closest game the Cougars have played all season despite entering that contest as a 34-point favorite. BYU outgained the Roadrunners by a 470 to 359 margin, but difficulties in finishing drives kept that game closer than expected.

Head coach Kalani Sitake had 15 starters return from a team that was 7-6 after losing in the Hawai’i Bowl to the Rainbow Warriors by a 38-34 score. The Cougars opened up this season on the road with a 55-3 victory over an over-matched Navy team that had limited their contact in practice sessions in August due to COVID.  BYU returned home to defeat Troy by a 48-7 score and then Louisiana Tech by a 45-14 margin before last week’s game. The Cougars go back on the road for the first time since their trip to Annapolis in early September.

Junior quarterback Zach Wilson leads an offense that is scoring 43.8 points per game while averaging 556.8 yards per game. The Cougars' defense is only giving up 11.0 points per game while holding their opponents to just 250.5 yards per game.

Traveling to Houston to face these Cougars will be BYU’s biggest test this season. Houston endured several COVID-based cancellations early in the season before finally kicking off their season last Thursday, where they defeated Tulane by a 49-31 score. The Cougars fell behind by a 24-7 score early in the second quarter after giving up two defensive touchdowns to the Green Wave. Houston then outscored Tulane by a 42-7 margin to blowout the Green Wave by a 49-31 score.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen returns 19 starters while adding 33 transfers from FBS, FCS, and junior college programs to a team that finished a disappointing 4-8 last season. Thirteen Houston players redshirted before their fifth game to maintain that year of eligibility. One of those players was quarterback D’Eriq King who later transferred to Miami (FL). However, Holgorsen has a capable quarterback to operate his version of the Air Raid offense in junior Clayton Tune, who passed for 1533 yards and 11 touchdown passes in seven games after King redshirted. Tune completed 20 of 33 passes for 319 yards with two touchdown passes last week, while also adding a touchdown on the ground.

Holgorsen must have been pleased with the improved play of his defense last week. The Cougars held Tulane to only 211 total yards while holding them to just 70 rushing yards on 45 carries. Holgorsen described his practice squad defense last year as the “greatest” in the history of college football, given the talent he assembled from transfers. Those players are now all eligible, which significantly bolsters the defensive roster.

BookMaker lists BYU as a 5-point favorite with an over/under of 62.5.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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