by Daniel Olsen
BYU football is 3-0 against the PAC-12 South Division. After a 27-17 win over Arizona State last night, the Cougars look like they haven’t skipped a beat after losing seven players to the NFL Draft. How did they get to this point? It’s time to take a look.
1. Winning the turnover battle
It is noteworthy that the Cougars did not turn the ball over in their first two games. While they did throw the ball to the wrong team two times against the Sun Devils, they also forced four turnovers of their own. That proved to be the difference in the game as the Cougars scored two touchdowns off those plays.
The Cougars hold a 7-2 advantage over their PAC-12 opponents. This marks a perfect 3-0 start over Power Five teams. BYU will have a chance to force some more turnovers when they play three G5 teams over the next couple weeks. They will play USF, Utah State and Boise State before they go to Waco to face Baylor. The Cougars haven’t had a true road test yet as their win over the Arizona Wildcats was a neutral site in Las Vegas. Cougar fans outnumbered Arizona fans by a considerable margin at that game.
2. Stout Rushing Defense
Many teams with P5 talent try to bulldoze programs that seem inferior to them. The Cougars have not been intimidated. They have not allowed a single team to rush for over 200 yards on them. The Arizona Wildcats did not cross the century mark over BYU. Utah and Arizona State, teams with traditionally run-heavy games, had low outputs on the ground by their standards.
In 2019, the script was flipped and the Utes allowed the fewest rushing yards per game at 70.3. BYU, on the other hand, allowed 203.8 per game which was pedestrian at best. That weaker rush defense was a big part of their 7-6 record that year. Their strong defense is a large reason for their success now as it makes opponents one-dimensional at best.
3. Dual Threat QB
Jaren Hall saw limited action at quarterback in 2019 due to injury problems. He has been firing on all cylinders this year. That is due to his ability to beat opponents with his legs. While Tyler Allgeier is the running back that leads the Cougars with 265 yards, Hall has 166 rushing yards on the season with 45 fewer attempts. He averages over eight yards per carry.
The threat of the run has helped open up the pass and he has been largely accurate on those throws. While this isn’t the Zach Wilson offense of 2020, Hall is facing much stiffer competition so far. He has completed 60 percent of his passes. While the win over the Sun Devils was statistically his worst throwing game of the season, the Cougars still found ways to score their most points of the season in a game so far in the 27 point performance.
Hot Take: 2021 Cougar Defense is better than 2020 Offense
While BYU was electric on offense last year, their defense is that much better this year. Against PAC-12 competition, they haven’t allowed a single team to score more than 20 points in a game. There will be tests to come when they face an Aggie team on the road that is averaging 41 points per game. The Cougars are battle tested against elite competition though. If they keep that same fire throughout the season, they could have another special year.
Featured image courtesy Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News