BYU and Boise State are facing a definite role reversal heading into their latest rivalry clash on Saturday.
The No. 10 Cougars (5-0) cracked the top 10 in the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll after beating Utah State 34-20. BYU had no trouble beating the Aggies after scoring on its first four drives before halftime. Stopping the Cougars' offense proved to be a chore for Utah State. BYU racked up 466 total yards while averaging 7.1 yards per play and did not punt until the third quarter.
The Broncos (2-3, 1-1 Mountain West) are a decided underdog heading into Provo after getting off to their worst start since 2001. Nevada rallied to beat Boise State 41-31 last weekend, giving the Broncos back-to-back home losses for the first time since 2015. The Wolf Pack took the lead after recovering a third-quarter fumble and never looked back. Boise State has not lost four games in a season since 2015.
Boise State leads the series 7-4, although BYU has won two straight. Zach Wilson led the Cougars to a 51-17 victory last season after throwing for 360 yards and three touchdowns on 22-of-28 passing.
Boise State at No. 10 BYU
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: BYU -5
When Boise State Has the Ball
Hank Bachmeier is racking up big numbers through the air. The junior threw for 388 yards and four touchdowns against Nevada. It ended up being Bachmeier's third career 300-yard game. He completed a career-high 34 passes, and his four touchdown passes also were a career-best. When fully healthy, Bachmeier has a track record for being a reliable passer – although his penchant for committing turnovers is concerning. He has 15 200-yard games under his belt.
A major issue for Boise State, ironically, is a lack of punch in the backfield. The Broncos have taken a running back-by-committee approach in the first five games, and it has not worked out well. George Holani is the only running back with more than 100 yards on the season. Holani has 123 total yards in four games. He was a 1,000-yard rusher as a freshman, so it's likely only a matter of time before Holani has a breakout game.
Running the ball won't be easy against BYU. The Cougars held Utah State to 22 rushing yards and are strong along the line of scrimmage. Boise State's best bet is to extend drives through the air since BYU is surrendering 251.4 passing yards per game, ranking 98th among FBS teams.
When BYU Has the Ball
Injuries have left the Cougars with uncertainty at quarterback heading into their sixth game. Jaren Hall started the first three games but a rib injury has sidelined him for two straight weeks. Baylor Romney made back-to-back starts in Hall's absence. Romney suffered a concussion late in the first half against Utah State and did not return in the second half. Third-string QB Jacob Conover finished up the game against the Aggies.
Hall appears to be close to returning to action. If he can go this week, the redshirt sophomore adds a combination of speed, mobility, and accuracy that gives BYU's offense an added dangerous dimension. Hall threw for 561 yards and seven touchdowns in his first three games. He added 166 yards on the ground while averaging 8.3 yards per carry.
Running back Tyler Allgeier will be a focal point on offense, regardless of who is behind center on Saturday. Allgeier is rounding into peak form after gashing Utah State for a career-high 218 yards and three touchdowns. Boise State is no stranger to the damage he can do in the backfield. Allgeier racked up 123 yards on the Broncos a year ago — highlighted by an 86-yard touchdown run.
Given Boise State's struggles to stop the run, Allgeier could be in for another big day. The Broncos are allowing 194 rushing yards per game, which ranks in the bottom 25 among FBS schools.
Boise State has not recorded four losses in its first six games since starting 1-4 in 1997. The Broncos will have their work cut out for them to reach .500 again this weekend. BYU has a tough defense and an efficient offense. The Cougars have not trailed in a game yet this season and have a knack for forcing opponents into making huge mistakes at exactly the wrong times. Boise State has a giant-killer reputation, but the Broncos aren't slaying Goliath this time around.
Prediction: BYU 28, Boise State 24
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– Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports journalist based in Utah. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.