For the second straight season, BYU hits the road in late November to face a Sun Belt team when the Cougars visit Georgia Southern on Saturday.
This latest road trip to face a Sun Belt opponent is a much different scenario than what BYU faced in 2020. The No. 14 Cougars (8-2) are not playing a fellow Top 25 opponent scheduled on a few days' notice. BYU is coming off a bye week after dismantling Idaho State 59-14 in Provo in the Cougars' regular-season home finale. Offensively, the Cougars are in peak form. They are averaging 647.0 yards and 62.5 points per game over their last two games.
Slowing that juggernaut presents a supreme challenge to Georgia Southern. The Eagles (3-7, 2-5 Sun Belt) just snapped a four-game losing streak after edging Texas State 38-30 last weekend. Georgia Southern's traditionally strong running attack isn't translating into finishing drives. The Eagles are averaging 209.5 yards on the ground per game. But they are scoring only 22.3 points per game — which ranks ninth among Sun Belt teams.
This is the first meeting between the two schools. BYU is 4-1 all-time against current Sun Belt teams and went 2-1 against the league last season.
No. 14 BYU at Georgia Southern
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 20 at 4 p.m. ET
Spread: BYU -20
When BYU Has the Ball
Stopping the one-two punch of Jaren Hall and Tyler Allgeier is becoming increasingly more difficult for opponents as the season winds down. Their progression has keyed BYU's rise on offense and is a big reason why the Cougars are averaging 8.1 yards per play over their last two games.
Hall has thrown for 1,995 yards and 16 touchdowns in eight games this season. He has thrown only three interceptions and has put together four 300-yard games since missing two games earlier in the season because of a rib injury. Meanwhile, Allgeier has rushed for 1,167 yards and leads the nation with 17 rushing touchdowns. He has a pair of 200-yard games in wins over Utah State and Virginia. As long as both players stay healthy, BYU remains a legitimate top-15 team.
The Cougars will have to maintain their high level of production without top receiver Neil Pau'u on the field. Pau'u suffered a lower leg injury against Idaho State and was not included in the latest BYU depth chart released on Monday. He leads the Cougars with 46 catches and is second with 526 yards. His absence means BYU will lean more heavily on receivers Puka Nacua, Samson Nacua, Gunner Romney, and tight end Isaac Rex to make plays downfield.
When Georgia Southern Has the Ball
The Eagles have been far too inconsistent running the ball this season, rendering their preferred triple-option attack ineffective. With how quickly BYU can strike on offense, Georgia Southern needs to feed Logan Wright and Jalen White frequently and hope they can sustain long drives.
Wright has three 100-yard games this season, but he's been held under 50 yards in back-to-back contests. White tallied 82 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries against Texas State — his best rushing performance since piling up a career-high 157 yards and two scores on 13 carries against Arkansas State. The problem is that he hasn't gotten many snaps in any other games this season. White has just 68 total rushing yards in Georgia Southern's other eight games.
The quarterback position is in a similar state of inconsistency. Cam Ransom threw for 121 yards and a touchdown against the Bobcats before leaving with a shoulder injury early in the second half. His replacement, Justin Tomlin, passed for 108 yards and another score. Tomlin has a pair of 200-yard games to his credit this season, but he had lost the starting job before Ransom got injured. They have combined for fewer than 1,500 passing yards through 10 games.
BYU suffered its only loss last season in a late November road tilt against a Top 25 Sun Belt team, Coastal Carolina. The Cougars face a much different situation this time around. Georgia Southern has struggled all season. The Eagles are playing out the string under an interim coach and are thoroughly mediocre on offense. The Cougars, despite injuries, are cooking on both sides of the ball. BYU has outgrown its past tendency to cough up inexplicable losses to mediocre Group of 5 opponents and should roll here.
Prediction: BYU 42, Georgia Southern 13
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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.